Freight Car Friday #55


For this installment of Freight Car Friday we turn the clock way back to May 6, 1957 to look at one of the Algoma Central’s 48’6″ drop-end mill gondolas in its original 1947 as-delivered paint and lettering.

The lighting is a little dark and the image is of course in Black and White, so it doesn’t convey colour information, but this early spartan scheme (dressed up with the bear logo towards the right-hand end of the car side) features a black car body with white lettering – except the rings encircling the bear logo are in red. This paint scheme was typical of all AC steel gondolas from the late 1940s and was also applied to the home-built 39′ and 40′ gondolas in the 4601-4804 series.

While the billboard lettering with the ALGOMA CENTRAL name spelled out across the car side in 24″ tall letters and the bear herald in the centre is more familiar to most fans and modelers, and was applied to these cars n later years, the original delivery of these cars predates the first use of that lettering in 1958 on the new 52’6″ cars. (Also note that the familiar image of the billboard lettering is of a black car with white lettering, the original late 1950s version of this scheme had the car body painted brown. This only lasted a few years, and early 1960s repaints were in black.)

Photograph by Walter E. Frost, City of Vancouver Archives collection. (ref. no. CVA 447-1680)

Railfanning a Big Move

Just in advance of the long weekend, I was tipped off about a special move on the Goderich-Exeter Railway here in Southern Ontario of an extra-large dimensional load on a specialized “Schnabel” car. The load is some sort of industrial boiler(?) that was constructed at Babcock & Wilcox in Cambridge, ON and was being moved to the port of Hamilton, ON to be loaded onto a ship for the next stage of its journey to its final destination.

Fortunately I happened to be visiting the area for the long weekend and was able to spend the day Sunday following its move from Guelph to Georgetown for interchange to CN. The move was actually a full 2-day affair, with Goderich-Exeter lifting the loaded car in Cambridge and bringing it to Guelph on Saturday, and the move from Guelph to Hamilton – with Goderich-Exeter handling it to Georgetown, and CN handling it Georgetown to Hamilton – completed on Sunday.


The train with the load gets underway in Guelph.

The entire move from Cambridge to Georgetown on the Goderich-Exeter was done with the engines shoving and the caboose leading. This was done so the train so that on arrival at Georgetown the GEXR engines could be replaced by CN power and be facing the correct direction for the move from Georgetown to Hamilton.


Pushing through the countryside just outside of Guelph. The load and its special heavy-duty car dwarfs the rest of the equipment on the train.


The special move parked on the north track in front of Georgetown station.

On arrival at Georgetown, the train would sit and wait for a bit for three other trains to pass by, including the regular GEXR freight returning from CN’s Toronto MacMillan yard. The the GEXR power would be removed and head back onto Goderich-Exeter rails, and the CN power waiting west of the junction would back on to take over for the run to Hamilton.


Sadly a cloud dampened what could have been a spectacular shot of side-by-side Goderich-Exeter trains on CN, with regular CN MacMillan Yard to Stratford train GEXR 431 slowly passing the stopped dimensional extra.


Side by side CNs at Georgetown. The dimensional extra at left, now with the GEXR power replaced by CN 2598, is passed slowly by manifest freight M399 rolling by with a 10 MPH restriction passing the dimensional load.

An RTR Algoma Central, More or Less

With the upcoming SD40-2 from Bowser and snow plow and caboose from TrueLine Trains, as well as other recent offerings from Atlas and Walthers with the ACR name, I thought it would be interesting to take a little review of the various models that have been run for the ACR, and just how much has been available at least at one time or another. The casual to moderately-serious modeler can actually put together a surprisingly fleshed out and reasonably accurate mix of equipment, particularly targeting an early 1990s era, with just off the shelf ready-to-run models. This posting explores what can be done to build a core fleet with such RTR equipment, although obviously there is always still room for a fair bit of refinement for the modeler that enjoys a bit of kitbashing, modification and/or repainting to add the more unique and unusual items to the roster.

