36′ Wooden Box Bunk Cars

Like every railway, especially those with extensive trackage through remote areas, the Algoma Central rostered a number of bunk cars to use as crew cabins for work crews working on construction or maintenance projects. Many of these cars are customized and home built for specific needs, usually from retired passenger or freight equipment.

The Algoma Central had a number of such cars converted from their old 36′ boxcars originally built in the early 20th century. There appeared to be a number of these in the 10600-10620 range, with a few others scattered elsewhere in the 10000 series work car numbering. A few of these cars were still in service in the early 1980s although starting to be replaced by pre-fabricated bunk units on flatcars (some of which reused the same numbers), and hoistman’s bunk car 10607 was even still in service in the late 1990s at Steelton yard.

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Engineman’s bunk car AC 10608 (above, Ted Ellis photo September 24, 1983) is a good example of the typical configuration of the ACR’s bunk car conversions from the old 36′ boxcars; although from the photos I’ve collected of about 4 or 5 different examples of these cars each one is slightly different from each other in the specific details.

Since I’ve been working on a few crane support cars, I’ve also wanted to have that old hoistman’s bunk car (AC 10607) to match up with the crane equipment set (also, that particular car was repainted in a VERY eye-catching bright yellow in the early 1980s). And if I was going to build one, I was going to at least build a second one.

I actually started these around Christmas, but during January and February I basically did absolutely no modelling as I was working on some home improvement projects. However with some of the work out of the way, lately I’ve been able to dive into this project again and make some progress on this pair of bodies.

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(Left/rear AC 10608 Engineman’s bunk, right/front AC 10607 Hoistman’s bunk)

Each of these two cars are based off of specific prototype photos to match the subtly different details of the cars. (In this case, primarily the end doors on 10607, and differences in ladder details (still to come). Otherwise, the side door and window arrangements on these particular two cars are virtually identical, although other cars had some variations.)

The bodies are fairly straightforward, being built from .040″ scribed styrene sheet. The roofs so far are plain styrene sheet with some internal bracing to maintain the proper shape along the length of the car with some scale 1×8 for the fascia strip along the top of the body at the eaves.

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The windows were definitely the most involved and time-consuming part of the project so far. Not having anything that would match both the small windows are larger windows by the doors (I probably could have used some Tichy windows for the smaller ones) I scratchbuilt all the windows entirely from styrene strip. The single small window shown above is 12 individual pieces of styrene strip.

After cutting a scale 24″x24″ opening for the window, the outside of the window was trimmed with scale 1×4″ strip (with a piece of scale 2×3″ for the thicker horizontal sill). The inner frame (sash) of the window was made up of individual .030″x.030″ strips and the window mullions were painstakingly assembled by three pieces of .020x.020″ strip carefully cut and filed to fit exactly in the opening. (An exercise in patience and precision if there ever was one.)

This completes some of the major work on the body however. There is some additional detailing to do, and the doors need to be fashioned and all the ladders/grab irons added to complete the body details and then the roof and underframe will need to be completed yet. I’m looking forward to getting these a bit more detailed and sitting on trucks. I think some of these cars will come together into an interesting looking collection of old cars for a work train at Hawk Junction.

[First Annual] Copetown RPM

Today I took the opportunity to attend the new Copetown Railway Prototype Modeler’s (RPM) Meet held at the local community centre in (obviously) Copetown, ON.

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A portion of the Ontario & Quebec modular display layout, set up for operation & display for both the Saturday and Sunday shows.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is the long-established Copetown Train Show, which has always been regarded as somewhat more of the prototype modeler’s show; with some of the historical groups and Canadian manufacturers and kit makers (big and small) displaying their stuff. But other than some of the photo print vendors, not too much other selling – i.e. no flea market tables that you find at most shows. I’ve always liked this show; it’s quite a bit smaller than the other shows, and you won’t go treasure hunting through piles of secondhand wares, but it’s a nice place to interact with some of the makers and I usually end up spending more time at this show than the larger ones because I end up running into many people that I know. I won’t be there this year though, as I didn’t stay over and returned to Sarnia in the evening, and making the drive twice is a little much.

