St. Marys Paper, Then and Now

The old paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie, one of the original industries in town and an ACR customer for over a century, has recently closed down, and when I visited Sault Ste. Marie in July, the mill was in the process of being demolished. Fortunately I have some good photos of the mill from some previous visits to the area, so in this post we’ll look at the last 20 years of the mill’s operation.

All photos below taken by myself unless otherwise noted.

Note: this is the last in a series of posts covering specific locations on the ACR based on photos taken taken on my July trip to the former ACR.


St Marys Paper in 1992 from the International Highway Bridge:


Overhead view, 1992. Nell vanderHeide photo.

Plenty of stockpiles of pulpwood logs fill much of the open ground on the property. Plenty of Wisconsin Central boxcars await paper loading. (This shot is before the WC takeover of the AC, but much of the mill’s output was exported to the US.)

And a few more views from 2000:


Those flatcars in the first photo in this set are most definitely former AC 2301-2373 series 40′ flatcars; these are likely owned by the paper mill and used for moving pulpwood logs around from stockpiles on the property. Note in the foreground of the 1992 photo above a pair of 48′ gondolas with similar home-made end racks.


This photo shows what looks to be the log debarking and chipping machinery. A covered pipe or conveyor brings the chips into the pulping mill. Note the switcher poking out of the building at centre.


We can see from this last photo that the water treatment facility has been expanded since the 1992 shot. The tracks running roughly through the foreground head towards the paper loading warehouse off to the left, out of frame.


And here’s one of the mill switchers resting behind the mill, near the warehouse/shipping building. I wonder what’s become of this engine now? Sold to a new owner when the mill closed, or just scrapped along with any other rail equipment at the mill?


And one last photo from 2004, taken from across the power canal. Compare this last one especially to the photos below.


Closed sometime within the last few years, the mill is now being demolished. Everything but the remaining original sandstone structures has just about been torn down in these July 2013 photos. It appears that the original structures are being deliberately preserved for now due to their heritage nature, as they are over a century old. First three shots taken from across the power canal.






From the front of the mill, we can see that the main mill buildings, except for the remaining original sandstone structures, have been completely torn down, and the modern steel warehouse/shipping building at right is the last structure to go. It’s not obvious from this angle, but the back half of that structure is already gone and it’s definitely in the process of coming down.

Searchmont Station Details

This series of photos of Searchmont station was taken on July 13, 2013. The station has certainly seen better days, but at least it still stands for now.


Searchmont station, track (east) side.


Awning over side door on south side of building.


Remains of the bracket and control rods for the former semaphore train order signal in front of the operator’s bay.


Roof rather ends and supports.


Passenger waiting room and baggage room entrance doors on the track side of Searchmont station. A large window in the waiting room has been boarded over.


The rarely photographed rear side of the station.


Grounds and outbuildings behind the station. Note old storage shed hidden in the trees and outhouse at far right. Both smaller structures are painted white with dark green trim.


Old 2-stall outhouse behind Searchmont station.

Searchmont, Then and Now

Searchmont, mile 31.5 Soo subdivision, is a familiar location on the Algoma Central, as it’s not too far from the Sault, and one of the very few places along the ACR with road access. Closed in the late 1990s, this station still stands and has been designated as a heritage structure under that act that protects old railway stations, however the building is totally derelict, and heritage status or not it’s just a matter of time before nature takes its course on this historic wood-frame building.

I chased the Canyon Tour Train north to Searchmont while visiting the Sault, and took the opportunity to take a few detail photos around the old station. Decrepit and overgrown, it’s a far cry from quaint little station it once was.


(Photo links from Ted Ellis’s Algoma Central site.)

Viewed from the cab of a northbound train, about to receive orders from the operator at Searchmont in 1974:

Northbound regular passenger train arrives at Searchmont in 1972:

In 1992 the railway has switched to Occupancy Clearance System (OCS) radio dispatching and the station is no longer a train order office (note the train order boards have been removed) but still remains open as an active passenger station:


Searchmont station in 2013. Mostly boarded up; some of the second floor windows are intact, but a few are missing, exposing the building’s interior to the elements. The drywall or plaster on the second floor interior walls is totally disintegrating.