Obviously this post will only deal with rolling equipment; structure and location modelling is always a whole other sort of ball game as structures are basically always entirely unique. Also, the general thrust of this post focuses only on RTR equipment; kits and other models that can be converted will be largely ignored in this particular post. Perhaps separately in different posts under their own topics…

Some caveats: due to the limited-run nature of many product offerings of the last decade or two, some of the models mentioned may not be currently available, but might be found in old stock or on eBay or other secondhand markets.



On the locomotive side, there’s been several models offered for the ACR, and it actually almost covered the entire variety of models that were rostered. In addition to the Bowser GMDD SD40-2 models that are still upcoming, and will have all the correct road-specific detailing for the ACR, Atlas recently had their GP38-2 (pictured above) in AC colours, although this is just a standard US model with generic detailing. Likewise for the Kato SD40 which was offered in AC colors about 15 years back. The modeler can of course choose to accept this, or attempt to update the details and touch up the paint and lettering. Canadian Hobbycraft also once commissioned a custom run in AC colours for the Life-Like Proto2000 GP38-2 several years ago.

Life-Like (later Walthers) also offered the GP7, SW8 (below) and even the late “phase III” GP9 in the Proto2000 line in AC colours as well, and any detail differences between the model and prototype are far more subtle here, so these are actually reasonably accurate.

Rapido and Intermountain have also both offered FP9s in the later ACR passenger colours, with the Rapido units being the far more detailed and accurate of the two, although it should be noted that these were only acquired in 1995 after Wisconsin Central took over.

Speaking of which, if one is modeling a post-takeover ACR, at that point AC and parent WC power began to mix system wide, so anything from the WC roster could show up. And even pre-takeover, the ACR was at one point around 1992-93 leasing a trio of WC SD45s (one still in BN colours with WC patch) and at least one CP GP38AC, so one can justify a little extra colour in the motive power fleet.

Freight Equipment


It’s actually kind of impressive how much has really been offered for this railway on the rolling stock front as well.

Walthers has offered their 52′ bulkhead flatcar in two versions of Algoma Central colours: black with full AC lettering (new cars acquired in 1975) and patched-out ex-BCIT (secondhand cars acquired in 1980). Over several additional runs they’ve offered a total of about half a dozen numbers in each scheme. (CN versions of this car would also be commonly seen on the ACR. CP flatcars are a little more problematic as no one has ever made an accurate version of anything CP owned, but there are always the the old stand-ins.)


And of course, you can’t mention Walthers without discussing their model of the Ortner rapid-discharge hopper, of which the ACR had 300 cars built to this design by NSC under licence. This model has been re-run several times with various AC numbers, and has also been run at times in Wisconsin Central patch-out and repaint schemes for the post-1995 modeler. There was also a limited run a number of years back by True Line Trains of a standard triple hopper in Ontario Northland colours with AC patch-out reporting marks, representing a group of cars acquired in the late 1970s. These models aren’t quite accurate to the real cars, but may serve as a reasonable stand in round out the fleet.

Walthers has also recently offered their 65′ gondola in Algoma Central colours, although this is only the vaguest stand-in for the 61′ bulkhead end gondolas, and not very accurate.


Rapido Trains has produced multiple numbers of their 52′ gondola in Algoma Central colours, and CN and CP versions would also be quite common on the ACR shipping steel products from Algoma Steel. With two separate runs so far, a dozen unique numbers have been offered.

There was also an old run of the Life-Life Proto2000 52′ gondolas (I think comissioned by Canadian Hobbycraft) before they were taken over by Walthers, although the rib spacing and side profile of the Rapido car is more accurate for the Canadian prototypes.


While the Algoma Central directly served a large paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie, the AC did not roster any boxcars for paper service; instead, cars for paper loading were provided by the connecting railroads. As a large percentage of the mill’s output was exported to the US, a majority of the cars would be from SOO Line and later Wisconsin Central (after 1986).

