Freight Car Friday # 69 – ONT 6051

While today’s Freight Car Friday subject isn’t an AC car, nor taken anywhere near the ACR, it is definitely related.

This shot courtesy of an antique show find by Keith MacCauley shows an almost brand-new Ontario Northland triple hopper # 6051. 72 of these cars numbered ONT 6000-6071 were built by National Steel Car in 1971 for use carrying iron ore from Adams Mine near Dane, ON to steel mills in Pennsylvania. Canadian National, Ontario Northland, and New York Central/Penn Central provided cars into a pool for this service, with many of the PC’s portion coming from the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo and Canada Southern Railways (although that’s clearly an actual PC car coupled at left in this photo). Given the freshness of the ONT car, the date is almost certainly summer 1971. We haven’t identified the location, but it’s likely somewhere in the States.

In the late 1970s this service ended, and these cars were disposed of by the Ontario Northland, with the Algoma Central picking up thirty of these cars in 1978. They would run for several years in original numbers with just the reporting marks patched out, and then in the mid 1980s these cars were renumbered from their 6000 series numbers to the 8600-8629 series.

Scale Test Car 10302 and AC&HB Pressed Steel Car Ore Hoppers

In the early 1980s, the Algoma Central rostered a single scale test car, for testing the calibration of track weigh scales, that was also a historical artifact from the earliest days of the railway.

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Scale test car AC 10302 was originally built new in 1901 for the Algoma Central Railway as an ore hopper in series AC 4201-4399 (odd numbered only) and is the only remaining survivor of the original fleet that served the iron ore mines of the Wawa range at the beginning of the 20th century.

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This ancient car was pretty much celebrating its 80th birthday when photographed in active service at Wawa in March 1981 (photographer unknown, my collection), present to test the calibration of the local scale. Amazingly, this car still survives to this day, its existence having been discovered by members of the Canadian Historical Railway Association in the 1980s and acquired for preservation at the Canadian Railway Museum/ExpoRail in St.-Constant, Quebec as an extremely early example of an all steel hopper car. While restoring the car, volunteers actually managed to find traces of the previous Algoma Central & Hudson Bay Railway lettering, and this was recreated and restored.

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(Above photo at ExpoRail in St-Constant, QC., courtesy of Michael Eby.)

Roster information is a little spotty for the early years, but there appear to have been 200 such cars built in 1900-1901 for the AC/AC&HB, and another 100 were acquired second-hand in 1916 from the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad in Minnesota. They seem to have been eliminated from the roster by the early 1930s.

Based on the best information available, the following roster information is compiled:

Series Qty. Build Date Notes
(Original Series 1900-1904):
3101-3150* 50 1900 re# 4001-4050 /1904
3151-3200* 50 1900 re# 4051-4100 /1904
4201-4399 (odd) 100 1901 re# 4101-4200 /1904
(Secondary Numbers 1904-1933):
3901-4000 100 1901 ex-D&IR 3050-3399 series /1916
4001-4050 50 1900 ex-3101-3150* /1904
4051-4100 50 1900 ex-3151-3200* /1904
4101-4200 100 1901 ex-4201-4399 /1904

Some questions and a lot of unknowns still exist here though as some sources list the original two 1900 groups as AC 3001-3099 and 3101-3199 (both groups odd numbers only) instead of the AC 3101-3200 (unbroken) series I used above, but a builder’s photo exists which shows car ACR 3200, which is not accounted for under the apparent odd-numbers only numbering scheme suggested for the original cars. The next year in 1901 another 100 cars were acquired numbered AC (or AC&HB) 4201-4399 (odd numbers only). The entire mess was renumbered around 1903-04 to AC&HB 4001-4200 (unbroken) to clear up the jumbled numbers. Another 100 cars acquired secondhand in 1916 from the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad were slotted directly under the existing cars as ACR 3901-4000.

The ACR 3200 builder’s photo also shows a completely different style of lettering than the restored lettering on AC&HB 4341 above (and displaying the railway’s original name as only “Algoma Central Railway”, not the later “Algoma Central & Hudson Bay Railway”); and Dale Wilson’s newest book “More Black Bear Tracks” has a 1917 photo of ACR 3903, one of the ex-D&IR cars, with a simplified paint job with only “ACR” initials and basic car data.

