The Orford Express tourist train in the Eastern Townships will have to cancel its entire season after a fire that broke out just after 2 a.m. severely damaged the main car — just hours before its restoration was to be complete.

The company said one of its panoramic cars was destroyed when an oily rag used during painting work on the car caused a chemical reaction, leading to the fire.

“It's a beautiful car but it's also the car where the generators are, where everything is controlled by that car, so we cannot operate without that car,” said Orford Express spokeswoman Annie Brunelle.

Brunelle said the damage is estimated at nearly $2 million. She says that although the metallic shell of the car is intact, the interior is completely destroyed.

The train was parked at the downtown station in Sherbrooke when the fire broke out.

Brunelle said the company now has to call 5,000 clients to cancel their reservations.

The season was set to begin May 7.

Brunelle said restoring the wagon will take another six to 12 months. 

“For us, it’s impossible to think of a ‘plan B’ for this year,” said Brunelle.

Last year, the Orford Express season was cut short because of the deadly Lac-Mégantic train derailment and explosion.