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Hawk Junction postscript

Chris Wilson posted this great pic taken on August 20 to of some action at Hawk Junction:

A nice flurry of action at this quiet station, the southbound passenger train, and southbound and northbound local freight trains are all at Hawk Junction at the same time.

The CN 5379 is the same unit that was set out by the train I shot on July 14.

One thing that I’ve been corrected on is that the freight trains are apparently daily; I had been led to believe a few years ago that these too had been reduced to only a three times a week service. Apparently this is not [or simply no longer?] the case.

AC 8201-8500 series hoppers – Part 2: Interior and Top Chord

So in my previous post, I introduced this project and the prototype for these cars, 300 cars built by NSC to an Ortner design in 1974-75. Walthers makes an HO model of the Ortner design, which makes a convenient start to this project. Of course there are some details, both major and minor, that differ between the Walthers model and the AC prototype cars.


Stock Walthers model without the hokey included aggregate load.

The biggest change that needs to happen is that the AC cars have tubular V-bracing between the bays, not the solid bulkheads that the model has. This takes a little bit of work, but is not difficult, and you’ll agree this makes a huge difference in appearance.

If you only want to do minimum changes or detailing to turn the Walthers car into a reasonably accurate AC car, this is the change to make. Also, since the insides of the cars were unpainted steel, this change can be done on a factory painted car while completely preserving the factory lettering, as the inside of the car should be masked and repainted a rusty colour.

The first step is the easiest, just take out the removeable bulkhead pieces and throw them away. (Or, toss them in the scrapbox. A good model railroader is a pack rat; you never know when that oddball useless leftover part now can be repurposed for something completely unintended later. Or at the very least chopped up into smaller pieces or used as part of a steel scrap load or junkyard scene.) Then I fill the holes left behind with modeling putty. Most of the cars I’ve been working on so far I’ve filled the holes using either Tamiya or Squadron putties. Other modelers also recommend Bondo putty from the automotive department, and I’ll probably try that in the future. Canadian Tire is a lot more convenient than the local hobby shops that are an hour+ away.


Several cars in progress.

Once the body putty has had a day to cure, I file it down even with the inside surface of the sides and sand it smooth with progressively finer sandpapers. Once again the automotive aisle at Canadian Tire is rather handy here as a source for 1000+ grit finishing/polishing sandpapers to get a nice smooth interior side.

Smoothing out the bottom of the bays is a bit more tricky with the angled geometries, so I just did the best I could. A sanding stick from the hobby shop gets a good start here.


I used a sanding stick like this one on the inside of the bays.

Now, before I move on to installing the interior bracing, I finish cleaning up the top of the car body. (Or this part can really be done first.) The AC cars have an overhanging lip over the top of the car end that the model doesn’t have. I modeled this simply using an HO scale 2″x6″ styrene strip across the top of the end. First, however, two little angle pieces need to be carved off the top of the corners on the model and filed flush with the top of the end, as indicated in the below photo marked with arrows:


Remove corner detail on top surface at points indicated to allow 2×6 header to be installed.

Once this detail is removed and smoothed down, the end cap is installed. I simply cut a piece of styrene 2×6 to length and cement it to the top of the edge. Once the end cap has been installed and the cement has set, I file down the angled top chord on the model flush all the way around with the top of the 2×6 end cap.


End cap installed. End handgrabs are partially installed on this car.

Once the sides are finished, the interior bracing can be installed.

I made the braces from .040″ brass rod/wire. The rod is cut to length (approx. 1.20″) and I file one end off at an acute angle so that it rests properly against the side. Test fit this several times before glueing in place.

I drilled a small hole right next the the centre sill of the car between the bays to accept the bottom end of the brace. Then I simply use a drop of CA glue to secure both ends of the brace.


Interior bracing.