Another old message form from April 26, 1970, given to the crew of southbound Hearst-Hawk Junction train no. 6.
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.
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.
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.
Late fall, when all the trees are in full autumn colour display, is always a popular season for riding the Agawa Canyon Tour Train excursion. At this time of year, the length of the tour train swells to capacity as tourists time their trips for the best fall colour viewing.
Private car Agawa brings up the rear on a northbound Agawa Canyon Tour Train at Frater circa 1996, with several rented Ontario Northland coaches in the consist. Blair Smith photo.
In the 1980s and 1990s when the tour train reached full capacity, the railway’s entire coach fleet would be pressed into service on the tour train, and it was common for additional cars rented from Ontario Northland and VIA Rail to cover service on the daily regular train to Hearst as well as overflow cars for the Canyon tour. In addition to nos. 3 and 4 running as the dedicated Tour Train, northbound no. 1, the regular train from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst, would also expand with overflow cars as a sort of “second section” to the tour train. On arrival at Canyon, the overflow tour train cars would be set off in the siding to be picked up later by southbound no. 2, which during this time of year would operate with a 30 minute “run late” order to give the overflow passengers an appropriate amount of time to enjoy the Agawa Canyon Park.
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.
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.
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.
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.)