Originally named Hobon, after nearby Hobon Lake, but soon renamed after W.C. Franz, an official in the Lake Superior Company (the original parent company of Algoma Central Railway, Algoma Steel, Lake Superior Power and most of the other major industrial concerns in Sault Ste. Marie at the beginning of the 20th century), Franz was established when construction of the ACR connected with the Canadian Pacific’s transcontinental main line at this remote location in January 1912.
Initially a small town grew around the join Algoma Central/Canadian Pacific station at the crossing here, including several houses, general store, schoolhouse, church and even a railway hotel – when passenger service to Hearst first started in 1914 it was a 2-day trip with an overnight stay at Franz, and early ACR timetables divide the railway into three subdivisions with divisions at Frater and Franz. Franz at one point was also the location of the game warden’s office for the neighbouring Chapleau Crown Game Preserve.
Eventually though the town dwindled and became abandoned other than accommodations for railway personnel (the agent/operator had a house provided by the CPR across the tracks from the station and the ACR section house was along the AC siding to the south of the station) and other railway related structures. Other houses were abandoned and today there are few traces left near the tracks, although one permanent residence actually still remains today and CN track crews still use the railway bunkhouse and toolhouse here.
The station at Franz remained in operation as a train order office and a place where passengers could attempt to connect between Algoma Central and Canadian Pacific (or VIA Rail, after 1979) passenger trains until 1992 when the Algoma Central discontinued the use of timetable and train order style operations in favour the modern radio based Occupancy Clearance System which is used across Canada on un-signalled lines. The position of Franz operator was abolished and the station closed.
The station at Franz actually does still exist today – just no longer in its original location. After its closure it was actually moved to Dubreuilville for use as a community centre.
Of course in railway operational terms, the real raison d’être of Franz was the connection with Canadian Pacific Railway. The interchange yard at Franz was and still is an important transfer point for westbound traffic that is interchanged to Canadian Pacific. Notable amongst this traffic would of course be steel traffic from Algoma Steel, woodpulp from pulp mills on the north shore of Lake Superior to the St. Marys paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie, or others in upper Michigan and Wisconsin, woodchips from Dubreuilville to Marathon (from about 1987-2007), and other miscellaneous interchange traffic.
The interchange yard was laid out alongside the Canadian Pacific siding, and when these tracks are at capacity, additional interchange cars could sometimes be left in the shed track (now abandoned) or the ACR siding.
Related blog posts:
- Franz Section House Model – Part I
- Franz Section House Model – Part II
- Franz Section House Model – Part III
- Locals and turns – operations on the Northern subdivision