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Algoma Central Railway Equipment Guide - Diesel Locomotives

ACR LogoDiesel Locomotives

Complete diesel locomotive roster with histories for every ACR diesel unit.

Model: SW8 GP7/GP7L-m GP9 SD40/SD40-2 GP38-2 FP9/FP7Au/F9B

The ACR's diesels were all standard GMDD products. Therefore, models could easily be made by adding some details to popular kits. Unfortunately, decals are a little hard to come by. Currently, the only useable decal set is the one from Herald King, but that company is out of business and the sets are no longer produced. (Note: Herald King has apparently been restarted, but they are largely selling off existing inventory, and these sets have not been re-run.)

SW8 140-141

[Link to Photo] 140 at Steelton Yard, 1993 BLAIR SMITH
[Link to Photo] 141 at Steelton Yard, 1993 BLAIR SMITH

Algoma Central's SW8 units were purchased from General Motors Diesel Division (GMDD) in London, ON in 1951. They were obtained for the sole purpose of yard switching at Sault Ste. Marie, so they are not equipped with M.U. (multiple unit) capabilities. Eventually the SW8's were upgraded, with the exhaust stack shortened and fitted with a spark arrestor, and a orange flashing rotary beacon on the roof. Attesting to the versatility of GM's design, these units provided switching duties for over 40 years, and #140 still soldiers on under private ownership somewhere. No. 141 was retired in 1992, and for a couple years hung around behind the shops in bad condition and riding on shop trucks.

GP7 150-170

[Link to Photo] 153 at Steelton, Dec. 14, 1974 TED ELLIS
[Link to Photo] 161 at Steelton, May 5, 1973 TED ELLIS

In 1950 the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors sent their F7 demonstrator set to Canada, and an F7 and F7B were tested on the Algoma Central. ACR management must have been impressed, for between 1951 and 1952 the ACR took delivery of 21 1500HP GP7 locomotives and two SW8 switchers from General Motors Diesel Division in London. These dual-service (freight and passenger) units would form the backbone of the ACR fleet for many years, until the purchase of SD40 and SD40-2 units in the early 70's and GP38-2's ten years later.

In 1978 five units, nos. 155, 156, 162, 165, and 169 were rebuilt and renumbered as 100-104. (See below)

The following year, 1979, four more GP7 units, nos. 157, 158, 167 and 170, were rebuilt by CN in Winnipeg. These four were not renumbered. Some of the units were returned with differences in lettering on them. On Algoma Central engines, the bear logo (under the cab windows on ACR diesels) is printed with the bear facing the front of the engine on both sides. On the engines that were rebuilt by CN, the bears all face to the left when looking at the logo, so the bear on the engineer's side of the engine actually faces the long hood (rear). After the CN rebuilds, it was decided that it was no longer economically feasible to keep rebuilding the GP7's, so the railway acquired GP38-2 units for the passenger trains and by the end of the 1980's, all of the un-rebuilt GP7's had been sold or scrapped, as well as the ACR's two GP9's.


Algoma Central's GP7 units were early production units, so the best model to match would be either the Atlas GP7 model or the Walthers Proto2000 Phase. I GP7. A "Phase II" unit has larger 48" dynamic brake cooling fans, and cut-out slots on the side sills above the fuel tank. This model would only need minor details, such as proper horns and bells, sunshades, radio antenna on the cab roof, and multiple-unit electrical connections, as well as a speed recorder on the left front truck.

NOTE: units 150-154 have an earlier style winterization hatch with squared edges and a round opening, while the rest all use the later, more common hatch with rounded edges and a square fan opening (This later hatch is the version included with most models. The earlier style hatch would need to be scratchbuilt.

GP7L-m 100-104

[Link to Photo] 102 at Steelton, 1991 ALEX SIMINS

In 1978, five GP7 units, nos. 155, 156, 162, 165, and 169 were sent back to GMDD in London for rebuilding. Here they were completely stripped down and rebuilt from parts in the stockpile. The "brand-new thirty-year-old engines" were numbered 100-104 and designated as model GP7L-m (for London-modified). The five units were totally stripped down and given completely new serials during the re-manufacturing, so no actual unit-for-unit renumbering is actually possible.


