Visit to Sault Ste. Marie Public Library ACR Archives

Last week as part of my trip to Sault Ste. Marie, I had arranged to visit the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and check out some of the materials they have in their archival collection which came from the Algoma Central Railway.

Most of these materials were apparently donated by Wisconsin Central following their takeover of the ACR, and much of this material was no longer needed by the railway.

The collection is almost staggering in its scope; the index to the maps and drawings in the collection is an 86 page table! Most of these are all original documents, and there’s a lot of material that dates back to the construction period in the early 1900s. There are also large amounts of documents (which largely consist of company records, financials, reports and statistics – could be interesting stuff to mine for data there if you’re figuring out something in particular) and hundreds of historical photographs.

Most of the materials are apparently stored off site, and you have to make a request for a particular document or item to be available a day or two in advance. I knew there is no way to even come close to being able to look at even a fraction of the entire collection in one stay, so I spent a week or two poring over the maps/drawings index and selecting things that looked of relevant interest to my eventual modeling goals and emailing back and forth with Kevin at the library archive who was extremely helpful in pulling the requested documents and having them ready and available for when I arrived in the Sault.

The materials I got a chance to look at were mainly more recent maps and drawings related the to Michipicoten branch and northern part of the railway and freight and work cars. Some of the really neat stuff included drawings of the standard design for section houses, lettering diagrams for gondola cars, schematic diagrams from the late 1980s of several yards and locations including Wawa, Hawk Junction and Oba, a number of floor plan drawings for work car conversions of former GM&O and SP passenger cars, among other things, but the piece de la resistance, as it were, is a complete set of original blueprint drawings for the 1950 Jamestown (then the name of Wawa) passenger station. That’ll definitely be invaluable for modeling that station, and I’m always a fan of work equipment and odd rebuilds, so the drawings will be nice for modelling some of those too. (Although one will still need to check against photos to make sure that they actually followed the drawings exactly in the conversion. Dale Wilson forwarded me a drawing once of the old auxiliary bunk car, AC 10002, an ancient car rebuilt from one of the ACR’s original passenger coach stock originally built in the 1880s. This car lasted in service well into the late 1970s, but the interesting thing is the drawing didn’t seem to exactly agree with photos of the actual car.)

I even found a few interesting things in there like proposed drawings (dated 1955) of an open observation/tourist car rebuilt from a standard heavyweight passenger coach. While such a thing was never actually built so far as I can tell, such a thing could make an interesting model, and somebody was at least considering the concept for these drawings to still exist in the ACR files.

I spent most of the day on Tuesday (July 29th) and Wednesday morning at the library poring over the requested materials, and that barely scratches the surface of all of the maps and drawings in the collection. And I didn’t even touch the historical photo collection (for which there doesn’t really appear to be a detailed index, so I don’t even know what’s all in that)!

Lots of neat stuff there, and if I visit Sault Ste. Marie again, I may have to devote another day for another library visit.

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