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Steve Lucas‘s scratchbuilt model of a 1950s British American Oil gas station & garage.

This year, the organizers of this show also staged an RPM meet on the Saturday. (The RPM meet was also tied in to the Sunday show in that if you paid admission to the meet on Saturday, your ticket was also good for free admission to the show on Sunday as well.) If you’re not familiar with the RPM format, it basically consists of a display room where attendees can set out some models for display, and several clinic presentations are schedules throughout the event. It’s basically a great opportunity to mingle and meet with other modelers, share information and discuss techniques and tips. There’s a huge social aspect to this type of event, and as it attracts a more serious type of modeler, there’s usually some really nice modeling on display, but learners are also more than extremely welcome to participate; indeed, it’s a wonderful opportunity for getting ideas, inspiration and information from the other modelers you meet. They may be serious about their craft, but in my experience the type of modeler that identifies with the RPM crowd tends to pretty generous with sharing techniques and information.

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Bob Fallowfield’s weathered Conrail (ex-Lehigh Valley patch) X58 boxcar.

Compared to the established Toronto RPM, the turnout of people and models was a little smaller (and the huge size of the hall compared to the classrooms at the Toronto meet’s Humber College venue) probably made it feel smaller than it actually was), but for being the first time it was held, it was a pretty good turnout and Steve Tuff the Copetown RPM & Show organizer was more than pleased with the success of the Saturday event.

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Ryan Mendell‘s Grand Trunk woodchip hopper with scratchbuilt side extensions.

Apart from the model display and mingling with the other modelers; the other big component of the RPM meet are the clinics. These are prepared presentations on some aspect of model or real railroads. There were four clinics presented. Matt Herman of ESU/LokSound gave a presentation on the features of their new sound decoders, my friend Bob Fallowfield gave a short presentation on his layout, based on his boyhood hometown of Woodstock, ON, Steve Lucas did a photographic presentation on the CNR lines in and around the Metropolitan Toronto area and their history, and John Spring gave a similar tour of the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway main line from Buffalo to Hamilton.

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Kitbashed CV flatcar and CN gondola by George Dutka.

All in all, an RPM meet is a great way to see some neat modelling and rub shoulders with some like-minded individuals, and I had a pretty good time overall. After the show was over, I hooked up with Matt Herman, Bob Fallowfield and Scot Atkinson and we ran into Dundas for some Tim Horton’s and back up to the old Copetown mill to hang out for a bit and watch a couple of trains go by (catching one VIA passenger and one CN freight) before splitting up to head home. A fun way to close out the day.

Wawa Wood Pellet Mill Closing

Not great news for the Wawa area.

Announced yesterday, it looks like the wood pellet plant south of Hawk Junction is closing its doors indefinitely due to financial issues and economic factors:

Cash-Strapped RenTech Pulls Plug on Wawa Pellet Mill

(Other articles are also indicating that the troubled company lost as much as 17% in stock value on today’s trading by the lunch hour.)

This facility is the one built just off Highway 101 south of Hawk Junction, near the old ACR Limer siding, in 1995-96 by Jaeger Strandboard to produce OSB (oriented strandboard) sheeting and was shut down by Weyerhaeuser, the then-current owner in 2008. In 2013 RenTech bought the idled mill to convert into a wood pellet manufacturing facility, and after some startup issues starting production in 2015, shipping pellets out by covered hopper via CN. And now it appears, closed again in 2017 unless another company decides to purchase the plant from RenTech.

On the Forest Industry in Northern Ontario & Quebec – Part 2: Quebec

Continued from Part 1. (See notes in Part 1 on major consolidations and mergers.)

A pair of local family-owned companies, Normick-Perron, owned by the Perron brothers of La Sarre before being sold to Noranda Forest (later Nexfor) in 1989, and Forex, owned by the Cossette family of Val d’Or, figure pretty heavily on the scene in the Abitibi region during the 1980s, with pretty big expansions during the 1970s with consolidations and acquisitions of many other local family-owned businesses.

