NIAGARA FALLS – The continuation of railroad passenger service between New York and Toronto via Niagara Falls has been assured with an agreement to transfer rail operations on the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge to Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, operator of the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge and two other bridges across the Niagara River between the United States and Canada, announced Monday that the passenger railroads of the two countries took over responsibility for operation and maintenance of the track on the upper level of the bridge effective Saturday.
The agreement means that the Maple Leaf passenger train that uses the bridge to make a daily round trip between New York and Toronto is continuing without interruption. The train also serves St. Catharines and Niagara Falls in Ontario as well as Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Depew, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, New York and intermediate cities in New York State.
Because of recent service reductions by VIA Rail Canada, the Maple Leaf is the only remaining daily passenger train between Niagara Falls and Toronto.
The upper level of the two-deck Whirlpool Rapids Bridge carries railroad traffic while the lower deck carries NEXUS-only passenger vehicles. The Maple Leaf is the only train currently using the rail portion of the steel arch bridge across the Niagara River gorge between Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Niagara Falls, Ont.
The Bridge Commission said in a public announcement that “Canadian National Railway Co., the current owner of the bridge’s rail line, stopped moving freight trains across the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge several years ago but continued to maintain the rail line for the Maple Leaf passenger train operated by Amtrak and VIA.”
The commission said CN began the abandonment process for the rail bed but the commission negotiated agreements that permitted the transfer of the rail bed across the bridge from CN to Amtrak and VIA. Amtrak operates most long-distance passenger trains in the United States, and VIA Rail has a similar mission in Canada.
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission also operates the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge for vehicular traffic, but neither of those spans has railroad facilities.