These rebuilt units have several details that differ from their original appearance. Note that the original 36" dynamic brake cooling fans have been replaced on most units by 48" fans, but the type of replacement fan varies between the units. Once again, prototype photos of the individual unit are key. Common to all five engines is a new electrical box installed behind the cab on the conductor's side, and the engineer's side of the cab has all-weather windows, while the conductor's side retains a simple sunshade. MU stands are also different. When painting, note that these units were returned with rectangular GMDD builder's plates below the cab.

GP9 171-172

[Link to Photo] 172 at Steelton, May 27, 1974 TED ELLIS

In the early 60's the Algoma Central needed some more power, but did not want to deal with turbocharged engines, so two GP9's were ordered from GMDD in London, even though regular GP9 production ended four years before. No. 172 was the very last GP9 ever built by GM. These two engines were both sold during the mid 1980's after the purchase of 6 GP38-2's.


Walthers/Life-Like Proto2000 HO scale Phase III GP9 is almost perfect match for the body, but due to their late production, these units ride on later frames like those used under the GP20, with a longer fuel tank and the air tanks mounted lengthwise above the fuel tank and below the walkways, instead of crosswise behind the fuel tank. There was also a Proto2000 model of a GP20, so one could try to put the GP9 body onto the GP20 frame, or modify the fuel and air tanks and walkway skirts on the GP9 model to match the frames used on the AC's pair of GP9s.

SD40 180-182

[Link to Photo] 182 at Steelton, Apr. 25, 1972 TED ELLIS

Built by GMDD in 1971, these 3000-hp units were capable of hauling more tons of cargo in a shorter time than the older GP7 and GP9 units, despite a 35-mph speed limit. There was concern about wheel and rail wear beacause of the long wheelbase of these large 6-axle units, but the SD40 series engines proved very useful hauling heavy trains of sintered ore from Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie.

Due to their heavier weight and large 6-axle trucks, these engines were rarely ever used north of Hawk Junction, and spent most of their time hauling ore trains back and forth between Sault Ste. Marie and the Michipicoten branch.

SD40-2 183-188

[Link to Photo] 188 at Steelton, 1991 ALEX SIMINS

These units were acquired from GMDD in London in 1973 to add to the three SD40's. They were originally delivered with smaller CN-style font numbers in the numberboards but they were soon changed to the appearance standard on other AC engines.

GP40 190-191

[Link to Photo] 190 at Steelton, Sept. 21, 1994 TED ELLIS

Algoma Central's two GP40 units are Milwaukee Road units that were later purchased by SOO Line, where they were upgraded to dash-2 specifications. In 1994 they were obtained by the Algoma Central, making them the last diesels to be obtained before the Wisconsin Central takeover, and the first diesel engines to be acquired secondhand by the AC.

GP38-2 200-205

200, as delivered, May 6, 1981 TED ELLIS
204 at Canyon, Oct. 1993 BLAIR SMITH
Rear end of 202, note blank appearance of hood end. At Canyon, Oct. 1993. BLAIR SMITH

After rebuilding 9 GP7's in 1978-79, the ACR decided that further rebuilding of GP7 units was uneconomical. So an order was placed with GMDD in London for 6 2000-HP GP38-2 locomotives. The ACR's 6 GP38-2 units were delivered from GMDD in London in April of 1981. These units were mainly meant for use on the ACR's passenger trains, however it was still possible to see GP7's and GP7L-m's on passenger trains (often in combination with GP38-2's), and GP38-2's could sometimes be in freight service as well. These units were equipped with special control stands for controlling steam generator cars.

The GP38-2 units were delivered without ditchlights, which were added by the ACR's shops by 1982. Snowshields and a winterization hatch were added a few years later; photographic evidence suggests 1984-85.


Atlas, Walthers (Proto2000) and Athearn all make models of a GP38-2 in HO scale that can be used as a starting point. The AC's GP38-2s were relatively late production in 1981, so they feature certain later details like 88" long nose, corrugated radiator intake grills, "Q"-fans and an angled air filter box. You'll have to start with a model that has these features, or modify the model to replace these features with Cannon parts to be correct.

The exhaust silencers on non-turbo EMDs built after January 1980 have a round port instead of the oval port used before 1980. Minatures by Eric makes this part, but it isn't hard to make from scratch. You just need a 12" tube in a 22" square base plate, with the tube sticking one whole inch out of the base.These new exhaust stacks are also located differently from the older oval stacks, farther away from the dynamic brake fan. The front stack is moved closer to the filter box and the rear stack is located just back of where the oval stack would have been on older units. Since installation of these new stacks on the model involves removing the old stacks and drilling holes anyway, it's not any more work to located these silencers properly. Also, if you really want to be specific, the dynamic blister needs to be extended about six inches on both sides. The intake grill is the same, they just added some blank sheet metal behind it. Probably has something to do with the exhaust silencers.

