Wawa Station Trimwork

The Wawa station build keeps moving forward with the detailing of the structure.

The station featured these decorative eaves around the entire structure below the tops of the walls. To represent the proper shape of the eaves, I built them up out of styrene strip. The core is a 4×12 strip on edge forming the base of the protruding eave, with a 1×12 laminated on top to achieve a proper thickness and cover the joints between the larger strip.

To represent the decorative edging, fascia strips of 1×6 and 1×3 are added around the outside edge after the main core is built up.

Starting to look a bit more like the drawings and photos, but still much more to do…

Wawa Station Build

One of the signature scenes that I plan to include on my eventual ACR layout is the Algoma Ore Properties sinter plant and ACR yard at Wawa, Ontario. Built in 1939 and expanded and upgraded many times over the next five decades, the sinter plant at Wawa upgraded the iron ore mined at nearby mines in the so called Michipicoten Iron Range in which the community of Wawa is located. The processed ore was then shipped south via the ACR to supply the Algoma Steel blast furnaces at Sault Ste. Marie.

Along with the heavy industrial facility of the AOP plant, two other key structures to model at Wawa would of course be the Algoma Central station and freight house. I knew that modelling the station had just become easier a few years ago when I arranged access to view certain archival materials at the public library in Sault Ste. Marie during my 2014 visit. One of the items listed in the inventory was “Plans for Jamestown Station Building”. (During the 1950s there was an attempt to renamed the station and community “Jamestown” in honour of Sir James Dunn, the head of the Algoma Steel Co. It didn’t stick.) When I saw the plans at the library it became instantly clear that I had hit the purest form of gold – original, large format architectural blueprints, showing every detail.

Previously my best material to go off of was a handful of black and white images from the michiwawa.ca site. (A good collection of various period photos of the facilities at Wawa, but not very high resolution. And not every single angle is fully covered.)

The original architectural blueprint for Jamestown (Wawa) station survive in the collection of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library Archives.

The plans show a two story building with an overall footprint of 78 by 25 feet, with a 28′ baggage/express wing on the west side and 35′ long second story for the station agent’s living space located above the main part of the station. The interesting part of the design is the cut corners on the public waiting room end of the building, making it not quite a simple rectangular building.

The lower story is brick, up to the lower overhanging eaves (not sure of the technical term for this type of decorative overhang), and wood-frame with asbestos shingles above the overhang and for the second story.

My HO scale front & back elevation drawings to lay things out to scale and plan the build before putting blade to plastic.

The first step in the project was of course to convert the images I took of the original plans into my own HO scale drawings in order to lay out the overall dimensions and locations of doors, windows, etc. on paper before I start cutting plastic and wasting material. I spent some time working on figuring out the drawings from the various images of the original plans this fall, until I had HO scale elevation drawings of all four sides and a top-down drawing of the roof/building footprint. With the scale drawings in hand, I could begin to transfer the measurements to plastic and start cutting out walls.

Front and rear walls with window and door openings rough cut out and ready for cleanup.

All of the wall pieces were cut from .040″ plain styrene sheet, with door and window openings carefully measured, cut out and filed clean.

Detail of wall cap over passenger waiting room wing.

Above we see a detail of the treatment of the top of the walls. The architectural plans show the upper walls to be constructed of 2×6 framing. The very top of the wall is capped with a standard 2×6 header and then an overhanging 2×8 header above that, capped with copper flashing.

To represent this, and also to set up for the next step in constructing the recessed roof, I installed 2×10 strip around the inside of the tops of the walls, to bring the thickness of the top of the wall to near 6 scale inches and provide a proper depth to install the plastic sheet for the roof substrate. (More to come on roofing in a future post…)

Then the top of the wall was capped all around with a scale 2×8 strip to create the slight overhang at the top of the wall.

Basic form assembly complete, track side.

In the last two photos we see the basic assembly of the walls and roofing base completed, forming the basic structure.

