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
Can you buy any of this property? Or rent?
I believe the two white buildings shown with shuttered windows are privately owned as “camps” (cottages), but the other more modern structures are railway bunkhouses and tool sheds.
The other original town structures are long gone.
I don’t know where you would begin talking to people to find the owners of those camps and determine if they’d be willing to sell.
A lot of camps along the old ACR are no longer accessible with the train not running, but there are still some areas that are accessible via logging roads such as the ones at Franz can at least still be accessed via a dirt road from Dubreuilville.
The cabins shown are privately owned by myself and friends of ours. They are not abandoned or for sale. The rest is railroad property to my knowledge. The other local cabins close to our properties are now gone and have been for many years.
I worked on the ACR rail gang as a 17-year old kid but never got as far north as Franz unfortunatly. Likely why, as a railfan, this spot still facinates me to this day. So, are you a former railway employee? Why would you have a cabin in such a remote spot, especially next to a near abandoned rail line? I’ve often thought of driving “up” from Toronto, but not sure the dirt Franz Road would be good for a new BMW! LOL.
Lived in franz from1967 to 1971 we lived in the first all white house that is boarded up.
Husband clifford James worked as signal maintainer CPR .
You mentioned “Franz was and still is an important transfer point for WESTBOUND (emphasis mine) traffic that is interchanged to Canadian Pacific.” Is that because eastbound traffic off the AC would be interchanged to CP at Sault Ste. Marie?
In short yes. EB traffic would primarily interchange via the Sault.
“Some” eastbound traffic off the north end could be set off there [Franz], but this would have been low volume. The largest volumes of outgoing interchange traffic would be from Algoma Steel, and that would just go out via the CP “Sault branch”.
The major interchange traffic at Franz would have been westbound steel from Algoma, and southbound paper/pulp from mills to the west on CP like Terrace Bay and Marathon. Around 1986 large volumes of woodchips started to be shipped out (in CP provided cars) from Dubreuilville on the ACR to Marathon.
I guess my BMW wouldn’t do too well on the Franz Road. LOL. Was it ever paved? Does anyone no when the ACR wye at Franz was abandoned? Thanks.