It seemed as if it was a chapter lifted from the history books when the railroads of this country served many responsibilities from delivering the daily mail, to bringing rolling versions of churches and schools to towns where trains were practically the only access to the outside world.
January 14, 2003 presented an almost identical circumstance to the youth of the Temagami area along Highway 11 when due to a deep freeze of -25c the night before, a portion of the decking of the Sgt. Aubrey Cosens Memorial Bridge at Latchford (a few miles north of Temagami) collapsed January 14th resulting in it's decking precariously dangling over the Montreal River below.
Ontario's Ministry of Transportation (MTO) had the challenge of temporarily bridging the river in order to maintain a somewhat smooth traffic flow over one of Northern Ontario's main traffic arteries. In the meantime traffic (including ONR's Bus Services) were routed via Hwy's 101 & 63 through Quebec. Did that solve the problem with traffic flow that would normally travel over the Sgt. Aubrey Cosens Bridge? Not quite.
The school aged kids of the Temagami area went to school in New Liskeard, a few miles north of Latchford. The detour routes were much too long. Therefore, this was a job for the ONTC.
Within a couple days, ONR sent GP38-2 1808, APU 204, and Coach 601 to North Bay. Their duties? To carry the kids from Temagami to New Liskeard to school and back home later that afternoon. School buses would drop the kids off at Temagami Station, the train would then bring the kids to New Liskeard to more waiting buses. The train would then head up to Englehart to be wyed and parked until later that afternoon when the process would be reversed. Upon completion of the run, the train would head to North Bay to be wyed again and cleaned.
As the bulletins of this special train were sent to all Stations along the ONR system January 16th, It was a 'no brainer' that I just had to snap a photo of this historic consist. I was off to Englehart. The weather was still a bone chilling cold as I arrive at Englehart Yard. Not only do I spot the "School Special", but I meet up with Falconbridge Mining's GP38-2 055 on a layover in Englehart on her way to Toronto from Kidd Creek Mines in Timmins.
As this is being written, the temporary one lane bridge at Latchford has been completed (Jan. 27) and is handling the traffic flow accordingly. The line ups don't seem to be too lengthy.
The "Special" ran for approximately ten days until the road opened up and I was thrilled to be able to capture a photo of the historic train. When you think about it, while the school kids of Temagami were presented with a rather unique problem, ONR's Rail Service wound up coming forward with an equally unique solution proving once again (as in the history books) the importance of the railway in small town Northern Ontario.