Nfld. & Labrador

All aboard: Corner Brook testing out 'street train' this tourist season

Corner Brook city council has given preliminary approval to the Corner Brook Port Authority to operate a 'street train' in the downtown area this upcoming tourist season.

City hopes street train will provide better access to downtown core

'Hali the Road Train' will be chugging its way to Corner Brook this tourist season. The Corner Brook Port Authority plans to lease the main engine portion and two passenger cars. (Submitted)

Move over, Thomas the Tank Engine.

This summer, the streets of Corner Brook will be home to a different kind of locomotive.

On Monday, city council gave preliminary approval to the Corner Brook Port Authority to lease a "street train" — or "road train" — from Halfax-based company Ambassatours Gray Line for the upcoming tourism season.

The Corner Brook Port Authority approached the city with the idea after seeing the popularity of road trains in Halifax, N.S., and the village of Tatamagouche, N.S.

"Right away, it sparked a lot of interest [among council]," Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons said.

Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons hopes the street train will increase tourist traffic and spending throughout the city's downtown region. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The trains look like a cross between a truck and a classic 19th-century steam engine locomotive, and pull a series of open-air passenger cars decorated in a similar, old-timey style.

Parsons hopes the unique public transit initiative will draw more tourists to the city's downtown core.

"We have a record cruise year here in Corner Brook this year," Parsons said. "We're seeing upwards of 20,000 passengers here. So, it'll be a great amenity to the downtown for them as well."

The road train's open air passenger cars have seating for between 16 and 20 people each. One of the passenger cars in Corner Brook will also be wheelchair-accessible, according to train owner Ambassatours Gray Line. (Submitted)

Currently, cruise ship passengers are shuttled from the waterfront to the city's civic square in the east end of downtown. Tentative plans would have the street train run in a loop, making stops throughout the west end, and allowing passengers to explore more of the city.

"They'd be able to hop on and explore the Broadway area as well and make that loop, so that we sort of spread them around [and] hopefully entice them to drop some more of their dollars around downtown." said Parsons.

However, the street train will not be used exclusively for cruise ship passengers. Local residents and other out-of-town visitors will be able to take advantage of the service as well.

In fact, Parsons has already received positive feedback from residents as word has spread about the new addition to the city's summer transit.

Tatamagouche, N.S. introduced a road train in 2016. (Tatamagouche Road Train Society)

"You wouldn't believe how many comments we've had already — parents and grandparents talking about how their children and grandchildren are so excited to see this," he said.

"It will be a very novel experience and a novel way to see the downtown core of the city."

The Corner Brook Port Authority will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the train, and the city has agreed to provide in-kind support in the form of mechanical maintenance and service, as well as up to $20,000 in sponsorship funding.

However, Parsons said that number will decrease depending on the amount of revenue generated by the service. Street trains have charged passengers a nominal donation in Halifax and Tatamagouche, using a break-even business model.

"In both instances, they're not big money makers, but at the same time they hold their own and provide a nice amenity for their downtown."

While many of the details are yet to be finalized, if all goes well the street train will be shipped from Halifax to Corner Brook and ready to hit the streets by July 1, with plans to continue the route until mid-October.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Newfoundland Morning