During a couple of visits over 2013-2015 to Northern Ontario to investigate and railfan some of what remains of the Algoma Central’s operations as well as the other regional lines such as the Huron Central and Ontario Northland, I noticed westbound loads of lumber travelling towards Hearst from companies like Scierie Landriene, EACOM and Resolute Forest Products that I knew (or was pretty sure) didn’t have local mills served directly by the Ontario Northland, but had come from much further afield from the CN in northern Quebec (interchanged to the ONR via Rouyn-Noranda and routed to Hearst via Englehart and Cochrane). Also, I saw empty pulpwood flatcars heading back to Hearst after having delivered logs cut somewhere on the former ACR territory to one or more of these mills in Quebec.
Obviously this made me interested in finding out where some of these mills were located – and if possible to find out what companies operated them during the mid 1980s – as the possibility of some interesting and realistic bridge traffic off the CN at Hearst would be great enhancement to the operations planning on my future ACR layout. (Also, if I could be even luckier and find appropriate images of lumber loads with correct company heralds to model…)
Tracking the ownership history of each individual mill is a bit dizzying with entire companies being frequently merged, sold/acquired and renamed as well as individual mills being sold between companies. I may have made some mistakes (corrections and/or clarifications are welcome) and I’ve quite probably missed some, but to me I feel I definitely have more than enough information to be able to have a nice sample set of realistic bridge traffic opportunities.
Also note that this research has been specifically limited only to mills along the CN (former National Transcontinental) line through Hearst-Cochrane-Senneterre (and its branches) and the Ontario Northland that might have plausibly generated westbound bridge traffic over a portion or all of the ACR route. For information on mills served directly by the ACR, see my previous posts from my Operations series on paper, lumber and other forest products traffic that already cover this information.
Some general notes on some of the larger corporations and companies:
Normick-Perron, operator of several mills in the area was sold to Noranda Forest Inc. in 1989. Noranda later renamed Nexfor in 1998. In the early 2000s, Nexfor sold off sawmill assets to Tembec and split into two companies to each focus on their own objectives in 2004: Norboard (OSB/Panelboard products) and Fraser Papers (paper products).
Abitibi Paper Co. (formerly Abitibi Power & Paper Co.) merged with Price Inc. to become Abitibi-Price in 1979, with futher major mergers with Stone Consolidated Corp. to form Abitibi-Consolidated in 1997, and Bowater in 2007 to create Abitibi-Bowater. In 2011 Abitibi-Bowater was renamed Resolute Forest Products under which it continues to do business today.
Update – in 2022 it was announced that Domtar will acquire Resolute Forest Products, the merger to be completed in the first half of 2023.
Tembec is a major forestry operator today, although does not really appear on the scene during my time frame. Tembec was formed in 1973 to operate the former Canadian International Paper pulp mill in Temiscaming, QC with their first sawmill acquisition in the same area (served by the CPR northeast of North Bay, ON and not really relevant to any bridge traffic that could have operated on the ACR) in 1986. However since then Tembec has come to acquire a very large number of operations in both Ontario and Quebec.
Update – in November 2017 Tembec was acquired by Rayonier Advanced Materials (RYAM).
The E.B. Eddy company operated several mills in northern Ontario including during the late 1990s the ex-Weyerhaeuser/G.W. Martin lumber & veneer mill in Sault Ste. Marie served by the ACR. E.B. Eddy was acquired by Domtar in 1998. Domtar also acquired several mills in the Abitibi-Temiscaming region in Quebec from Forex in 1985. In 2010 Domtar sold their sawmill assets to EACOM Timber.
Update – in February 2022 EACOM was acquired by Interfor, previously a primarily western Canadian producer.
So, without further ado, moving roughly west to east on the map and listing mills by what as far as I can tell was the operating name around 1985:
Lecours Lumber (lumber) – This mill has been privately owned and operated since 1943 and continues to be one of the largest privately owned mills in Ontario.
United Sawmills (lumber) – Formerly Fontaine lumber, becoming United Sawmills in 1982. In 1990 the mill was sold to Malette, Inc. of Timmins, ON and was subsequently purchased by Tembec in 1995 and still operates today.
Levesque Lumber (lumber) – J.D. Levesque operated a couple of small sawmills in the early 1950s (with one located next to the ACR at Wyborn) but the most recent sawmill/planer appears to have been built in the early 1960s (and rebuilt once or twice in the 1970s) at the east end of Hearst. Levesque Lumber went out of business in 1992, although a group of investors operated the planer under the name Tricept until 2006.
