The Algoma Central Railway, "The Agawa Canyon Route"

The Algoma Central Railway was an Ontario shortline that connected Hearst with Sault Ste. Marie, 296 miles to the south. For much of its life the railroad's traffic base consisted of timber and iron ore although in later years it profited from the spectacular scenery found along the route (particularly through the Agawa Canyon) and became well known to the public by its Agawa Canyon Tour Train. By the 1990s the Algoma Central Corporation had broadened its business portfolio beyond railroads and was no longer interested in its rail operations. Because of this the railroad was purchased by Wisconsin Central, Ltd. in 1995 which was purchased by Canadian National Railway six years later. Today, save for its branch to Michipicoten, the entire AC line remains in service under the CN, included the very popular Agawa Canyon Tour Train.  

A trio of GP7ms, led by #104, power the road's popular Algoma Central Canyon Train at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada during June of 1979.

The Algoma Central was a railroad envisioned by Francis H. Clergue to haul natural resources from northern Ontario to ports and industies located along Lake Superior and Sault Ste. Marie. Construction on the new line began at Sault Ste. Marie in 1899 and headed north. It had reached 56 miles at the town of Mashkode before running into financial trouble and eventual bankruptcy. Clergue's original dream was to reach the Hudson Bay and to do so he planned to charter the Ontario, Hudson Bay & Western Railway, connecting with the Canadian Pacific main line at Franz and heading north. Then he would tie his railroad, operating south of this point, into the new system.

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Unfortunately, because of the bankruptcy this idea never came to pass. However, by 1914 the new railroad did reach as far north as Hearst and a connection with the Canadian National main line (as well as another connection to the south at Oba). The company also had a branch line running from Hawk Junction to Michipicoten, located along Lake Superior (the purpose of this route was to serve a steel mill located at Wawa with iron ore).  For a selection of photos and other information highlighting the railroad please click here.  For more information about the route's current passenger service situation please click here.

Over the next 90 years the Algoma Central continued the annual trek of moving raw goods (mostly iron ore and timber) from northern points to southern industries. As early as the 1960s the railroad began to promote its line to the public in the way of the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. It quickly became a very popular attraction and it was not uncommon to see very long passenger trains of over 20 cars with the railroad carrying over 100,000 passengers in a single year. Today, the train has not lost its luster and remains in operation with all kinds of various packages and options available to ride.

Steam Locomotive Roster

Class S-1: This class included the Algoma Central's roster of 0-6-0 switchers.

Class C: This class included the Algoma Central's roster of 2-8-0 Consolidations including Class C-1 to C-3.

Class M-1: This class included the Algoma Central's roster of 2-6-0 Moguls.

Class S-1: This class included the Algoma Central's roster of 0-6-0 switchers.

Class T-1: This class included the Algoma Central's roster of 4-6-0 Ten-wheelers.

The railroad also rostered steam locomotives acquired from other lines including Iron Range & Huron Bay Railroad (4-8-0s), Canadian National (2-10-2 Santa Fes), 2-8-2 Mikados (from the Virginian Railway, Wabash and the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway). 

Diesel Locomotive Roster

The Algoma Central was the first Canadian line to diesel, completing the process in 1952. For such it stuck entirely with EMDs (in this case locomotives from the builder's London, Ontario works; General Motors Diesel Division or GMDD).

GMDD FP9: #1750 - 1756

GMDD GPL-7M: #100 - 104

GMDD SW8: #140, 141

GMDD GP7: #150 - 170

GMDD GP9: #171, 172

GMDD SD40: #180 - 182

GMDD SD40-2: #183 - 188

GMDD GP40u: #190, 191

GMDD GP38: #200 - 205

An SW8 performs switching work as it readies the Agawa Canyon Tour Train for its daily trip north at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario during June of 1979.

Soon after it began operations the company expanded into the shipping business. Over the years the railroad had diversified its holdings to also include trucking, real estate, forestry, and mining. Because these businesses were more profitable than its railroading venture the now Algoma Central Corporation (of which the railroad was a subsidiary) decided to divest itself of it with the WC acquiring the property in 1995. Once the CN purchased the WC in 2001 it now held the former Algoma Central lines. Today, the CN not only still retains the tourist train and former AC lines, it also holds on to the Algoma Central name albeit the handsome red, silver and yellow AC livery has long since given way to CN red, white and black.

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