ACR on the Chopping Block?

(Note that this posting contains a LOT of supposition.)

Last week Trains magazine put out a news item indicating that CN plans to sell off a fair bit of low density branch lines in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario:

TRAINS: CN to sell 850 miles of low-density lines in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario

While the article text is behind subscriber access, the sub heading implies that most of the trackage is low traffic ex-Wisconsin Central lines, and while it’s absolutely not made clear what any of the individual lines are, it doesn’t take much supposition to guess that the former Algoma Central trackage is at least a candidate to be included in the “Ontario” part of this collection, with very few on-line customers other than the Essar Steel Algoma mill in the Sault other than a few pulpwood logging operations.

I’ve also been told by local sources that CN is currently not even operating trains between Sault Ste. Marie and Hawk Junction, only operating between Hawk and Hearst to handle bridge traffic between the interchanges/junctions at Hearst, Oba, and Franz. (I’ve been seeing some AC/WC pulpwood cars routing through southern Ontario recently as well which is a fairly new thing – probably taking the long way around to Wisconsin/Michigan with the south end of the ACR not operating.)

On the other hand, the new ferrochrome smelter for the “Ring of Fire” project chose Sault Ste. Marie as the location for construction, and while that won’t be built for a couple years yet, losing rail access to the Sault would be a major problem for that project.

Will have to watch what happens with this one, potentially big changes in the Algoma region. Speculation abounds: Will CN attempt to abandon the line if no buyers found? Will they soldier on? Will Ontario Northland be interested? (Probably the best case for the line, but will ONTC go for it?) Will some other shortline company make a go? (G&W comes to mind, but they’re already claiming poverty on the operations of the Huron Central and threatening to walk away from that one without financial support for track upgrade/maintenance.) Will local interests try to put something together to save the line, similar to what they’re trying to do with the regular Hearst passenger train? (Although this has been dragging on seemingly unsuccessfully for several years now.) And of course, what impact will this have on the popular Agawa Canyon Tour Train? (although cancelled this year because of the pandemic.) Apparently a new station was just built by the old paper mill as part of the redevelopment of that district. Could a new operator other than CN actually be a boon to passenger service restoration if freight and passenger can be operated as a cohesive entity?

Lots to see, and nothing will happen quickly…

Freight Car Friday #74 – CP 305560 Model

This unique Canadian Pacific skeleton flat is a new model I just finished* this week.

*(Assembly, paint and decals; still needs clear coat and weathering.)

The model is a Custom Finishing kit, which is made up of a series of soft metal (pewter) casting. After cleaning up all the parts with a fine file, and drilling holes for grab irons and truck and coupler box mounting screws, the model was assembled per the kit instructions using two part epoxy to glue the major parts together. As there’s barely a dozen pieces, it’s actually a very easy and straightforward build. I also drilled through the joint at each end between the main spine of the car and the end platforms and pinned it with a short piece of wire to reinforce the joint, so that the main structural pieces aren’t only held together by the epoxy. One extra addition I made was to apply 1×10 plates for the KarTrack ACI barcode labels on the right-most stake on each side, and I also drilled holes in the end sills to mount Kadee #438 air hoses.

With the assembly completed, the model was airbrushed black and lettered with decals from Black Cat Publishing specifically for this car. ACI labels came from a MicroScale set, and a couple of missing elements (“Plate C” marking and NSC builder’s logo) were added from a Highball CP Rail flatcar set.

The prototype for this car is one of 50 cars built in September 1968 by National Steel Car as CP 305560-305609. (Another 300 identical cars were built for Pacific Great Eastern in two batches in 1966 and 1968.) The cars were designed for use transporting full length logs and poles.

I’ve heard some mention of shipments of telephone poles to the Sault Public Utilities Commission; I’m not sure where such shipments would be unloaded, but all that is needed is a team track with a driveway beside it. Whether such movements actually happened with any regularity, the “rule of cool” applies here a little as well, and that’s what the waybill for this car will show when it runs on my eventual layout.

Just need to make a (removable) pole load for this car now…