Algoma Central Railway Inc.
by R. L. Kennedy
All photographs: Wayne V. Brittain
WC 2002 (ex AC 201) GP38-2 and 1506 (ex AC 158) GP7 southbound at Franz.
The "new" Algoma Central began operation February 1, 1995 under ownership of an American company, Wisconsin Central Transportation Corporation, owner of Wisconsin Central Railway, a regional railroad created April 3, 1987 (operations finally began October 11th) from a spin-off of some 2000 miles of former CPR-controlled Soo Line trackage. Soo had created this internal shortline called Lake States Transportation Division in an effort to improve profits after it took over what was left of the bankrupt Milwaukee Road. Soo Line gave up on the LSTD and sold to the new company.
Shortly after Wisconsin Central Transportation Corporation took over through WC Canada Holdings Inc. operating under the new name, Algoma Central Railway, Inc. one of the changes, aside from large layoffs, (only 217 employees were expected to remain out of about 500), was motive power. A noticeable change was the acquisition in 1995 of 11 (7 A & 4 B) "covered wagons" for use on the tour trains. These ex VIA GMD A and B passenger units provided an attractive streamliner appearance for the all-important tourist traffic. However, these old, high-mileage units were not rebuilt and they did not last long. Once CN took over they reacquired what they had gotten rid of many years earlier to VIA, and soon replaced them in 2001-02 with newer, more reliable ACR GP38-2's and GP40-2's. More recently, modern CN SD70's are used.
Roster at takeover: 1 SW8; 8 GP7; all 6 GP38-2; 1 SD40; 5 SD40-2; 2 GP40u.
WC 3026 ex AC 190 acq.1994 ex SOO 2018, MILW 2018 nee
192 EMD GP40 #32300 10/1966
The daily freight service was altered with trains 10 and 11 being split into two trains. One handling strictly ore traffic from Michipicoten to Steelton freight yard in The Soo. Twice-weekly service between Hawk Jct and Hearst was increased to daily except Sunday and Monday, with crews based at both terminals and change off being made at Mosher to return to their home terminal daily. An Oba Turn was operated on Sundays and Mondays if required.
In the years since its sale, freight and passenger service has continued to decline. The long-anticipated closure by the Algoma Ore Division of Algoma Steel Inc. finally came in June of 1998 when two mines and a sintering plant were permanently closed and dismantled. This hit the small community (pop. 4,200) of Wawa located north of the Sault ("The Soo") on the Trans-Canada Highway hard. McLeod mine opened in the mid-1950's handled 2-3 million tons per year. A 1960's work force of 1,000 had dwindled to only 220 of which 170 would transfer to the Sault.
Agawa Canyon Tour Train southbound 2nd. Line Road, Sault Ste. Marie
The Agawa Canyon Tour trains declined seriously with traffic down a further 21% in 1992 to only 70,000 tourists, a far cry from the 1981 figure of 106,207. In 1998 regular trains served 16,000 passengers. July 28, 1999 the government of Canada made an agreement to continue remote passenger service for the next four years. This was later extended and continues in 2015.
#2 AC 1751 Hawk Junction September 15, 1995
Six additional coaches were acquired in 1997 to replace
the last of the old CPR 2200 series coaches. These were identical to coaches
previously acquired in 1992 from VIA and built for CNR by CC&F in
1756 leads two other A units in tandem with a B unit trailing. A dome car is first up in the consist a few miles south of Searchmont. September 17, 1997 Jack D. Kuiphoff
1755 leads four more covered wagons. Searchmont September 23, 1997 Jack D. Kuiphoff
WC 2006 (ex AC 205) leads the regular train. Hawk Junction September 22, 1997 Jack D. Kuiphoff
WC 2004 (ex ACR 203) shows off dual lettering for both
Wisconsin Central (nose) and
Wisconsin Central operated Algoma Central for less than six years at which time WC was acquired in its entirety by Canadian National effective October 2001.
WC 3006 leads train 4 under CN ownership October 2001 Todd Novak
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