Friday, June 22, 2018

Hawk Junction on the Algoma Central Railway, June 1991

In June of 1991, we were again making our way west for visiting in Schreiber and Portage la Prairie. As usual, we stayed overnight at Sault Ste Marie and went on the Algoma Central Railway's Agawa Canyon excursion. 

Probably being inspired by some of Rolly Martin's stories and artifacts, from the time he worked as a sectionman on the Algoma Central, we decided to visit Hawk Junction. 

After leaving Sault Ste Marie, just before reaching Wawa on the Trans-Canada, we simply took a short secondary road to reach this location.

from: Official Guide, June 1916.

As you can imagine, looking at the map detail above - a lot of traffic would have passed through Hawk Junction over the years. If iron ore was not passing through Hawk Junction on its way south to Sault Ste Marie, the engine crews switching the mines and taking the ore to Michipicoten Harbour would have worked at or through Hawk Junction. Another key source of freight revenue on the ACR was forest products and some evidence of this traffic can be seen in the following 1991 photos.

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Pot Shots

Being the lazy way to get photos of what was in the ACR's yard at Sault Ste Marie, here are a couple of pot shots taken through the window of an Agawa Canyon excursion coach. 

Above, in the distance is a steam locomotive tender converted into a steam generator car. In the foreground is a good example of how not to take a railway photograph. It seems the Algoma Central has rooftop-mounted coffee drip apparatus so the tailend brakeman and conductor can each enjoy their favourite brew on the road. I'm guessing those are actually sanding towers.

Below, is another potshot of what was to be found that day near one of the shops.

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Sault Ste Marie Circa 1960?

Railways of Canada; OS Nock; 1973; A & C Black.

This undated photo shows the ACR yard and the steel works, looking roughly southwest.

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At Hawk Junction

Looking timetable north.

A classic passenger train schedule blackboard - as prescribed in the Railway Act.
The door looks as if it leads to the bulletins and crew booking-in room.

The rear of the station - where once the telegraph wires would have entered.

Having watched them being manhandled at Montreal West station in the 1960s as a kid,
I thought it was important to record this impressive formation of baggage wagons.

The caboose track and the classic ACR yard switcher at the 'shop' (extreme right).

ACR baggage car 307.
It was built by American Car and Foundry in 1951.
It began life as CN 9061 and went to the ACR in 1983.

Again, we are looking timetable north.
The former line to Michipicoten Harbour ascends the grade to the left.

On top of the switch frog and bits, there seems to be a combination switch push broom and ice pick.
The bulkhead gondolas may be loaded with ACR ties ...

During the Agawa Canyon trip, we saw numerous 'Wolmanized wood' ties trackside - they looked like the green-stained copper-treated wood for home deck construction. I concluded that this was an economy measure and not a good sign for the line's future. 

However, OS Nock wrote in 1973:
The line is practically laid throughout with rails weighing 100 lb to the yard, but quite apart from this the quality of the sleepers and the ballasting is absolutely first class ... At many points along the line I saw new sleepers laid alongside the track at the places they were to be inserted. They were of a pale green colour, and I learned that the Algoma Central has a method of its own in treating new timbers. Suitable materials are so plentiful that it has been found economic only to dip them in an osmose [*sic] compound, instead of using the pressure creosoting method usual elsewhere. It gives a life of 20 to 22 years, and I was to see the plant where this is done, at Hawk Junction, later in the trip.
*Osmose is a company which began in Buffalo, New York with a single wood preservative patent in 1934. You can find the MSDS forms for their products on the internet.

Railways of Canada; OS Nock; 1973; A & C Black.
OS Nock, and Dale Wilson in The Algoma Central Railway Story (1984), agree that the transition from steam to diesel was accomplished 1952-1953. This made the ACR the first Canadian railway to fully convert, according to Dale Wilson.

In the aerial view above, you can see the station on the west side of the tracks. Perhaps the two-storey building with the hip roof and white foundation - behind the station on Road 547 - is a Railway YMCA ('bunkhouse')?

As was often the case, the heated railway water tank was probably retained into the diesel era because it was key for the municipal water supply, including firefighting. You can easily see the diesel fuel tanks and tank cars ... and the diesel shop to the right.

The main line to the north exits to the right of the photo, while the Michipicoten line ascends that grade into the woods.

If you are interested in more Hawk Junction detail, the site linked below is worth viewing. It is searchable - e.g. for Hawk Junction. Track diagrams show some of the recent changes to the yard.

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From the 1916 Official Guide

The entries for the 'Algoma railways' are seen here.

Above, you can also see the entry for the Lake Huron and Northern Ontario.

The LH&NO map does not label the Algoma Central's line.
The LH&NO began as the Bruce Mines and Algoma Railway in 1899.