Freight Car Friday #50

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CN 557636 is one of several of these double door CN boxcars shots in the same train in August 2004 at Sault Ste. Marie.

Part of series CN 557440-557739 built in 1974 (and identical sister series 557300-557439 built the previous year), these 52’6″ I.L. cars were built for lumber and forest products service and when new had the main sliding door painted green as a colour coding to indicate this assignment. (Here’s one in 2006 with the original paint including the green door intact.) With modern computerized systems this indicator is no longer needed and most of these cars gradually had the doors repainted the same brown as the rest of the car.

For modelling in HO scale, Kaslo shops produced (produces?) a resin kit for this type of car. (I have two on my shelf to be built up and put into service.)

This car and many other double door boxcars in the train are likely loaded with either plywood or OSB from mills at Hearst or Limer.

Plywood, OSB and other forest products on the ACR

In addition to the several board lumber mills served by the ACR and its nearby connections discussed previously, several other mills produced additional types of wood products.

Plywood

In Hearst, the J.D. Levesque Plywood mill produced and shipped out plywood in boxcars. I’ve seen photos of this mill in the late 1990s with several double-door WC boxcars spotted for loading (and a few recently unloaded AC pulpwood flatcars), and prior to the WC era, cars provided to the mill would have been CN cars (as CN served the plant and the AC rostered no boxcars). While not directly served by the AC, loads to central or western Canada (via Oba) or central US (via Sault Ste. Marie) would have traveled over the ACR line.

In 1995 this mill was purchased by Columbia Forest Products which still operates it today producing hardwood plywood.

Veneer

Two veneer mills operated on the ACR.

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Abandoned G.W. Martin (formerly Weldwood of Canada) veneer mill at Searchmont. October 2, 2013

At Searchmont there was a mill operated by Weldwood of Canada (sold to G.W. Martin Co. in the early 1980s). This closed in 1990, and the abandoned mill buildings were finally demolished in 2014.

In Sault Ste. Marie, the mill operated [during the early 1980s] by Weyerhaeuser appears to have produced both board lumber and veneers. This mill was sold to G.W. Martin in the mid 1980s, later changing hands to E.B. Eddy and then Domtar. It was last sold to Boniferro Mill Works in 2003 and appears to still be in operation today.

Since the AC did not have any boxcars for interchange service, any cars for southbound loads may have been provided by CP or SOO during the 1980s.

OSB and Chipboard

The last category of wood products we’ll examine is engineered wood products such as oriented strandboard (OSB) and chipboard. OSB (what I used to call chipboard due to its appearance, but apparently the industry seems to use that term synonymously with particleboard) is an engineered product made from compressing wood chips with adhesives into sheets like plywood. (OSB is the sort of stuff you’d use for cheap sheathing on an outdoor shed. Particleboard is a similar product but with finer wood fiber like sawdust – the sort of thing you’d find in a cheap furniture from a big-box store.)

In late 1995 a new OSB mill was constructed near Limer, south of Hawk Junction. The mill was operated by Jager Strandboard Ltd., a joint venture between H.J. Forest Products and MacMillan Bloedel. When Weyerhaeuser bought out MacMillan Bloedel in 1999, they assumed ownership of the mill. The mill closed in 2007 as part of a series of Weyerhaeuser mill shutdowns due to the decline in the forest industry at the time. While it was in operation it both received raw pulpwood logs on flatcars and shipped out finished products in boxcars.

Also in 1996 a new particleboard plant opened in the west end of Sault Ste. Marie under the name GP Flakeboard. This was original a joint venture with Georgia-Pacific but is now owned by a Chilean company, Aurauco and simply know as Flakeboard. This plant also saw large expansions around 2005 and produces particleboard and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). This mill is located out to the west of Sault Ste. Marie and appears as if it may actually be served by Essar Steel Algoma’s private railway. It uses sawdust from other sawmills in the Northern Ontario region as its raw material; which otherwise would have been waste material. The Flakeboard plant is still in operation today.

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SSAM 43300 double door boxcar at Sault Ste. Marie August 2004. Typical of WC double door boxcars in lumber and wood products service. (Note also load of lumber from Dubreuil Forest Products at right.)

Lumber Traffic on the ACR

Lumber traffic (excluding stuff like plywood, veneer, etc. – we’ll get to that next time) on the ACR consists primarily of four main sources:

  • Weyerhaeuser (later Domtar) at Sault Ste. Marie
  • Dubreuil Bros. (later Dubreuil Forest Products) at Dubreuilville
  • Newaygo Forest Products at Mead
  • bridge traffic from Hearst

Weyerhaeuser/Lajambe/Domtar

This mill, located approximately mile 4 in Sault Ste. Marie, produced hardwood lumber and veneers. Established in 1948 as Roddis Lumber & Veneer, in the early 1980s it was owned and operated by Weyerhaeuser Canada. In the mid 1980s Weyerhaeuser sold the mill to G.W. Martin (which also purchased the former Weldwood of Canada veneer mill at Searchmont near the same time). Later ownership changes saw the mill owned by Lajambe Forest Products and later E.B. Eddy and Domtar, with the mill being last sold by Domtar in 2003 to Boniferro Mill Works, which appears to still operate the facility today.