Levesque Plywood (plywood, particleboard) – Not to be confused with J.D. Levesque Lumber (which I did for quite a while), Levesque Plywood was formed in the early 1960s by two of J.D.’s sons. The company survived the mill’s destruction by fire in 1965 and continued to expand in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The mill was sold to Columbia Forest Products in 1995 and still operates today. Side note: when I visited Sault Ste. Marie in 2004, Columbia Forest Products was operating a log reload (into flatcars) on a portion of the former Algoma Central shops property behind the former car shop.
Spruce Falls Power & Paper Co. (newsprint) – This mill was established in 1926 as a partnership between Kimberly-Clark and the New York Times. The mill has been the exclusive supplier of newsprint to the Times since 1928 and the bulk of traffic from this mill goes south/east over the Ontario Northland. I don’t know if the mill ONLY provides newsprint to the NY Times, but it seems like a good excuse for the occasional car or two of newsprint sent to a midwest paper. In 1997 Tembec became the sole owner of this mill which still operates today.
Side note: of particular interest, during the late 1960s this mill leased a fleet of 75 boxcars from Pullman’s Transport Leasing Co. (and another 20 cars were leased by CN from TLCX) in an attractive forest green scheme with large billboard lettering, although these cars were returned to the lessor in 1973* and thereafter CN provided the mill with their own cars. (*The cars were subsequently leased by Canadian Pacific and numbered in the CPAA 899xx range until 1987.)
Smooth Rock Falls, ON
Abitibi-Price (pulp) – Another old mill established in the early 1900s, Abitibi sold the mill to Malette in 1989, and this became a Tembec operation when Tembec purchased Malette in 1995. Unfortunately this mill closed down permanently in 2006 and the site was demolished.
Normick-Perron (plywood) – Producing aspen plywood, this mill is currently operated by Rockshield Engineered Wood Products, whose web site indicates it was originally built in 1963 by the Perron family, which should allow us to trace it’s ownership via Normick-Perron, Noranda Forest/Nexfor, and Tembec.
Normick-Perron(?) (lumber) – Adjacent to the plywood mill is a large lumber mill. I had a hard time coming up with any detailed information on the history of this specific mill online but it’s current owner is Tembec (now Rayonier). It was possibly also a former Perron property associated with the plywood mill.
Iroquois Falls, ON
Abitibi-Price (newsprint) – Another Abitibi mill (this one served by a branch of the Ontario Northland) this is one that I can actually CONFIRM has shipped paper over the ACR at least at some point. Over on the Green Bay & Western Lines website, they have a collection of waybill data for a nearly two month period of cars delivered to the Ahnapee & Western Railway in Green Bay, WI and there’s one waybill recorded of an Ontario Northland boxcar loaded with paper for a local newspaper and it’s routed over the ACR (AC&HB as it was then still known). Resolute Forest Products shut down this mill in 2015 and subsequently demolished the mill.
Kirkland Lake, ON
Normick-Perron (lumber) -Located on the Ontario Northland’s branch to Rouyn-Noranda, QC. Similar to the Cochrane mill I didn’t find a lot of information on the history of this one; it was eventually owned by Tembec but has been idle since 2008.
Update: since this was originally posted, this mill seems to have been resurrected as Kirkland Lake Forest Products, with product exclusively marketed/distributed by EACOM.
Grant Forest Products (OSB) – Another privately-owned family business founded in 1980, Grant Forest Products established an OSB mill in Englehart, ON and eventually expanded to several facilities in Ontario, Alberta and South Carolina. After falling into bankruptcy during the late-2000s recession, Grant’s assets including the Englehart mill and a secondary facility a few miles south in Earlton were sold to Georgia-Pacific in 2010 and are still operated by G-P today. Another Grant Forest Products facility in Timmins had been permanently closed in 2006 and later demolished. I’m guessing that most or all of output from this mill would have gone south over the ONR via North Bay however.
Grant Forest Products – See notes above under Englehart.
E.B. Eddy Forest Products (lumber) – located at the end of Ontario Northland’s Timmins branch, E.B. Eddy operated a sawmill produced board lumber. As noted above, in 1998 E.B. Eddy was merged into Domtar, and in 2010 the mill went to EACOM along with other Domtar properties. EACOM appears to still be operating this mill today, however there is no longer any rail service, with Ontario Northland having abandoned service to Timmins in the late 1980s.