Bruce Mines and Algoma 2 acq. 6/1901 by Rock Lake Mining ex GTR 156
nee GWR 172
Un-issued stock certificate
is likely the fanciest thing about the LH&NO!
The Lake Huron and Northern Ontario was first incorporated in Ontario in 1899 as the Bruce Mines and Algoma to build about 15 miles of track from Bruce Station on the CPR to Rock Lake where Rock Lake Mining Company erected a mill near its copper mines. Construction started in the fall of 1901 and was completed by the end of 1902.
Known locally as "The Nip & Tuck", a common expression of something being a close call as to whether or not it would be successful. It was insightful, to say the least.
In 1902, a charter and subsidy was granted to permit building the line south about two miles to Bruce Mines which gave the mine and town a connection to the CPR and the BM&A another source of traffic.
The Bruce Copper Mines mine and concentrator closed in the summer of 1903 having produced little copper. Subsequent owners spent a great deal of time and money tunnelling and pumping out flooded shafts. In one case, 27 million gallons of water was pumped out only to find nothing!
In 1903, the Rock Lake mine closed and with it went the only large source of traffic leaving bailed hay, livestock, lumber and firewood as the only freight. The lone passenger car was no longer used north of Bruce Station.
In 1904, the line was extended south through the town and over a long trestle onto Jack's Island where a 400 foot long, three-track coal dock was built to receive coal for the CPR and mills towns such as Blind River and Massey.
Also in 1903, it received approval to extend its line to the CPR near Chapleau seeking to reach timber traffic, and beyond to the CNoR and NTR with the ultimate goal being James Bay! It was never built.
Disaster struck on a Saturday morning in July of 1905 when two trains hit head-on after the freight train failed to clear the regular passenger train on the short run between the CPR and BM&A stations in Bruce. The freight train consisted of a "dinky" 0-4-0T hauling two loads of coal from the dock. The one-car passenger train was hauled by 4-4-0 number 2, the only other locomotive. The dinky was destroyed and its engineer killed.
There was very little traffic on the line and in 1906 it went into receivership and likely ceased operating then.
One of the few known photographs of a LH&NO train
shows a small 2-6-0 numbered 105
Map of line and facilities
In 1913 the Lake Huron and Northern Ontario was incorporated to assume the line which apparently, was erroneously indicated on a map for investors as being completed to Chapleau and thus, 120 miles long! A surveyed route did exist for the remaining 100 miles to the CPR but, it was never used.
A enginehouse was built at Bruce for its three engines including 2-6-0 105 shown above.
The Mond Nickel Company entered the picture in 1915 when it bought most of the properties at Bruce and commenced work, intending to mine quartz for use as a furnace flux at its smelters near Sudbury. Since copper at the Bruce had always been found in quartz veins, Mond recovered whatever metal there was as a bonus. As preparation for underground mining continued, tailings which were readily accessible to the Nip & Tuck were removed. Although the piles of tailings should have been all quartz, one showed a grading of 2% copper, while another yielded a sheet of pure copper, leached out of the tailings over the years. It was said that Mond Nickel recovered its whole cost of redevelopment in this manner. In any event, the carloads were coming and the railway had a steady source of revenue for the first time since 1903.
After 1913, some service was restored north from the CPR to Rock Lake but, traffic was scarce and repairs minimal, so much so trestles became a threat. The crew would not ride across the worst, preferring instead to walk across and let the train go unmanned, catching it on the other side!
The last passenger train ran north from the CPR ten miles to Gordon Lake on July 12, 1916.
Martin International Trap Rock constructed a crusher and loading facility west of the coal docks for its quarry and operated two 0-4-0T's (107 Vulcan #2103 2/13 and 108 #2116 3/13) there although producing little revenue for the LH&NO. Above and below. Note: 108 went on to many other owners and wasn't finally scrapped until August 1965!
The Mond Nickel traffic produced a small profit of $1,600 for the reorganized railway but, it was far from sufficient. The required $35,000 profit per year was elusive and never realized. The last straw came in 1921 when, the Great War over, Mond Nickel closed down and the LH&NO suspended its operations in April.
Briefly, in 1927, quarrying resumed although likely using CPR equipment, lasting only two years. Shortly afterwards the quarry machinery and facilities were salvaged. A scrap drive during the War saw the line dismantled using road equipment and the right-of-way sold for back taxes. The little Lake Huron and Northern Ontario had finally come to an end, little remarked or remembered.