Pulpwood and log traffic on the ACR

Pulpwood (that is, raw logs of a grade and size suitable for use at a paper or pulp mill) has been a staple of the ACR’s traffic since it first began construction in 1899. Large amounts of pulpwood were shipped to the paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie and much exported to mills in northern Michigan and Wisconsin as well.

Before I continue, I’d like to give a shout out to Bruce Gignac and Reg Fitzpatrick, former ACR employees who answered a few of my questions here and confirmed some information. Thanks guys!

Newaygo Forest Products

Newaygo Forest Products operated large pulpwood cutting operations north of Hawk Junction with large logging operations and loading spurs in the Mosher and Mead areas. Newaygo also had an additional spur at Trembley, just west of Wawa on the Michipicoten subdivision. Logs from Newaygo spurs were mainly shipped south for export to paper mills at Appleton and Neenah, Wisconsin.

In 1974 Newaygo established a modern sawmill at Mead to produce lumber and woodchips. While this mill was in operation, most of Newaygo’s pulp log traffic was now sent here to be turned into woodchips for export to Wisconsin (more on that later) instead of sending the raw logs south from Mosher. Logs cut around Mead were also processed at the new mill, and a couple of previously listed Newaygo spurs north and south of Mead were removed from the timetable in the late 1970s.

During the 1960s while logs were being loaded for shipment south to the US, most of the export log loading at Mosher was done at the Mosher north spur, at mile 218 (connecting to the house track and siding). After 1974, with logs being shipped north instead to Mead, most loading was done on the Mosher south spur at mile 217.3 just south of Mosher station.

Some logs from Mosher were also sent to the J.D. Levesque plywood mill in Hearst.

Reg Fitzpatrick also mentioned another interesting occasional movement of pulpwood from Mosher in the 1980s. Using privately owned pulpwood cars provided from Kimberly-Clark in Terrace Bay (bearing KCWX reporting marks) some pulpwood was sent from Mosher via Franz to Ontario Paper in Thorold, ON in southern Ontario’s Niagara Penninsula region. Apparently up to 15-20 cars at a time would be loaded for this service, but only three or four times a year (roughly 60 cars/year). Occasionally a rejected load from the paper mill would be sent back to the ACR and these would be sent to Dubreuilville. (Interestingly, some of these same cars were later purchased and assigned to the ACR by Wisconsin Central in the late 1990s.)

Newaygo shut down the mill at Mead and most of their other operations in Algoma County in 1985.

Abitibi Paper (later St. Marys Paper)

Providing pulpwood to the pulp mill established in Sault Ste. Marie in the 1890s by industrialist Francis Clergue (who also developed much of the other early industry in the Sault including the railway, hydro-electric power company and Algoma Steel) was pretty much the reason the line was originally driven into the forests north of the Sault. Originally a component of Clergue’s Consolidated Lake Superior Corporation, in later years the mill was operated by Abitibi Pulp and Paper, and later independently as St. Marys Paper. Its fortunes declining, the mill closed down for good in 2007 and has since been demolished, except for some of the original heritage structures from the late 19th century.


A southbound freight arrives at Steelton yard in the early 1980s with a significant amount of pulpwood, likely for the Abitibi Paper mill. Morgan Turney photo.

Several different spurs owned and operated by St. Marys Paper are listed in the official employee’s timetables, with notable operations at or near Millwood (just north of Agawa siding), Limer and Trembley. This however, doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story, as quite often pulpwood was also loaded at the house track at several different sidings along the line, and this wouldn’t be additionally listed in the timetable. Batchewana, Mekatina, Regent and Frater are a few sidings definitively known to have hosted significant pulpwood loading operations, usually by private contractors but in many cases shipping to St. Marys Paper.


In addition to Newaygo and St. Marys Paper, probably the biggest shippers and receivers of pulpwood on the ACR, several other mills on the ACR also received logs by rail.

In Searchmont there was a veneer mill operated by Weldwood Canada (later G.W. Martin). Log spurs operated by the same company were located at Eton. This mill shut down around 1990.

In Sault Ste. Marie there was a lumber & veneer mill operated by Weyerhauser in the early 1980s. (Originally established in 1948 as Roddis Lumber & Veneer, and sold [by Weyerhaeuser] to G.W. Martin in the mid 1980s, and later to Lajambe Forest Products, Agawa Forest Products (E.B. Eddy) and Domtar, and still operating today as Boniferro Mill Works). This mill likely received logs from a few locations, and there was a Weyerhaeuser spur at Achigan (mile 42) during the early 1980s (spur listed under G.W. Martin in the late 1980s). I’ve seen a number of photos such as the one below with loads of larger logs, mostly shot in or near Sault Ste. Marie. I’m guessing that the Weyerhaeuser mill is a likely destination for these although I honestly don’t know for certain. I’m not sure where these logs are loaded either, but this very nice Dave Beach photo shows that at least some of them come from north of Montreal Falls (mile 92).


