Freight Car Friday #45 – AC 10715

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This interesting car is a former gondola from the series AC 4804-4850, (re)built in 1948 from older 40′ flatcar underframes.

Equipment register information indicates that these unique cars had a 40’10” inside length and 4’0″ inside height, and some lasted in active service into the early 1970s.

The open side above the dropping reinforced sill really cuts a unique profile on these cars, and would certainly be an interesting addition to a layout set anytime between 1947 and 1970, and as proved by this 1956 Jim Parker photo in Toronto, these cars definitely travelled across country, so almost any Canadian modeller could make an excuse for wanting to scratchbuild one.

AC 10715 bears a work service number, and for some reason has had about two thirds of the sides cut away, turning most of the car back into a flat car. I’m not sure why this was cut back the way that it was or how the railway was using this car. Shown here in Sault Ste. Marie off its trucks, this car is clearly about to be scrapped.

Photographed by Blair Smith in the early 1990s.

Last run of the ‘Algoma Spirit’ Passenger Train

This may seem like a late post, but I was on vacation up north last week and just returned home yesterday.

Today marks exactly one week since the last RailMark operated passenger train departed northbound from Hawk Junction. About a week before, CN had terminated their relationship with RailMark effective July 15, and accordingly, on Monday July 13 the last northbound run departed Hawk Junction, with the equipment later moved to Sault Ste. Marie on July 14.

I already had vacation booked and had been planning a railfan tour of the former ACR and the Ontario Northland when this news broke. As it turned out, the day I had already planned to be in Wawa ended up being the day of the last northbound departure out of Hawk Junction, so I was able to catch the last departure. I didn’t end up scheduling in a ride, but I was at least able to photograph and see it off.
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As an earlier post on this blog noted, for the last few weeks of service, the train was operating north of Hawk Junction only, with no service provided south of Hawk Junction, and occasionally erratic north of there.

The last run north on July 13 accordingly originated out of Hawk Junction yard where it had parked the night before. The engine uncoupled and ran around in order to be on the head end facing north and moved the train from its overnight storage location in one of the yard tracks over to the station platform to load passengers (3 or 4 people riding on a one-way ticket to Errington’s Wilderness Island Resort at Wabatong – planning to fly out later via float plane as there would be no more train service).

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The last run would depart Hawk Junction, run as far as Oba only, runaround and return to Hawk that evening. The next day, the equipment was scheduled to head to Sault Ste. Marie, officially ending service.

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In the wake of the service’s termination, everything just continues to give the impression of a huge mess. The EDC and passenger working group have indicating that they are trying to investigate other options to get the service running again. As RailMark was CN’s choice (from which the working group has tried to distance themselves), the city and working group publicly suggested that CN should step in to “clean up its mess” and operate the passenger service in the interim. CN for its part, has said they are not in a position to do so. Meanwhile, RailMark suggested a willingness to keep things going on a month-to-month agreement, even if another operator is ultimately chosen. The EDC rejected this proposal as unrealistic.

The impacts of the lost service and the finger-pointing and recriminations continue. Many blame RailMark of course, for not being able to prove they can run a proper service. Some blame CN for their choice of RailMark and question the due diligence , Some of the more conspiratorily-minded suggest it was CN’s plan all along to get rid of the passenger service without being the villain. Just today, RailMark fired back with a scathing missive against the city and the EDC, while admitting some mistakes on both sides, placing most of the blame squarely on bureaucratic rigidity and lambasting a “lack of leadership”, indicating that the line of credit which was a pre-condition of the agreement was difficult to obtain without the signed agreement, and suggesting that RailMark has become a convenient political scapegoat.

Here’s a few links to recent articles in the local media covering the ongoing situation:

Freight Car Friday #43 – Thiele Kaolin Tank Cars

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 360

Photographed in the former ACR Steelton Yard in August 2004, ACFX 79202 is a good example of a clay slurry service tank car leased to Thiele Kaolin of Sandersville, Georgia.

Kaolinite is a natural occurring mineral often found in a clay form called kaolin. Shipped in either a dry powdered form or mixed with water to form a slurry, one of the primary uses of kaolin is coatings for glossy papers like those found in your favourite magazine. Before it closed down, the St. Marys Paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie produced such high quality papers for the American market, and tank cars of clay slurry would have been common around Sault Ste. Marie.

One interesting thing about the photo above is that all three leased cars visible here are built from different designs and builders. UTLX 300950 to the right was built by and leased from Union Tank Car; ACFX 79202 is built by and leased from ACF Industries while the unknown car to the left was built by Trinity Industries and possibly leased from either GATX, GE Railcar Services (NATX) or Trinity Leasing (TILX).