Throwback Thursday #2

In the late 1960s-early 1970s Newaygo Forest Products had not yet established the lumber & chip mill at Mead to process logs, but had already been established since at least the 1950s with significant pulpwood loading spurs at Mosher (mile 217.3 & 218.0) and large cutting areas centered around the Mead area with spurs at mile 264.4 (Hale), 275.3 (Mead – where the mill would be built in 1974), and 281.9 (Coppell). During the 1950s up to the early 1970s this raw pulpwood would have flowed south; once the mill was built in the mid-1970s it seems most Newaygo pulpwood was sent to Mead to be chipped, and the woodchips were then shipped south to Wisconsin.

Empty cars would often be stored at nearby sidings at Horsey (273.1) and Coppell (280.9), which is exactly what we see with the message forms below.

These scans are of simple message forms that could have been delivered to train crews along with train orders, but to convey information that is less operationally critical or not covered by the formal forms of train orders.

These messages were all delivered to train no. 5 on successive days from April 24-26, 1970, and there’s a lot of special references to handling empties and pulpwood loads related to Newaygo’s spurs at Mosher, Mead and Coppell.

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I believe the railroad term for some of these set-outs of empty cars in the house tracks/sidings at Mosher, Horsey and Coppell would be “constructively placed” – maintaining a ready supply of empty cars nearby for loading at the logging company’s spurs.

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61′ gons referred to these messages would of course be the 1001-1400 series bulkhead gondolas built in the mid 1960s. 40′ gons referred to in the second message would have to be cars from the 4601-4804 series (re)built by the ACR’s shops in 1947-48 and still in service in the early 1970s.

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The specific references in the last two messages to handling both units (locomotive) through to Hearst are interesting; perhaps it was not uncommon to set off the trailing unit at Oba once all the interchange traffic was dropped off, if there were only minimal traffic left for Mead and Hearst? (Note also that CN freights only operated into Hearst 3 days a week according to the timetable – a frequency Ontario Northland maintains today.)

Throwback Thursday #1

Chips Will Fly at Paper Firm Plant

Mead, Ontario – Newaygo Forest Products Ltd., a subsidiary of Consolidated Papers, Inc., Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., will dedicate its $5.2 million lumber-chip complex here Oct. 6.

The new facility – which has 92,000 square feet of space in five buildings – has the capacity to produce 75 million board feet of lumber and 80,000 tons of wood chips for pulping a year, the company said.

Some of the features, it said, are computer sorting of logs, extensive use of chippers rather than conventional saws and hydraulically powered and controlled equipment.

Newaygo said the complex would enable nearly complete utilization of trees: cutting lumber from the trees fist [sic], chipping what is usually edgings and slabs for pulping and using the bark and sawdust for fuel.

A sister subsidiary of Consolidated Papers, Newaygo Timber Co., Ltd., owns more than 350,000 acres of forest land in the Mead area and will provide most of the logs to be processed in the new facility.

Employment of the two companies is expected to reach 270 when the facility is in full operation. Delays in equipment deliveries have postponed the startup of operations except for the sawmill.

– Milwaukee Journal, Sep. 24, 1974 Sec2, p13

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 Sault Ste. Marie 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.

Woodchip Traffic on the ACR

Wood chip traffic on the ACR primarily derived from the sawmills and Dubreuilville and Mead. Both mills were large sources of chip traffic – although not at the same time.

Newaygo Forest Products (Mead, ON)

In 1974 Newaygo Forest Products built a new modern mill 20 miles south of Hearst on the ACR at Mead to produce lumber and wood chips for export to the United States. The woodchips would be shipped to a paper mill in Appleton, Wisconsin.

To supply cars for this traffic the Algoma Central purchased 89 cars from National Steel Car in 1974, with unique ACIS reporting marks designating them under some customs rules or regulations for International Service. A further 23 cars with regular AC reporting marks were added in 1980.

These large capacity cars, the biggest cars on the ACR roster and painted a unique pale green colour with yellow end doors and “billboard” lettering cut a striking appearance, and travelling over almost the entire length of the railway and into Michigan and Wisconsin, there are several good photos of both of these car series available.

They seemed to ship up to about half a dozen cars at a time from Mead, and extra empty cars would often be stored in the siding at Horsey or Coppel, on either side of Mead.

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ACIS 1433, one of a few survivors from the Algoma Central’s woodchip car fleet at Steelton yard in 2001. Blair Smith photo.

The mill at Mead shut down in 1985 bringing this traffic to an end.

Dubreuil Forest Products (Dubreuilville, ON)

In about 1986 or 1987, Dubreuil Forest Products installed a new chip spur and loader at their mill at Dubreuilville to load woodchips for the pulp mill on the Canadian Pacific at Marathon.