The Steelton yard switcher shuffles a cut of cars of logs. Early 1980s photo by Morgan Turney.

After the Wisconsin Central takeover in late 1995 or early 1996 a new oriented strandboard (OSB) mill opened at mile 153 north of Perry siding. Video and photos that I’ve seen do show that logs were shipped here by rail in AC flatcars, but I’m not sure where from. This mill closed sometime around 2007 due to the general decline in the northern Ontario forestry industry in the early 21st century.

The sawmill at Dubreuilville did not general receive much in the way of logs by rail, as their cutting rights were close to their mill and mostly delivered by truck.


Loading pulpwood on the team track behind the freight shed at Hawk Junction, March 1981. Photographer unknown, slide in my collection.

In addition to isolated spurs owned or operated by specific companies as above, there are several smaller logging companies that show as operating their own spurs – these smaller companies would likely have sold their logs to the area mills in Searchmont, the Sault or Michigan. Also as mentioned above in the St. Marys Paper section, a lot of pulpwood was loaded at house tracks at various locations and wouldn’t be reflected in the “Loading Spurs” section in the timetable.


Pulpwood flatcar owned by Besse Forest Products. Besse operated a loading spur beside Steelton Yard in the early 2000s for export pulpwood. At Sault Ste. Marie in August 2004. My photo.

Columbia Forest Products was another company that had a pulpwood loading operation on the ACR’s property behind the Steelton car shops in the late 1990s and early 2000s; Columbia also operated the plywood mill in Hearst from 1995, and presumably these logs loaded in Sault Ste. Marie would have been shipped north over the railway to the mill.

Operations Today

Today the paper mill at Sault Ste. Marie and various forest products mills at Searchmont, Limer, Dubreuilville and Mead are all closed, but there is still some loading of pulpwood for export to Michigan and Wisconsin.

When I rode the tour of the line to Hearst in 2013, I noted active operations at Odena (mile 10), Eton (mile 120) and Langdon (mile 240, just south of Oba). This summer I also heard southbound freight 574 on the radio doing some switching of log spurs at or near Regent siding (mile 89).


Log spurs at Eton, September 30, 2013. My photo.

There’s also some current movements of pulpwood from one of the spurs/sidings (not sure which) on the former ACR to somewhere in Quebec (I’ve not yet been able to determine exactly where these are going). These travel up to Hearst where they are routed over the Ontario Northland into Quebec via Rouyn-Noranda.

Also, across town at the Huron Central yard, pulpwood is loaded for shipment to the Domtar mill at Espanola. While this is not really related to the ACR per se, I’m not sure if logs for this mill were also loaded at locations along the ACR at times as well.

A few more lumber wrap graphics

I did some playing around this evening with downloading some company logos and making a few more variations on lumber wrap graphics. Some of these are modern, some a few years old. Most aren’t necessarily applicable to what I’m doing with the Algoma Central, but a couple of these were pretty easy to do with logos taken from online.

I used Excel this time to create a template worksheet to consistently line everything up to the millimeter for printing. These also include marks for cutting the edge of the wrapper, particularly as some of the wraps have some white space around the edges.

As my posts on the Newaygo load have generated a significant amount of interest I’m sharing the printable PDF files for each one here.

Newaygo Forest Products (Mead, ON) – 1974-1984 Reprint PDF – Prototype

Tembec – up to 2012 PDF Prototype

Tembec – 2012+ PDF – Prototype

Lecours Lumber (Calstock, ON) – Current PDF – Prototype

Interfor (International Forest Products) – Current (Style 1) PDF – Prototype

Interfor (International Forest Products) – Current (Style 2) PDF – Prototype

TOLKO – ~1990 PDFPrototype

Blank Excel Template – XLSX

(These are of course all sized for HO scale.)

Newaygo Lumber Loads

So a couple months back, I showed the first few completed blocks representing wrapped lumber bundles for Newaygo Forest Products which operated a sawmill at Mead from roughly 1974-1985. Well over the last two months, that small pile of about half a dozen blocks has turned in to a much larger pile of blocks in four different lengths, and I’ve been able to start building the first few loads.

This is the first full-size load completed and I probably have enough material for at least 8 to 10 more.


