Variety Pack in Sault Ste Marie

On our way back from Toronto, my wife and I stayed overnight in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. I wrote about my Huron Central railfanning before; I also visited the CN yard in the city. There were a few interesting sights there, from Wisconsin & Southern, Grand Trunk Western, Algoma Central and more!

The most obvious sight was a quartet of Wisconsin & Southern locomotives in the CN yard.

Wisconsin & Southern?

Wisconsin & Southern 4192 in Sault Ste Marie
Wisconsin & Southern 4192 in Sault Ste Marie

These locomotives are owned by Watco, the large shortline conglomerate that recently bought several branch lines from CN in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario. I presume these locomotives have been moved here in preparation for operation on the former CN Soo subdivision between Sault Ste Marie and Oba.

WSOR 4181 in Sault Ste Marie
WSOR 4181 in Sault Ste Marie

They were relatively accessible from the public road, although there was some equipment in the way. I thought it was particularly poignant that some Algoma Central equipment was blocking the view of the WSOR locomotives.

The four locomotives were WSOR 4181, 4182, 4191 and 4192, all some kind of SD40-2.

GMTX 89

GMTX 89 in Sault Ste Marie
GMTX 89 in Sault Ste Marie

In the background, a little diesel switcher was the only thing moving in the yard that early in the morning. GMTX 89 was busily shuffling cars for Algoma Steel.

This little SW1000 was hard to photograph, being in the “back” of the yard. I tried driving around to the north side of the yard, but I didn’t see any good place to view the yard there. Also, the early morning sun meant that shots from the south side of the yard were the only decent ones.

GMTX 89 in Sault Ste Marie
GMTX 89 in Sault Ste Marie

Agawa Canyon Cars

Agawa Canyon passenger cars
Agawa Canyon passenger cars

The Algoma Central Railway (ACR) ran for 296 miles from Sault Ste Marie to Hearst, Ontario. It was started in 1899, and after many years, the railway was sold to Wisconsin Central in early 1995. When CN acquired the WC in 2001, they became the owners of the ACR property as well. (more information here)

One very popular feature of the ACR was the Agawa Canyon tour train. This train runs 228 miles round trip between Sault Ste Marie and the Agawa Canyon through some seriously scenic country and pausing in the Canyon for 90 minutes. You can read one account here.

Passengers board the train at the CN yard and I took some photographs of the equipment from public property. While I was photographing, a security vehicle with flashing lights drove around the yard and paused near me – no doubt photographing the photographer – before zooming off. Definitely no trespassing here!

Passenger cars and steel mills
Passenger cars and steel mills

The massive Algoma Steel mill facilities dominated a fair amount of the skyline.

Grand Trunk Western 79047

GTW 79047
GTW 79047

I spotted this battered red Grand Trunk Western caboose, GTW 79047. It was obvious that I wasn’t going to get an unobstructed photo of it, but I managed to find a spot where I could get a half decent photo of it without too much in the way.

There might have been an Algoma Central caboose in the area, although I hear that an ACR caboose is being used here in Winnipeg for Positive Train Control testing.

Algoma Central Engine House

Algoma Central Engine House
Algoma Central Engine House

This large building was the Algoma Central’s engine house, built in 1912 by the Arnold Company of Chicago. It was the first building in Canada to have an internal turntable, servicing the 14 tracks of the “square house”. Here’s a write-up on the building. I don’t know whether it is still in use for anything at the moment. There’s a plaque nearby.

CN, Ho-Hum

CN 5675 and 5619 in Sault Ste Marie
CN 5675 and 5619 in Sault Ste Marie

By far the least interesting things (to me) in the yard in Sault Ste Marie were a pair of SD75I locomotives, CN 5675 and 5619. I can see units like those in Winnipeg! I photographed them in the lovely morning light anyway, but I was there for the unique stuff I don’t see around here.

Algoma Central Railway Bridge

On our way out of the city, I spotted this Algoma Central Railway bridge shortly before we crossed under it. Much to my wife’s consternation, I pulled “off” briefly to make a quick photograph. There isn’t much of a shoulder there… but fortunately there was a break in traffic. It’s hard to read the yellow lettering but it says “Train Tours – Algoma Central Railway – Agawa Canyon”.

More on the Algoma Central Railway

I have a bunch of ACR slides that I purchased and intend to scan, so stay tuned for more Algoma Central content. In the meantime, please have a look at these Algoma Central Railway books.

Leave a Comment