McCloud River Subsidiaries and Affiliates
In 1967, a group of businessmen launched the Keweenaw Central Railroad to operate passenger excursions over the Copper Range Railroad on Upper Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. The group incorporated Trans Northern in 1969 to oversee the venture and to act as a vehicle to expand their operations. The Keweenaw Central had several successful years but was forced to cease operations after the 1971 season due to the Copper Range Railroad's decision to abandon their railroad. Trans Northern arranged to store their equipment at the Escanaba & Lake Superior Railroad's shops in Wells, Michigan, while the company sought new opportunities.
Trans Northern's search for a new home would eventually consume four long years and end on 29 April 1976 when they signed agreementswith the McCloud River Railroad allowing them to set up shop on the Ahnapee & Western. Trans Northern incorporated the Algoma Railroad to handle operations. The company initially equipped the new operation with one locomotive, an ancient General Electric 60-ton switcher #105 powered with an Ingersoll-Rand engine, and a pair of former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy coaches, 1916-built #6114 that became Algoma #14 and 1928-built #6168 that became Algoma #68. Trans Northern also moved their 1928 built Pullman Solarium/Lounge car #100, formerly Erie Mining Company's "Taconite Trail", into Algoma, though it was in poor shape and would require substantial work before it could be used. The company also brought in an old wood body side door caboose for use as a ticket office, which they parked at the end of the A&W main line.
Algoma Railroad's operated its first train on 18 July 1976. The excursions originated from the old Algoma depot and travelled the length of the A&W to Casco Junction and return. Each round trip lasted about two hours. The excursion trains did have to closely coordinate their movements with the Green Bay & Western freights, which occasionally resulted in the excursion trains having to significantly delay their departures while waiting for the freights to finish their work and clear the line.
Algoma Railroad #105 in Algoma on 25 September 1976. Phil Tygum photo.
The #105 with an excursion somewhere on the line. Photo is from a small book Trans Northern published on their history and operations.
Trans Northern had invested substantial money into the #105 before placing it in service, including installing a new air brake system and radiator core among other items. Unfortunately the unit suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure after only a month or two of service. Trans Northern quickly found and purchased from the Milwaukee Road their Alco S-4 switcher #818, which became Algoma Railroad #100. The #100 entered service immediately after arriving on the road, and it kept the trains running through the rest of the 1976 season and then most of the 1977 season.
Milwaukee Road #818 in Kansas City shortly before its sale to Trans Northern. The Algoma Railroad removed the all weather window and logo from the cab, scrubbed out most of the numbers on the side of the hood, and placed its #100 in the number boards on the nose but otherwise operated the unit as its seen here. Mac Owens photo.
Another uncredited photo of the #818's other side taken circa 1967.
An overview of the Algoma Railroad operations in Algoma in late 1976 or early 1977 shot from the roof of the ticket office caboose. The #100 is on the main line with the two coaches. The "Taconite Trail" can be seen to the left, with the depot behind it. Across the tracks from the depot the #105 can be seen sitting in front of the old A&W enginehouse. The Hardwood Plant is visible in the right background. Photo from the Trans Northern history book.
The #100 crossing the Kewaunee River bridge with a westbound excursion train. The AHW when built used a 1,200-foot long trestle to cross the river, but shortly replaced it with a fill and this 50-foot iron bridge. The road routinely had to dump rock around the abutments to keep them from washing away; it was the eventual failure of the right abutpment in this photo that forced the embargo of the entire line. Photo from the Trans Northern history book.
Trans Northern acquired two additional pieces of equipment for the Algoma Railroad in 1977. The first was the former Soo Line combination baggage and passenger car #1356 that became Algoma #56. The railroad set up a snack and souvenir shop in the former passenger part of the car and installed wooden gates and screening in the baggage doors so that passengers could safely stand in them while the train was in motion. The car proved to be a very popular addition to the train set.
The #56 in ALgoma on 27 October 1978. J.M. Siedl photo.
The #100 leads the three car train somewhere on the line. Combination car #56 is the first car behind the locomotive. Photo from the Trans Northern history book.