Fox Valley Models has a model of a typical SOO Line 50′ boxcar that would have been commonly used in paper service, and large numbers of these also ended up on the WC. Walthers has also produced a more modern 50′ “high-cube” boxcar based on a Gunderson prototype for paper service. This has been at times available in various WC and CN paint schemes. Walthers also has the older (late 1960s) National Steel Car newsprint car that was formerly made by Life-Like in the Proto1000 line that is good for various CN and CP cars, and more recently Atlas has also produced a late 1970s version of an exterior post NSC boxcar that was also mainly assigned to paper service, available in CP, CN and Ontario Northland versions. Any of these could also been seen carrying paper on or over the ACR.


The obvious gaps that are still missing would include the woodchip gondolas (although these basically disappeared in the mid 1980s when Newaygo shut down the mill at Mead but were shortly replaced on the ACR by CP woodchip cars in service to Dubreuilville) and the proper 61′ bulkhead gondolas and round side ore hoppers, both unique cars to the ACR and not likely to ever be commercial models.

Additional notes: you might find a read through of my Operations series from last year as well as the many ongoing posts in the Freight Car Friday series interesting or helpful in terms of ideas of the types of other freight cars that might have been operating over the ACR past and present.



On the caboose front, accurate versions of the ACR’s CN-built cabooses were offered a few years ago in brass from Overland Models (pictured above) and a new plastic model of the same is due out later this year from True Line Trains.

Rapido Trains also several years ago offered their CP Angus van in AC colours, representing the vans acquired secondhand from CP in 1992.

If you’re doing web searches for ACR caboose models, you’re also likely to come across an Atlas Trainman offering in AC colours, but this is a northeastern US prototype that bears really no resemblance to anything that operated anywhere in Canada.

Passenger Equipment


In 1992 the ACR began to receive the first of several ex-VIA coaches that would replace their existing fleet of ex-CP cars that had been acquired back in 1969-74. With the new cars a new passenger paint scheme was introduced.

Rapido Trains has produced their CN/VIA coach, baggage car and steam generator car (which are all accurate for these ex-VIA cars acquired between 1992-1996) in the “new” 1990s passenger colours, as well as the matching FP9 locomotives (although these units were only acquired in 1995 after the WC takeover).

Note that as these cars were being added to the roster still in the early nineties, if you were modelling around 1992-1993 you could quite accurately use a number of coaches in service still in VIA colours mixed in. There’s lots of pictures and video from these years showing that.

Wrap Up

So you can see that there is quite a bit out there that can put together a pretty reasonable fleet, and with the passenger equipment from Rapido, and some of the anciliary models available for connecting railways like CN and WC, targeting the first half of the 1990s just before the WC takeover can actually be done fairly reasonably with mainly ready-to-run models, allowing a modeler with either a lack of interest or confidence in their skills in major kitbashing or detailing projects to build something without a lot of that sort of effort, or to simply direct that effort towards the more unique stuff. RTR is great for that – building a large fleet of the common stuff and still allowing kitbashing effort being put towards creating the really interesting stuff. You’ll find a fair bit of the RTR models mentioned above and more on my own layout when it eventually comes together.

For the modeler interesting in working on their own projects, there are also a number of different decal and lettering sets available from producers such as Black Cat, Highball and Precision Design Co. I maintain a list of all the ones I know about here for reference.

So that concludes my review for now; I hope you find it interesting. Let me know in comments and discussion if there’s anything I might have skipped over or missed, or if you have other suggestions or questions about other models that would be appropriate to be included.

Freight Car Friday #54

Earlier this week I received a package in the mail with a collection of new-old stock Atlas tank car models from the very early 2000s that I managed to scare up on eBay. Among other things, included were a few of these ACFX chlorine service tank cars with the orange band that I’ve been looking for for a while, as it’s really something that places a setting as “post-1980 Canadian railway”.