Cars for this service were 52′-60′ gondolas provided from Canadian Pacific. Over 100 cars were provided, with empties stored in the sidings at Goudreau and Wanda north and south of Dubreuilville to protect the loadings at the mill.

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1991 switchlist showing cars in the transfer track at Franz. The dozen empty CP 343xxx series gondolas listed are woodchip cars for Dubreuilville.

Despite the large numbers of car loads involved, since they operated only between the interchange at Franz and the mill at Dubreuilville about 10 miles south, and both locations being a bit more than just slightly off the beaten path, this traffic wasn’t too visible and I haven’t seen much in the way of photographs of these cars in ACR trains, unlike the much more visible AC/ACIS woodchip gondolas that were used to service the Newaygo mill. Fortunately the cars have been well photographed in other locations, particularly as many survivors have recently been used in tie service.

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A common variation of CP’s woodchip gondolas rebuilt from a 52′ gondola with extended sides. Bill Grandin photo.

During the 1990s, the AC (and later WC) ran an weekday evening “Franz Turn” out of Hawk Junction to switch lumber and chip loads at Dubreuilville and the interchange at Franz.

The mill at Dubreuilville closed in 2007.

Lecours Lumber (Calstock, ON)

After Newaygo shut down their operations at Mead, the fleet of AC and ACIS woodchip cars were sold off, with many cars being transferred to Newaygo for use on other operations.

One place where ex-Algoma Central cars with Newaygo (NFPX) markings seemed to show up regularly in the 1990s and early 2000s was at the Lecours Lumber stud mill west of Hearst, on trackage now operated by Ontario Northland. These chips apparently headed down into the US somewhere, so by a curious twist of fate, these ex-Algoma Central cars continued to operate over the former Algoma Central rails for several years.

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NFPX 1511 with a load of woodchips at Steelton yard, 1999. Blair Smith photo.

I’m not sure when this service ended (or if indeed it still continues on a periodic basis) but in my few visits to the area over the last few years I’ve never seen any chip cars.

Pulpwood and log traffic on the ACR

Pulpwood (that is, raw logs of a grade and size suitable for use at a paper or pulp mill) has been a staple of the ACR’s traffic since it first began construction in 1899. Large amounts of pulpwood were shipped to the paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie and much exported to mills in northern Michigan and Wisconsin as well.

Before I continue, I’d like to give a shout out to Bruce Gignac and Reg Fitzpatrick, former ACR employees who answered a few of my questions here and confirmed some information. Thanks guys!

Newaygo Forest Products

Newaygo Forest Products operated large pulpwood cutting operations north of Hawk Junction with large logging operations and loading spurs in the Mosher and Mead areas. Newaygo also had an additional spur at Trembley, just west of Wawa on the Michipicoten subdivision. Logs from Newaygo spurs were mainly shipped south for export to paper mills at Appleton and Neenah, Wisconsin.

In 1974 Newaygo established a modern sawmill at Mead to produce lumber and woodchips. While this mill was in operation, most of Newaygo’s pulp log traffic was now sent here to be turned into woodchips for export to Wisconsin (more on that later) instead of sending the raw logs south from Mosher. Logs cut around Mead were also processed at the new mill, and a couple of previously listed Newaygo spurs north and south of Mead were removed from the timetable in the late 1970s.

During the 1960s while logs were being loaded for shipment south to the US, most of the export log loading at Mosher was done at the Mosher north spur, at mile 218 (connecting to the house track and siding). After 1974, with logs being shipped north instead to Mead, most loading was done on the Mosher south spur at mile 217.3 just south of Mosher station.

Some logs from Mosher were also sent to the J.D. Levesque plywood mill in Hearst.

Reg Fitzpatrick also mentioned another interesting occasional movement of pulpwood from Mosher in the 1980s. Using privately owned pulpwood cars provided from Kimberly-Clark in Terrace Bay (bearing KCWX reporting marks) some pulpwood was sent from Mosher via Franz to Ontario Paper in Thorold, ON in southern Ontario’s Niagara Penninsula region. Apparently up to 15-20 cars at a time would be loaded for this service, but only three or four times a year (roughly 60 cars/year). Occasionally a rejected load from the paper mill would be sent back to the ACR and these would be sent to Dubreuilville. (Interestingly, some of these same cars were later purchased and assigned to the ACR by Wisconsin Central in the late 1990s.)

Newaygo shut down the mill at Mead and most of their other operations in Algoma County in 1985.

Abitibi Paper (later St. Marys Paper)

Providing pulpwood to the pulp mill established in Sault Ste. Marie in the 1890s by industrialist Francis Clergue (who also developed much of the other early industry in the Sault including the railway, hydro-electric power company and Algoma Steel) was pretty much the reason the line was originally driven into the forests north of the Sault. Originally a component of Clergue’s Consolidated Lake Superior Corporation, in later years the mill was operated by Abitibi Pulp and Paper, and later independently as St. Marys Paper. Its fortunes declining, the mill closed down for good in 2007 and has since been demolished, except for some of the original heritage structures from the late 19th century.

