The Algoma Central rostered several distinctive designs of freight cars that didn’t exactly match anything on other railroads. One of these signature cars was a 73 car series of 40’ flatcars with a 9’ tall open framework with wraparound sides at each end of the car. These permanent end racks created a fleet of cars that could be used for pulpwood service on the ACR, delivering pulpwood from spurs and sidings along the line to the Abitibi Paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie.
Pulpwood was cut in 8’ lengths and loaded widthwise in the cars, with the end racks containing the pile, and the friction of the logs’ rough surfaces holding everything else together. These cars were used extensively and primarily for this, but I’ve also seen a photo of a trio of these cars in the late 1970s loaded with wrapped lumber loads from the Newaygo Forest Products sawmill at Mead (1974-1985), and they could be used for any sort of company service load requiring an open flat car as well (being particularly well suited to loading with new ties in the same manner as pulpwood logs).
The exact history of these cars is unknown, but they show up on Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) listings in two batches beginning in 1965-66. It’s likely that they are drawn from other series of 40’ flatcars with the custom end racks fabricated by the ACR’s car shops. By the early 1970s these cars no longer appear in the ORER listings, but these did remain actively in service well into the late 1980s and early 1990s (just not in interchange service and thus no longer included in the published data supplied to the ORER – a 1984 ACR freight listing reproduced in Dale Wilson’s “The Algoma Central Railway Story” indicates 69 of the 73 cars still in service), and a few examples still kicked around in company service well beyond the Wisconsin Central takeover. If any were left by the CN takeover of WC in late fall of 2001, this old equipment was likely scrapped then.
While other railways had various types of flatcars for pulpwood service with end racks or bulkheads and sometimes V-shaped decks or deck risers or dividers for loading pulpwood in 4’ long logs in two rows, the square, open framing with wraparound sides of these ACR cars makes for a distinctive looking car, particularly with the ACR bear herald emblazoned on the left hand side. Athearn even had an ancient old HO scale model from their old “Blue-Box” line of a 40’ pulpwood flatcar with superficially similar end racks, but the corners are rounded and the car has fishbelly sides and a prominent ridge in the centre of the deck. This could be used as a rough stand-in, but the divider/ridge in the middle is problematic, and the flooring of the car would have to be extensively reworked.
To really get proper looking racks, they’d have to be scratchbuilt, either on an existing model of a 40’ flatcar with straight side sills, or a fully scratchbuilt model.