The car is in a generic ACF lease scheme but that orange band tells a story – a specifically Canadian and ‘eighties one. During the 1980s, there was a short-lived Canadian government regulation requiring pressurized tank cars suitable for carrying hazardous compressed gases (both flammable and toxic inhalation hazards) to be painted with a bright orange horizontal band around the middle of the car as a very visible marker to first responder crews in the event of an incident. Non-pressurized cars did not receive these markings.

Although I can’t find a particular written source at hand, the common telling is that this regulation was one of the measures instituted in the aftermath of the infamous 1979 Mississauga wreck. Several factors however led to the eventual dropping of this requirement after a few years: a lack of universal adoption (as this was not a requirement in the United States, and it takes a number of years to apply the new lettering standards to an entire fleet of existing cars) and the eventual realization that when the paint burned off in a fire the visual cue wasn’t all that useful…

So the orange stripe was dropped, but even today if you’re lucky you can still come across older tank cars built or repainted in the 1980s that haven’t been repainted since and still show the stripe, although 30 years of repaints and retirements have seriously thinned their ranks.


I photographed the CGTX car above in a CN train at Copetown, Ontario in March of 2007 and the Procor car below was photographed just outside Sarnia in October 2014. Even 10-15 years ago in the early 2000s you could see the orange stripes a fair bit more often still on CGTX, CITX/DCTX and PROX cars and while fewer and farther between now, there are still survivors out there today that make for a splash of interest in a passing train.


ACR Auxiliary Bunk Cabins

As a final follow-up to my previous posts on the ACR’s standard section houses, I wanted to include a highlight on the extra little bunk cabins that were located near by in certain locations to increase bunk capacity for a larger section crew, as the standard section house only had two bedrooms and was generally the home of the section foreman and his family, if he had one. In some remote locations, the main house was all there was, but in many others, there could be a few of these extra bunks for additional personnel.


Abandoned bunk cabins at Batchewana, 2012. Photo courtesy Dan Kachur.


Abandoned bunk cabins at Batchewana, 2012. Photo courtesy Dan Kachur.

This pair of one room cabins are located next to the section house at Batchewana. Other cabins at other locations appeared to be quite similar if not the same, although variations are proven to exist.


Interior of abandoned bunk cabin at Batchewana. May 2012. Photo courtesy Dan Kachur.


Interior of abandoned bunk cabin at Batchewana. May 2012. Photo courtesy Dan Kachur.

These shots give a good view of the interior of one of these cabins, and also their current abandoned nature. Check out the massive hole in the back wall.


Cabin at Canyon. June 2000. My photo.

This cabin at Canyon has been rebuilt with new windows and siding to match some of the other structures at the park but otherwise appears to be a mirror image of the cabins at Batchewana. I’ve found a few 1960s era photos that while not showing a full view of this cabin, do show that it was then present and at the time it was clad in “insul-brick” asphalt shingle siding like the Batchewana cabins.


Bunk cabins at Frater, September 2013. Now appears to be a private camp. My photo.

These cabins at Frater appear to be a variation. Neither is quite the same as the Batchewana or Canyon cabins. Looks like the new owner has upgraded the larger cabin with a home-made bay window, probably using materials scavanged from the old station when it was torn down. The siding on this building, which appears to be asbestos shingles, could also be found on some other ACR structures including several stations such as Frater, Goudreau, Mosher, and Wawa and similar other small structures.


Bunk cabin near Perry, September 2013. May have been a private cabin for a time, but looks abandoned now. My photo.

This little cabin at Perry seems to be quite similar to the cabin at Frater, but mirror imaged. The side alongside the rails has obviously been modified and had its siding replaced, but the original siding is still on both gable ends. This structure is currently located a little ways down from the main complex of structures around the old section house, but definitely has the look of an ACR structure. It may have been moved.


Cabin at Mekatina. July 2014. My photo.

Another cabin at Mekatina, almost identical to the one at Perry (other than the bit to the right that appears to have been added on later). A second similar structure is just out of frame to the right. Mekatina once also boasted a train order office (closed and torn down, but the concrete foundations remain) and one of the standard section houses, but the main section house burned down in the late 1970s.