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A southbound freight arrives at Steelton yard in the early 1980s with a significant amount of pulpwood, likely for the Abitibi Paper mill. Morgan Turney photo.

Several different spurs owned and operated by St. Marys Paper are listed in the official employee’s timetables, with notable operations at or near Millwood (just north of Agawa siding), Limer and Trembley. This however, doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story, as quite often pulpwood was also loaded at the house track at several different sidings along the line, and this wouldn’t be additionally listed in the timetable. Batchewana, Mekatina, Regent and Frater are a few sidings definitively known to have hosted significant pulpwood loading operations, usually by private contractors but in many cases shipping to St. Marys Paper.

Other

In addition to Newaygo and St. Marys Paper, probably the biggest shippers and receivers of pulpwood on the ACR, several other mills on the ACR also received logs by rail.

In Searchmont there was a veneer mill operated by Weldwood Canada (later G.W. Martin). Log spurs operated by the same company were located at Eton. This mill shut down around 1990.

In Sault Ste. Marie there was a lumber & veneer mill operated by Weyerhauser in the early 1980s. (Originally established in 1948 as Roddis Lumber & Veneer, and sold [by Weyerhaeuser] to G.W. Martin in the mid 1980s, and later to Lajambe Forest Products, Agawa Forest Products (E.B. Eddy) and Domtar, and still operating today as Boniferro Mill Works). This mill likely received logs from a few locations, and there was a Weyerhaeuser spur at Achigan (mile 42) during the early 1980s (spur listed under G.W. Martin in the late 1980s). I’ve seen a number of photos such as the one below with loads of larger logs, mostly shot in or near Sault Ste. Marie. I’m guessing that the Weyerhaeuser mill is a likely destination for these although I honestly don’t know for certain. I’m not sure where these logs are loaded either, but this very nice Dave Beach photo shows that at least some of them come from north of Montreal Falls (mile 92).

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The Steelton yard switcher shuffles a cut of cars of logs. Early 1980s photo by Morgan Turney.

After the Wisconsin Central takeover in late 1995 or early 1996 a new oriented strandboard (OSB) mill opened at mile 153 north of Perry siding. Video and photos that I’ve seen do show that logs were shipped here by rail in AC flatcars, but I’m not sure where from. This mill closed sometime around 2007 due to the general decline in the northern Ontario forestry industry in the early 21st century.

The sawmill at Dubreuilville did not general receive much in the way of logs by rail, as their cutting rights were close to their mill and mostly delivered by truck.

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Loading pulpwood on the team track behind the freight shed at Hawk Junction, March 1981. Photographer unknown, slide in my collection.

In addition to isolated spurs owned or operated by specific companies as above, there are several smaller logging companies that show as operating their own spurs – these smaller companies would likely have sold their logs to the area mills in Searchmont, the Sault or Michigan. Also as mentioned above in the St. Marys Paper section, a lot of pulpwood was loaded at house tracks at various locations and wouldn’t be reflected in the “Loading Spurs” section in the timetable.

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Pulpwood flatcar owned by Besse Forest Products. Besse operated a loading spur beside Steelton Yard in the early 2000s for export pulpwood. At Sault Ste. Marie in August 2004. My photo.

Columbia Forest Products was another company that had a pulpwood loading operation on the ACR’s property behind the Steelton car shops in the late 1990s and early 2000s; Columbia also operated the plywood mill in Hearst from 1995, and presumably these logs loaded in Sault Ste. Marie would have been shipped north over the railway to the mill.

Operations Today

Today the paper mill at Sault Ste. Marie and various forest products mills at Searchmont, Limer, Dubreuilville and Mead are all closed, but there is still some loading of pulpwood for export to Michigan and Wisconsin.

When I rode the tour of the line to Hearst in 2013, I noted active operations at Odena (mile 10), Eton (mile 120) and Langdon (mile 240, just south of Oba). This summer I also heard southbound freight 574 on the radio doing some switching of log spurs at or near Regent siding (mile 89).

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Log spurs at Eton, September 30, 2013. My photo.

There’s also some current movements of pulpwood from one of the spurs/sidings (not sure which) on the former ACR to somewhere in Quebec (I’ve not yet been able to determine exactly where these are going). These travel up to Hearst where they are routed over the Ontario Northland into Quebec via Rouyn-Noranda.

Also, across town at the Huron Central yard, pulpwood is loaded for shipment to the Domtar mill at Espanola. While this is not really related to the ACR per se, I’m not sure if logs for this mill were also loaded at locations along the ACR at times as well.