There’s still a long ways to go on completing and detailing this structure, but with the walls and basic roof substrate assembled, it’s definitely starting to look like something!

Basic form assembly complete, street side.

So there it is so far. Stay tuned for more.

Note: if you use facebook, there are some additional images from this build in an album on the facebook page I have there tied to this site. You can find some additional project photos and other bonus materials shared there in addition to the regular blog post links.

Searchmont Station Sold to Preservation Group

More news today out of Algoma country.

A group calling itself the Searchmont Station Preservation & Historical Society has announced this afternoon that they’ve reached an agreement with CN to purchase the former ACR station at Searchmont. Their hope is to rebuilt and restore the structure, although one of CN’s conditions is apparently that the structure be moved away from the tracks, so it won’t be in its original context, but the plan is to keep it the town of Searchmont.

Here’s a link to some additional information on the group’s blog on their website:


Searchmont station was built in 1902, and is one of the oldest surviving structures on the ACR line. Originally, it was a much larger structure than today, with a larger express/freight section on the north side, and a smoking room in a round extension on the south end. Eventually both of the extensions were removed (the smoking room was damaged by fire early in the station’s history) and certainly by the 1940s the station looked much as it does today.

Here’s how Searchmont station looked in the summer of 2013, although heavy snow this winter has since brought down the overhanging roof over the platform:


The station closed around 1994, and has been abandoned and neglected for 20 years. At some point, about 5-6 years ago, the interior was heavily vandalized and with several broken windows the interior has been largely exposed to the elements for the last decade, so the structure is in rather rough shape, so it will be quite a project to restore. Apparently the preservation society also hopes to rebuilt the original extensions, so this will be quite the renovation project.

Notes on an old Slide Collection II: Hawk Junction

More photos, all related to Hawk Junction.


Hawk Junction, winter 1980/81. Photographer unknown, Chris vanderHeide collection.

A northbound freight with 3 SDs pulls into Hawk Junction yard. This photo clearly shows the relation of the south end of the yard to the nearby river.


Hawk Junction, September 30, 2013. Chris vanderHeide photo.

Nearly 33 years later, and the trees have grown in quite a bit along the river bank.


Hawk Junction, winter 1980/81. Photographer unknown, Chris vanderHeide collection.

Hawk Junction station. Interestingly, there are no name boards mounted on the station at the time this photo was taken.

Compare to today, the station is largely unchanged, except for some new floodlights on the front and the large communications antenna erected at the south end of the building. Oh, and proper name boards. 😉


Hawk Junction, October 1, 2013. Chris vanderHeide photo.


Hawk Junction, winter 1980/81. Photographer unknown, Chris vanderHeide collection.

Parking lot behind the station, with a view down the main street in town. Note the corner of the structure at the extreme left, which is the modern crew bunkhouse at Hawk:


Hawk Junction, October 1, 2013. Chris vanderHeide photo.

That pretty conclusively dates this structure’s existence at least to the late 1970s.


Hawk Junction, winter 1980/81. Photographer unknown, Chris vanderHeide collection.

This was one of those photos that had me mystified as to its location at first, as the box of slides was completely jumbled and in random order. Once the slides were put in sequence and I realized this was smack in the middle of a large group of other slides all taken at Hawk Junction, it became clear as day.

This view shows gondolas being loaded with pulpwood on the old team track at Hawk Junction. The grey structure is the former freight shed and the track at left, also filled with gons on this day, is the shed track. Unfortunately there are very little photos of the Hawk freight shed available. The only other photo I’ve found so far is this 1984 photo online, taken from another cab ride on the ACR.


Hawk Junction, winter 1980/81. Photographer unknown, Chris vanderHeide collection.


Hawk Junction, winter 1980/81. Photographer unknown, Chris vanderHeide collection.

