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Old Time Trains

Algoma Central Railway Inc.

by R. L. Kennedy

All photographs: Wayne V. Brittain
unless otherwise credited.

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
Shown here in State of Wisconsin sesquicentennial "150 Years and Rolling" paint scheme.


A units

AC 1761




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.

Wawa Sinter Plant

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

Train #2 WC 2002 at Hearst.

Same train, looking west.
ONR 1601 GP9 at right.


WC 901 ex GB&W 901 nee UP 9001

Spirit of Superior nee WP 813

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 1954.
Some additions to the passenger rolling stock were aimed at boosting the faltering Tour Train service by providing a premium fare service. Two dome coaches were acquired, one from Green Bay & Western (also owned by WC) in 1997 became Algoma Lounge, and previously had its coach seats replaced by lounge seating. It was built in 1955 by ACF for Union Pacific. The other car acquired 9/1998 entered service on May 21,1999 as Spirit of Superior, it was built by Budd in 1948 for the Western Pacific's famed California Zephyr and was originally named Silver Palace. This car was once owned by country and western star Merle Haggard.

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
Algoma Central on carbody. Oshkosh, WI September 28, 1997 Pete Greischar

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

Public timetable for passenger service 2004

Agawa Canyon Tour Train brochure for 2004

Map of Recent Track Changes in the Soo

Algoma Central Unofficial Web Site by Ted Ellis former ACR employee 1972-83
Includes photos of CPR in Northern Ontario.

Back to: Main History

Back to: Algoma Central Part 2


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