The blocks are glued together into a solid mass with scale stripwood spacers between the blocks, paying close attention to how the blocks align and staggering different lengths to represent how the load would be secured as a cohesive unit. In the model world, the load is all glued together, but in the real world it’s all held together with strapping. (Spend some time studying older photos of lumber loads on standard (not the modern centre-partition lumber cars which are loaded a little differently) flatcars to see how the bundles are secured together.) The strapping on the model is represented with 1/64″ wide Chartpak graphics tape, which actually roughly scales out to about 1.5″ wide, not too oversize.

It’s taken a LOT of work to get to this point (researching, creating the graphics on the computer when I’m not an expert at graphics design and drawing programs, cutting all the blocks (actually that part just took an hour or two), **sanding** all the blocks (and this week’s Blu-ray movie selection(s) are…), gluing the paper wrappers on all the blocks, cutting the stripwood spacers for the load, finally building the load, and applying the strapping details) but the end result totally kicks the pants off some generic block of plastic or resin, the graphics actually match the particular prototype mill that the railroad served, and each load can be a little varied and completely unique from each other. This load ended up with a slight gap in the top row. I plan to have others with the small gaps at the ends, hopefully a few that are actually solid, and at least one with only a half row on the top.

I’ve also made four of these little loads for the 40′ cars based on a pair of late 1970s photos.


These cars were non-interchange though at this point, so presumably anything being shipped on these would have to be transloaded in the Sault. These small cars also have about a third of the capacity of the larger, more modern 52′ bulkheads so they probably won’t get used regularly, but might be thrown in occasionally for some variation. The rest of the loads I build will all be for the larger cars that will typically be used.

It’s a Wrap…

…wrapped lumber bundle that is.


I’ve been spending some time lately working on making up some wrapped lumber bundles that can be used to put together some flatcar loads (and any extras will be saved to make stacks of finished lumber around the mill property when I build that location on my layout.

These bundles are wooden blocks wrapped in paper printed with custom graphics matching the logos used by Newaygo Forest Products. Since Newaygo is a bit of an obscure operation compared to say, Canfor (Canadian Forest Products) or Weyerhauser or other larger lumber companies, I was going to have to come up with a custom solution. Very fortunately I have this Ted Ellis photo of AC 2425 with a Newaygo lumber load as well as a straight-on photo of the sign in front of the old Newaygo office still standing at Mead to work from in order to draw out the logo and letter font.

I am not particularly proficient with graphic design or Photoshop, but I was able to draw out the logo and text using the 3D drawing program Sketchup, as the squarish logo and letters with rounded corners actually lead themselves nicely to being drawn with this program, and then exported the front view as a PNG image, which I cleaned up a little with Paint and resulted in the graphic below:

Newaygo Royale lumber wrap graphics single

The bottom line “Newaygo Forest Products Ltd.” was a bit of a guess, as you can’t really quite make out that lettering in the Ted Ellis photo, but this prints out pretty small in the end result and you have to really lead in close to read it. Feels about right though.

My dad’s hobby is woodworking, and he has a pretty nicely fitted out workshop at his house. As I am fortunately currently living in my hometown again, an evening visit to my parents place last week with a couple of hours with my dad in his workshop turned a scrap piece of 2×6 into a large pile of wooden blocks sized for scale bundles of lumber in 8′, 10′, 12′ and 16′ stud lengths. The original block of wood was ripped into small strips using the table saw, and then the strips cut off to length using a band saw with carefully measured fence distances.

The final sizes of the blocks are 8mm tall by 13mm wide/deep, with lengths of 28mm (scale 8′ stud bundle), 35mm (10′), 42mm (12′) or 56mm (16′).

Since then I’ve slowly been cleaning up the blocks by sanding off any surface burrs and splinters (I’ve got a large pile to go through yet!) and started gluing on the paper wraps on a few blocks to start getting some finished pieces. I’ve got to finish off quite a few more in order to start assembling a load, but when I’m done wrapping all the blocks we cut last week, I should have enough to do at least half a dozen various loads with some left over for lumber mill scenery in the future.

If anyone else modelling the ACR or upper Michigan (or just looking for something a bit different) would like to print off some graphics to make their own Newaygo load(s), I’ve uploaded a ready-to-print PDF file which will print off a series of graphics to the correct size for HO scale bundles.

Freight Car Friday #20 – ACIS 1433

ACR from Blair 029

ACIS 1433 and two others photographed by Blair Smith at Steelton yard on July 9, 2001.

These three cars are among about half a dozen cars that were retained after the Newaygo sawmill at Mead closed in 1985 and the ACR’s fleet of over a hundred woodchip cars was disposed of. This small group of remaining cars were rebuilt as lumber cars for Dubreuil Brothers lumber in 1986. Here though, these cars appear to have been fixed up with their original end doors reinstalled for woodchip service. I’ve found one or two later photos of these cars in chip service on the CN/WC system in Wisconsin.