These ore hoppers were primarily used to transport iron ore from Algoma Steel’s Helen, Magpie and Josephine mines in the Michipicoten Iron Range around what is today the Wawa area to the ore dock at Michipicoten harbour. However the last of these mines shut down in the early 1920s and Helen Mine wouldn’t be redeveloped until nearly two decades later in 1939 at which point a “new” fleet of secondhand twin hoppers from various American roads was acquired to handle this service, making it all the more amazing such a relic ever survived.

Throwback Thursday #6

Another old message form from April 26, 1970, given to the crew of southbound Hearst-Hawk Junction train no. 6.

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No. 6 is directed to lift a pair of cars, an AC 40′ flatcar and a CN 50′ boxcar from a spur at Mile 176.5, about a mile south of Goudreau. Both cars are apparently to be routed to Hearst, but as the spur is south-facing, the southbound train will lift the outbound cars and bring them to Hawk Junction where they will connect with the next day’s northbound train to Hearst.

A fall 1969 timetable in my collection shows a spur here owned by Superior Acid & Iron, Ltd. Not much detail is known specifically about this particular company; through some correspondence with Dale Wilson and access to some of his sources, it appears to have been a new company started in 1969 with plans to rework an existing iron pyrites deposit near Goudreau. Pyrites had been mined in this area off and on over the years, with the earliest operations around the 1920s by companies like Madoc Mining and Nichols Chemicals, and while it’s not quite clear if any of these are the same or multiple deposits, it had most recently previously been worked by R.F. Fry & Associates under contract to Algoma Steel/Algoma Ore Properties from 1958 to 1963 shipping iron pyrite ores to Wawa for processing. In 1969 Superior Acid & Iron was started with plans to process iron pyrites and sell acid (a process caled “heap leaching” of pyrites (iron sulphides) was a common production method of sulphuric acid) into the US. Ultimately it doesn’t appear to have been very successful and all records of this company disappear around 1976.

Throwback Thursday #5

This message form addressed to the crew of train No. 5 (Hawk Junction to Hearst freight) on April 10, 1970 instructs the northbound train to lift AC 3174 (a 40′ wooden boxcar) from the Newaygo Forest Products camp at Mosher to bring to Hearst.

Mosher was a sizeable logging camp operated by Newaygo Forest Products but very remote, with no road access other than rough logging roads so many supplies were brought in and out by rail via the Algoma Central Express department.

The below 1973 photo courtesy of Ted Ellis shows the main common buildings at Newaygo’s Mosher operation with a similar 40′ wood boxcar again spotted near the main buildings. Loaded pulpwood gondolas fill up the rest of the shed track. Partially visible in the background behind the buildings are the actual “Mosher South” loading spurs.

Throwback Thursday #4

This message addressed to the local agent at Franz gives some instructions for his daily work handling waybills for cars in the station and preparing switchlists and other information for trains working there.

While the first two notes about making sure cars billed with “south” destinations went to southbound no. 5 and “north” cars went to northbound no. 6 are rather obvious, the rest is interesting and involves the handling of various un-billed empty cars. An empty gondola is to be sent south to Sault Ste. Marie (Steelton yard) and an empty rack (40′ pulpwood flatcar) held in the yard. The “chip boxes” referenced are likely empty Canadian Pacific 40′ boxcars held for wood chip loading at the Dubreuil Brothers sawmill ten miles to the south of Franz at Dubreuilville. Reliable sources indicate that in the 1960s and early 1970s chips were mainly loaded into standard 40′ boxcars supplied by CP. Empty cars delivered by CP for loading would be stored at Franz and Wanda, the next siding to the south until needed. As the sawmill ordered in cars for loading, the local agent would fill the orders from this pool of empty boxcars. The chips were shipped to the James River Pulp and Paper mill in Marathon on the CP line along the north shore of Lake Superior.

This traffic out of Dubreuilville apparently wound down in the mid 1970s as Dubreuil Brothers shifted to shipping most of their product by truck. In the mid 1980s this traffic came back to the railway and around 1986 there were major track changes and the installation of a new chip loader at Dubreuilville. Chip cars would again be provided by CP, this time in the form of a fleet of dedicated high-sided open top gondolas assigned to the Dubreuilville-Marathon chip service. This 1992 switchlist shows a large cut of empty gondolas for chip loading in the interchange track at Franz:

This lasted through the 1990s until the Dubreuil mill closed in 2007.