More news today out of Algoma country.
A group calling itself the Searchmont Station Preservation & Historical Society has announced this afternoon that they’ve reached an agreement with CN to purchase the former ACR station at Searchmont. Their hope is to rebuilt and restore the structure, although one of CN’s conditions is apparently that the structure be moved away from the tracks, so it won’t be in its original context, but the plan is to keep it the town of Searchmont.
Here’s a link to some additional information on the group’s blog on their website:
Searchmont station was built in 1902, and is one of the oldest surviving structures on the ACR line. Originally, it was a much larger structure than today, with a larger express/freight section on the north side, and a smoking room in a round extension on the south end. Eventually both of the extensions were removed (the smoking room was damaged by fire early in the station’s history) and certainly by the 1940s the station looked much as it does today.
Here’s how Searchmont station looked in the summer of 2013, although heavy snow this winter has since brought down the overhanging roof over the platform:
The station closed around 1994, and has been abandoned and neglected for 20 years. At some point, about 5-6 years ago, the interior was heavily vandalized and with several broken windows the interior has been largely exposed to the elements for the last decade, so the structure is in rather rough shape, so it will be quite a project to restore. Apparently the preservation society also hopes to rebuilt the original extensions, so this will be quite the renovation project.
At a press conference in Sault Ste. Marie this morning, the federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt announced a one-year extension of the operating subsidy to CN for the Algoma Central regular passenger service, to the end of March 2015.
While there’s no guarantee that service will be extended beyond that, this at least provides local municipalities, tourism groups, camp operators and other interested parties time to investigate and evaluate options for this service, instead of receiving the sudden news that service will simply end within a few months, as happened when the (original) news of the cancellation at the end of March 2014 broke in early January (later extended to end of April 2014).
This is a promising step, but expect that the federal government will still want to try to offload this subsidy at the end of the extension period, so we’ll probably still see a lot of lobbying from local groups over the next year trying to save this train. So far the local political pressure seems to have been successful in procuring the extension, so we’ll continue to follow this with interest.
Late Friday afternoon information was released that the federal Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt, will be in Sault Ste. Marie on Monday morning to make an announcement related to the Algoma Central Railway service. A press conference is scheduled for 11:30 AM at the Sault Ste. Marie Civic Centre.
Expect a change to the current situation, although at this point what is going to be announced is still speculation. Most of the groups lobbying against the ACR passenger service cancellation have been pushing for at least a one-year extension while the economic impact and value of the service can be properly and publicly evaluated, instead of the way the subsidy was pulled suddenly with very short notice.
It would be unlikely for the federal Minister to make such a journey to simply announce that the cancellation will go ahead as planned on April 29, so it looks like some sort of extension may be in the cards here, but the details will have to wait until Monday.
Here’s an excerpt from a press release on Friday:
Transport Canada to make ACR announcement Monday
The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, will be in Sault Ste. Marie on Monday to make an announcement regarding Algoma Central Railway passenger service.
Stakeholders and other interested parties are invited to attend the announcement, which is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. outside City Council Chambers on the third level of the Civic Centre.
Well this is interesting.
I was skimming over the product announcements in the latest Model Railroad Hobbyist online magazine and prominently displayed under Walthers was an announcement for several new paint schemes on their 65′ Thrall mill gondola – including Algoma Central.
A little bit of searching managed to turn up the product listing on Walthers’ site.
Of course these aren’t remotely accurate – the real cars from Algoma Central series AC 1001-1400 are 61′ (not 65′) inside length cars with riveted side construction (not welded like the model) and distinctive bulkhead ends.
AC 1014 at Steelton shops. Blair Smith photo.
On the other hand, the lettering style and font matches that used on the 61′ cars and looks well rendered, and if you’re careful and can touch up the paint cleanly, it could be possible to take a decorated car, shorten the end panels and scratchbuild the end bulkheads to come up with a pretty reasonable representation of one of these cars, which could be a huge advantage to modeling these cars as a decal set matching the font used on these cars doesn’t actually exist (the CDS dry transfer set is for the 52′ gons, matching the lettering font on the AC 601-875 which is a bit “blockier” in the curved letters like O and C) and adding a scratchbuilt bulkhead end to an existing model is easier than scratchbuilding the entire car, particularly with all of the side rivets.
Of course, since you’re chopping up a modern welded car to represent a prototype that was actually of riveted construction, this is still only a general representation, but with 400 of these cars rostered, they were actually more numerous and wide ranging than the 52′ gondolas and any serious ACR modeler really needs a fleet of these cars. Their large size and bulkhead ends made them particularly useful for everything from pulpwood logs to steel products, and loaded with steel from Algoma Steel these cars ranged all over North America, which means modelers of other Canadian railways can definitely also justify running one of these.
I might just pick up at least one of these to try the conversion and see how I like it.