ACR for Sale: Confirmed

So the last post about the ACR possibly being for sale involved a bit of inference and guess work from the information in the news about “certain lines in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario” from “mostly ex Wisconsin Central” trackage being put up for sale this year, and the general state of CN’s operations on the ACR (nothing’s run between Sault Ste. Marie and Hawk Junction since April).

Local news sources are now reporting they have confirmation from CN this week that the line is in fact for sale and they’ve been in contact with interested parties (although they will not comment further on that as those business negotiations or arrangements are currently in progress).

CN To Sell Algoma Central Railway: Report [SooToday]

Northeastern railway updates: CN to sell ACR, Huron Central gets six-month reprieve [Manitoulin Expositor]

Meanwhile, Huron Central has been doing it’s regular poverty dance, and had been threatening to discontinue operations as of the end of this week, but has agreed to another six months of operation, but are looking for $44million in funding
(mostly from federal and provincial governments) to do maintenance on the line to keep it running.

Millman Industries of Sudbury (which owns Diesel Electric Services) has been indicating an interest in taking over Huron Central if Genesee & Wyoming Canada pulls out, but it’ll be interesting to see how things all shake out with both the Algoma Central, the Huron Central, and likely also the ex SOO/WC CN line coming into the Sault from Michigan over the next year or so. Hopefully we are looking at the start of a new chapter in the ACR’s history, and not a “last chapter”.

The sale of course also leaves large question marks hanging over the Agawa Canyon Tour Train operation – but a lot of money was also just spent this year to construct a brand new station for the tour train over at the former paper mill property redevelopment. The track beyond the mill property now terminates short of the road heading past the power generating station to the park around the historic canal and boat lock, and no longer goes to the old station in the Station Mall parking lot.

3 thoughts on “ACR for Sale: Confirmed

  1. Thanks for this update Chris,
    Since this is more in your area of the U.S. and Canada.
    What ideas or feelings do you have on this move?
    Being from the New Orleans area, I know how important tourism is a fact.
    Been living in Oklahoma now for some yrs., I can tell you that the Indian nations here have tapped into tourism and is paying off.
    Let’s hope the Algoma Central does not become a fallen-flag.

    • Well, these are the factors for the line:

      – there is tourism potential with the Agawa Canyon Tour (for which a new station was just built) and wilderness camps served by a regular “flag stop” passenger service (which hasn’t run since 2015 but local groups headed by the local native community have been pushing for that to come back)
      – major industry is basically Algoma Steel and a couple of forestry mills, all within Sault Ste Marie
      – there is no other current industry other than pulpwood logging
      – there is some bridge traffic from the ONR at Hearst that goes westward via Oba. It sounds like CN is still operating 2 or 3 times a week for this traffic and pulpwood. There was also a small amount of bridge traffic to the states from ONR (Hearst) and CP (Franz), but with CN not operating the full line, this is going a longer way around. Additionally some of the steel traffic which is now going through the US would naturally go up to the CN interchange at Oba rather than the longer alternate route through the states.

      Wild cards:
      – sale or abandonment of Huron Central. This takes steel traffic from SSM to CP in Sudbury. If HCRY were to be abandoned entirely, the steel traffic to CP would have to re-route to one of the other lines out of the Sault.
      – sale of the line into SSM from Michigan. Presumably this would also be on CN’s chopping block. The same entity interested in the ACR might not be interested in this line and vice versa, so this could end up being two different new railways (which could actually make the RR scene in the Sault interesting again with three different shortlines). Currently this brings in iron ore from Michigan, and steel from Algoma Steel heads out this way. If the line between the Sault and Hawk were in operation, some of that steel would be re-routed, but it could also pick up some of the other bridge traffic that’s currently going the long way around through Chicago and Toronto. There is also copper/nickel concentrate from Michigan that was going to Sudbury/Copper Cliff and Rouyn-Noranda (via Oba-Capreol-Sudbury and Hearst-Cochrane-Englehart respectively) which is now going a longer route via Chicago-Toronto due to the ACR being idle.
      – the ferrochrome smelter for chromite ore from the “ring of fire” project in northern Ontario is supposed to be built in the Soo west of the Algoma Steel property. While development won’t even start for another 4-5 years yet, this project almost certainly requires at least either the HCRY or ACR to be operating. As I understand the plan, the ore would be trucked in to railhead at or near Nakina and loaded in railcars. Most direct route would be via the ACR. Alternate would be to Capreol, then a local to Sudbury, interchange to CP, interchange to HCRY to the Soo. Doable, but a much longer transit and switched and handled by more trains. I can’t recall finding out how many tons/day of ore this operation is planning on handling – it would need to be ~1000 to be truly significant since a railcar is ~100 ton capacity. A few hundred tons is only a few carloads per day.

  2. Chris,
    Thanks for the update. I am on your site because I am a rail fan AND have 2 cabin on the ACR (CN).
    My 2 cents. While I enjoy the trains going by they are unfortunately at midnight and 4 AM . Since there is no passenger service I would just as soon the rails were taken out and the rail bed made into a rail to trail so I could ride my ATV to my cabin . I know that sounds like heresy but there a lot of cabins like mine that are difficult if not impossible to reach with out passenger service.

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