La Sarre, QC

Normick-Perron (OSB/panelboard) – This Normick-Perron mill was built in the mid 1950s by H. Perron et Fils and the only Nexfor property in the region not sold off in the early 2000s and operates today as Norboard, Inc. (since 2004), a major supplier of oriented strandboard products.

Normick-Perron (lumber) – In 1970 H. Perron et Fils merged with JH Normick of La Sarre to form Normick-Perron. During the early 1970s the Perron family concentrated their sawmill operations in the nearby area in La Sarre. The lumber mill was sold by Nexfor to Tembec in 2003 and as far as I can tell is also still operating.

Taschereau, QC

?? (lumber) – Couldn’t find a lot of detailed information on this one but it was sold to Tembec in 1987 and operated by that company until permanently shuttered in 2009.

Amos, QC

Materiaux Blanchet (lumber) – Materiaux Blanchet purchased the Amos sawmill in 1982 from Theo Ayotte and continues to maintain a significant operation here today.

Normick-Perron (lumber) – Normick-Perron acquired a sawmill in Amos from J.E. Thierrien in 1972. I haven’t been able to track the history of this one, but in addition to the large active Materiaux Blanchet mill today, there appears to be a pair of clearly abandoned sawmills visible in the Google satellite imagery of this town but I’m not sure when or under what name the mills were operating when closed.

Normick-Donohue (newsprint) – Established in 1979 as a joint partnership between Normick-Perron (later Noranda Forest Products/Nexfor) and Donohue, Inc. under the name Normick-Donohue to produce newsprint, in 1995 Nexfor sold off their stake to Donohue. In 2000, Donohue, Inc. was acquired by Abitibi-Consolidated (currently Resolute Forest Products) and this mill is still in operation today.

Landrienne, QC

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Flatcar load of lumber from Scierie Landrienne on the ONR at Cochrane, ON. My photo July 16, 2013.

Scierie Landrienne (lumber) – This independent mill was established in 1979 and continues to operate under the same name today although the company was purchased by Chantier Chibougamau in 2015 – another local company based in Chibougamau, QC.

Barraute, QC

Maibec/Optibois? (lumber) – Not entirely sure of the history of this mill, but it looks like it was sold to Materiaux Blanchet in 1988. It doesn’t appear to be listed on Materiaux Blanchet’s web site as a current operation, and some Googling isn’t turning up much useful, and it looks like it’s been shut down and abandoned.

Senneterre, QC

Normick-Perron (lumber) – In 1976 Normick-Perron purchased a sawmill in Senneterre from Paradis & Fils. This mill was sold to Tembec by Nexfor in 2003. In late 2016, Tembec announced the sale of this mill to Resolute Forest Products.

Saucier? (lumber) – another locally owned sawmill in Senneterre was sold to Donohue, Inc. in 1988. In 2000, Donohue was acquired by Abitibi-Consolidated (later Abitibi-Bowater, then Resolute Forest Products) and this mill is still in operation today.

Matagami, QC

Bisson & Bisson (lumber) – Bisson & Bisson first established a sawmill in Matagami in 1968 and relocated to the current location in 1974 after a fire. The mill was acquired by Domtar in 1988, and subsquently by EACOM in 2010. The mill is still in operation today, although CN has indicated an intention to abandon the branch line serving this mill so it may soon lose rail service.

Val d’Or, QC

Forex (lumber) – Not sure of early history, but it was owned by Forex in the 1980s and sold to Domtar in 1985. Currently in operation as EACOM’s Val d’Or mill. Side note: this mill appears to be the current destination of a large move of pulpwood traffic off the former ACR.

Forex (lumber) – A second lumber mill in Val d’Or, this mill was acquired from the Sullivan family in 1980 and sold to Domtar in 1985. Currently in operation as EACOM’s Sullivan mill.

Forex (OSB/Particleboard) -If I understand what I’ve read correctly (on a French site using Google Translate), this mill was started by Forex in 1975 and operated under the name Forpan during the early 1980s. Sold to Uniboard in 1987 and still doing business today under that name.

Malartic, QC

Forex (lumber) – Another Forex mill in the Val d’Or area sold to Domtar in 1985. Not too sure of history before that. Domtar closed the mill in 1997.