Since they are a GMDD London product, the AC GP38-2s have a lot of typical Canadian features - vertical step wells, nose headlight, bell and classlights mounted in the numberboard area on the front of the cab and snowplows. Winterization hatches and snowshields weren't added until the mid 1980s by the AC's shops. The rear of the engine is also quite blank, with no numberboards and only a single lens backup light. The M.U. connection plugs are mounted on the pilots just below the anticlimber (on most front views of these engines the MU plugs are completely invisible due to their location under the anticlimber. Miniatures by Eric makes a part (# A9) that matches the anticlimber and ditch light combination used on these AC units. Or you could modifiy a Cannon "50-series" anticlimber (# AC-2105).

Other details include speed recorder on the front truck, liftrings on the rear pilot, horn, radio antenna, smooth blower housing (most US models have two horizontal stiffening ribs that would need to be sanded smooth).

FP9 1750-1755

[Link to Photo] 1750 arriving at Steelton yard on a southbound tour train, 1996. BLAIR SMITH
[Link to Photo] 1751 at Steelton in 1999. BLAIR SMITH
[Link to Photo] 1752 at Steelton in 1996. BLAIR SMITH
[Link to Photo] 1753 at Sault Ste. Marie passenger station, 1995 DAN DAWDY
[Link to Photo] 1754 in the shop at Sault Ste. Marie, 1997 BLAIR SMITH
[Link to Photo] 1755 at Steelton in 1996. BLAIR SMITH

These units were built for CN and transferred to VIA Rail in 1978. They were acquired for use on the Algoma Central's passenger trains in 1995. Note that units 1750-1751 have large snow covers over the rear radiator fans. The rest have smaller covers over the last fan. Unit no. 1753 is equipped with a boiler.

When CN took over the WC, all of the F-units were taken out of service and put up for sale as surplus. CN engines now run the freights and passenger trains out of the Sault. Most of the retired F-units were purchased by Pioneer Rail Corporation and still run today. 1753 was donated to the Alberta Railway Museum in Edmonton.

Algoma Central FP9 detail notes:

1750  ex-VIA 6502, ex-CN 6502; 48" radiator fans, large winter hatch, boiler equipped
1751  ex-VIA 6506, ex-CN 6506; 48" radiator fans, large winter hatch, boiler equipped
1752  ex-VIA 6511, ex-CN 6511; 36" radiator fans, no boiler
1753  ex-VIA 6514, ex-CN 6514; 36" radiator fans, boiler equipped
1754  ex-VIA 6525, ex-CN 6525; 36" radiator fans, boiler equipped
1755  ex-VIA 6531, ex-CN 6531; 36" radiator fans,


Intermountain released a model of an FP9 in AC colours, however there are detail differences between the model and the prototype; also the Intermountain model is just a modified version of their FP7, and is not actually quite accurate for an FP9 at all.

Rapido trains is also working on an FP9 model, that is specifically based on the CN FP9s, and not a modified version of any previous model. These models feature prototype specific details and should also be released in AC colours, with appropriate details.

FP7Au 1756

[Link to Photo] 1756 at Sault Ste. Marie, 1996 BLAIR SMITH

AC 1756 is an ex-Canadian Pacific FP7 with boiler and small winterization hatch. When this unit went to VIA Rail in 1978, it was upgraded to an "FP7Au" for passenger service and for compatability to the rest of VIA's mostly ex-Canadian National equipment. This unit was acquired from VIA in 1995 with the FP9s and F9Bs. Retired in 2002 when CN acquired WC, this unit was donated to the West Coast Railway Association in Squamish, British Columbia, where it has been renumbered back to 1404 (its old CP number) and will likely be restored into original CPR colours.

F9B 1760-1761

[Link to Photo] 1762 at Sault Ste. Marie, 2001 BLAIR SMITH

Four ex-VIA Rail F9B units were purchased in 1995, and two were reconditioned and repainted for the ACR in 1997. After retirement by CN in 2002, 1762 was donated along with FP9 1753 to the Alberta Railway Museum in Edmonton. 1761 was bought by Pioneer Rail Corporation. The other two are presumed to be parted out and scrapped.

This page 2001-2010 Chris VanderHeide

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