In the mid to late 1990s Algoma Steel had been acquiring a larger percentage of their iron ore raw materials as pellets from the Tilden iron ore mine in upper Michigan. At the time this was mainly handled by the LS&I from the mine to ore docks and carried to Sault Ste. Marie by ship.
In 1996, Wisconsin Central managed to an all-rail movement of ore from Tilden mine directly to Algoma Steel at Sault Ste. Marie during the winter season. These shipments of pelletized iron ore averaged 40-45 cars daily during the season in 100 ton hopper cars.
When Algoma Ore Properties in Wawa shut down in 1998, WC tried convince the other parties involved to make the all-rail movements year round rather than just winter only, and in the winter of 2000-2001 this became a reality, and this daily movement is still occurring today.
When I visited Sault Ste. Marie in August 2004, the primary cars being used in this service were a mix of WC cars and cars leased from GATX, with GCCX and GIEX reporting marks, and even a couple of AC hoppers were in the mix.
In this post are a few of the variations of GATX leased hoppers that were seen in this service in 2004.
All photographs in this post August 18 2004 at Sault Ste. Marie, ON.