Looking northward at the actual junction switch at Hawk Junction. The cars at left are spotted in the shed track; this is basically the reverse view of the previous photo of the freight shed and pulpwood gondolas. The Michipicoten Subdivision rises away at dead centre. (Click on the photo to bring up the large size for a better view.)

Note how the Michipicoten sub diverges from the main line at the junction switch at exact centre of the image. (The first track to the right with cars on it is actually the Northern Subdivision main; a train, probably made up and prepared to head south, is currently blocking the main track.)

When I rode the passenger train at the beginning of October, I had a hard time reconciling the current track arrangement with my memory of photographs such as the above image and similar images mostly from the 1970s plus track maps and older aerial photos in some of the published books on the ACR.


Hawk Junction, October 1, 2013. Chris vanderHeide photo.

First of all, when we closely compare this arrangement in the above photo to older photos and maps, it can’t be directly correlated. The older photos show a crossover to the main track, and then a ladder that branches to the right. In the above photo we see the ladder, but the (removed) switch to the abandoned track between the current main and the two remaining tracks doesn’t relate to the older track maps. Simply comparing to the track map, that entire track doesn’t seem to fit.


Hawk Junction, October 1, 2013. Chris vanderHeide photo.

Here we can also see the abandoned Michipicoten Subdivision directly aligned with the current main line, while the 1980 photo above (and similar photos, and published maps and aerials) clearly shows that the branch should be offset to the left of the Northern sub. main. Note at foreground the removed switch to the team track and shed track.

It becomes pretty quickly clear that a rather significant track realignment has taken place here. It’s obvious that the main track has been realigned from the north end of the station platform to align with the Michipicoten sub, with the first several hundred feet of the former branch becoming a main track for the Northern subdivision, and the junction moved several hundred feet north. Where the yard curves to the right, the original Northern sub. main has been realigned to connect to the track that was formerly the Michipicoten sub main.

So, the current main (at least for the straight portion in the foreground of the above photo) is actually originally the first part of the Michipicoten branch, the first yard track (now torn out) is the old main track of the Northern sub. However there’s one more sticky point, and that’s that the old maps and photos show that the first track next to the old main was a drill track for the south yard, and connected to the main just beyond the curve, with the remaining yard tracks following the curve. So all of the yard tracks must also have been cut and realigned to different tracks beyond the curve. If the first portion of the Michipicoten sub is now the current main track, then the old portion of the main track was realigned to track 1. The drill track must have been realigned to connect to track 2, and the old track one realigned to track 3.

This map, showing before and after, shows how I believe things to have been re-aligned (click on the image for a larger version):


Now, reference again that 1984 photo showing the freight shed mentioned above. The middle piece between the front windows just manages to not obscure the switch arrangement there, and we can see it matches the current arrangement. And this photo from the same set, taken roughly at the same location and angle as my last photo above (except from a locomotive cab instead of out the back door of the passenger coach), shows the new junction switch. If the slides are from the winter of 1980-81, and by the fall of 1984 the track arrangement is completely different, that pretty safely places the date of this rebuild to the very early 1980s. The track doesn’t necessarily look really fresh in that photo, so the work may have been done as early as the summer of 1981?

It kind of begs the question why such an expensive rebuild was done, and what value was actually realized by the new track arrangement, which doesn’t really seem like it would be all that different operationally. But, with my intended modeling timeframe being summer 1985, this certainly has a big impact on how I design my Hawk Junction yard someday – the published aerial photos and track map I’ve always used as reference actually don’t reflect the arrangment I should be using.

Since the closure of the iron mines and sinter plant at Wawa in 1998, Hawk Junction has been dying a slow death. As the Algoma Ore Properties operation was the only customer on the branch, abandonment was quickly applied for and granted in 2000. By 2001 the rails were ripped out and Hawk Junction was no longer truely a junction. Several yard tracks and the team track are gone, and the engine house is only used by MOW crews now. Daily freight trains still serve Hawk Junction, but it’s little more than a crew change point now, and traffic is a shadow of what it was.