This mill received logs and shipped out finished product by rail. Although I don’t have photos or records to confirm this, I would presume most of their output to be shipped south for export.

Dubreuil Forest Products

The Dubreuil Brothers Lumber Co. established a sawmill just west of Hawk Junction in 1951, and in 1961 moved their operations up to what is now Dubreuilville and established a company town there. During the late 1960s, Dubreuil Bros. began shipping more of their product by truck to Michigan rather than by rail, and sources indicate that from about 1975 through 1986 Dubreuilville was pretty dead as far as rail shipments were concerned, except for a few carloads a year of fresh railroad ties, as they had the contract to supply the ACR.

In about 1986-87 Dubreuil Forest Products switched back to shipping lumber by rail in a big way; tracks were rebuilt and an additional spur for woodchips installed. A second connection was added to the ACR main turning the spur into a wye that could be switched from either direction and yard limits established around the location to facilitate switching. The lumber loading track was able to hold nearly two dozen 60′ cars.

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Former woodchip car ACIS 1415 modified as a special lumber car for Dubreuil Forest Products service. Photographed in June 2000 behind the Steelton car shops.

A unique service that the ACR provided at Dubreuilville was using a small fleet of about half a dozen survivors from their former fleet of woodchip gondolas which were modified for lumber service. When switching the mill tracks at Dubreuilville, the ACR would always ensure that one of these was spotted at the end of the track where it would be loaded using a ramp. The loaded cars were delivered to Sault Ste. Marie where Dubreuil used to have a lumber yard adjacent to Steelton yard and unloaded there for transloading onto trucks. Between standard flatcars and these modified chip cars, Dubreuil could load up to a dozen cars per day here.

The Dubreuilville mill closed in 2007, a victim of the general downturn in the Canadian softwood lumber industry at the time.

Newaygo Forest Products

Newaygo Forest Products built their mill at Mead in 1974 to ship out export lumber and woodchips to the US. A couple of sources suggest that a destination for a lot of the lumber produced by Newaygo (and possibly from Dubreuilville as well after Newaygo shut down) was a large modular home builder in Mancelona, Michigan.

The Newaygo mill only lasted in operation until 1984 or 1985.

Bridge Traffic

Additional lumber traffic on the ACR comes from the Ontario Northland (formerly CN) interchange at Hearst. (Today this is the only lumber traffic still operating over the former ACR.)

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NOKL 734517 with a Tembec lumber load at Sault Ste. Marie, August 2004.

Significant nearby mills include Lecours Lumber in Calstock (approximately 20 miles west of Hearst), Tembec (former Malette Lumber, former United Sawmills, former Fontaine Lumber) in Hearst and Tembec (former ?) in Kapuskasing. Other lumber comes from a bit farther afield on the ONR and beyond as I’ve also seen lumber from Scierie Landrienne, EACOM (former Domtar mills) and Resolute Forest Products (formerly Abitibi-Bowater) mills in northern Quebec heading towards Hearst via CN and Ontario Northland.

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CBRY 1527 with a load of lumber from Scierie Landrienne of Landrienne, QC at Cochrane, ON in a train departing for Kapuskasing and Hearst. July 2013.

Note: I have printable graphics to make your own wrapped lumber loads for most of the companies mentioned above on my Lumber Loads page.

Freight Car Friday #49B

A bonus extra post for today’s Freight Car Friday feature.

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These cars bearing HS reporting marks are also common mixed in with the CP wood pulp service boxcars. These cars are leased to CP for wood pulp service by GE Railcar Services. These cars are a wild variety of seemingly random small sub-groups of cars from various builders (the above car is an FMC, while the bottom car is built by Berwick and coupled on both ends to other HS cars built by ACF) making any sort of even basic guesses as to their heritage impossible.

Most of these cars are older (early 1970s built) “plate B” cars rebuilt to raise the roof and extend the inside height from 10’6″ to 11’0″. All feature the distinctive carbody vents marking their assignment to wood pulp service. The Berwick car below also has reinforcing panels added to the car ends, as does a CP car coupled to the left of the HS 61554 above.

The top photo of a freshly shopped HS 61554 was taken in July 2015 at Hawk Junction, while the below photo of HS 61213 is at Sault Ste. Marie in August 2004.

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Additional leased cars bearing short line reporting marks SLGG, OAR, BR and YVRR (the former two being more common in 2004 and not so much seen now, and the latter two coming on the scene more around 2012 or so) are also commonly mixed in to the wood pulp fleet.

Freight Car Friday #49

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A pair of modern examples of Canadian Pacific boxcars in wood pulp service at Sault Ste. Marie on July 12, 2015, arriving back in Canada from Michigan to head back to CP via the interchange at Franz.

The top car was built new for CP in 1998 by Greenbrier’s Trenton Works in Trenton, NS. The bottom car’s history is a little more obscure. An early 1970s design from Pullman-Standard, the car’s original owner before coming to CP is unknown. It would have been repainted and renumbered into its current identity in 2001 (and probably rebuilt to raise the roof and add an additional 6 inches to the interior height of the car at the same time).

The flat plates on the sides of both cars are protective covers for vents in the carbody. These vents are typical on modern cars in wood pulp service to allow moisture in the product to escape.

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