The other piece of equipment purchased in 1977 was another locomotive, the former Milwaukee Road Alco RSC-2 #988. The Trans Northern mechanical staff performed some necessary work on the locomotive after it arrived in Algoma, and it entered service in the late summer or early fall. Trans Northern promptly retired and sold the #100, leaving the #988 to handle all operations on its own.
The #988 at Algoma circa 1978. Jeff Moore collection.
The #988 at the Algoma depot on 4 October 1977. Allan Ramsey photo.
The #988 powering an Algoma Railroad excursion train through the Wisconsin country side on 4 October 1977. Allan Ramsey photo.
The #988 powers a two car train through Algoma shortly after its arrival on the railroad. Photo from the Trans Northern history book.
The Algoma Railroad had a third successful year in 1978. Trans Northern purchased another two passenger cars in that year, 1928-built former CB&Q #6167 that became Algoma #67 and a 1934-built former Milwaukee Road coach that became Algoma #4410. Both cars required substantial work before they could be placed in service. Otherwise the railroad operated as it always had, running from Algoma to Casco Junction and back. Trans Northern expanded their operations in 1978 when they set up the Brillion & Forest Junction Railroad on 6.7 miles of former Chicago & Northwestern track that had been purchased by the local shippers and then contracted to Trans Northern. The two railroads shared resources as needed.
The #988 with an excursion train, probably in Rio Creek. Photo from the Trans Northern history book.
The year 1979 looked like a promising one for the Algoma Railroad. Trans Northern had many plans for the operation under consideration, including renovating the "Taconite Trail" for special use on the railroad and restoring to operation one of the steam locomotives it owned, the former Chicago & Northwestern 4-6-0 #175, which had been built by Alco in 1908 as their c/n 45727. Unfortunately none of these plans came to pass. The 1979 season proved to be the final one for the Algoma Railroad, as it could not overcome the combination of declining tourism caused by the stagnant economy and soaring fuel prices and perhaps Trans Northern's need to devote its attention and resources to its other operations.
The #988 meeting a GB&W freight at Casco Junction in September 1979. Note that the Algoma Railroad has repainted the #988 into the Milwaukee Road's original yellow and gray paint by this point, colors that were very similar to those worn by McCloud River's first two Baldwin diesels. Stan Mailer photo.
The #988 is seen here pulling an Algoma Railroad excursion train out of Algoma on the railroad's last day.
Trans Northern shortly thereafter removed its equipment from the A&W, bringing to a close an interesting operation. The company continued operating its Brillion & Forest Junction until its abandonment on 4 April 1985 after the operating contract ended.
100- Alco S-4, c/n 78855, Built October 1951. Originally Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific #1884, then #811, and finally #818. To Trans Northern in either July or September 1976. Sold October 1977. Subsequent disposition unknown to me.
105- GE 60-ton, c/n 12237, Built October 1937. Powered with an Ingersoll-Rand engine. Originally Milwaukee Solvay Coke Company #105; to Miller Compressing Company #105 February 1970; to a Milwaukee scrap dealer; to Trans Northern 1975. Retired after suffering a major mechanical failure in 1976 and subsequently scrapped.
988- Alco RSC-2, c/n 75134, Built February 1947. Originally Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific #988, then #594. To Kettle Moraine Scenic Railroad #4 1976; to Trans Northern #988 1977. To Chippewa River Railroad after Algoma Railroad folded in 1979, then stored on the Escanaba & Lake Superior Railroad after the CR folded in 1981. Several members of the Mid-Continental Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin, purchased the unit in 1986, and its been since conveyed to the museum where it resides today.
The former Algoma #988 is seen here at the Mid-Continental Railroad Museum on 24 September 1989. Trans Northern repainted the locomotive into this early Milwaukee Road scheme shortly before the end of Algoma Railroad operations. Francis J. Wiener photo.
Special thanks to Mark Mathu and Andy Laurent for their help with some information on this page. Other information gleaned from various sources, including corporate records, regulatory filings, Shortline Railway guides, and the book "Algoma Railroad" written by George A. Forero Jr. and published by Trans Northern in 1979.
Links to other websites of interest. Pages will open in a new window.
Algoma Railroad excursions in Circa 1976 and 1978.
More photos of the Algoma Railroad can be seen here, here, here, here, and here.