An artistic journey
Several members of Canada’s Group of Seven painted in the Algoma region between 1918 and 1923, including Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, J.E.H. MacDonald and Arthur Lismer. To gain access to this remote region, they rented a boxcar from the Railway. The car was outfitted like a cabin and was shunted to sidings near choice painting locations. From these locations they would set out on foot or canoe to capture this untamed area on canvas. Their paintings brought this vast, rugged and beautiful part of the country to fellow Canadians and the world.
Here are some interesting facts and details that played an important part in these artists’ masterpieces:
Mile 76: Mongoose Lake
In the fall of 1920 the artists stayed in a cabin on Mongoose Lake instead of the boxcar to sketch and paint. One of these painting sites was discovered as recently as the fall of 2013.
Mile 92: Montreal River / Falls / Hubert
The Montreal River attracted MacDonald and he made sketches in the neighborhood of the falls that resulted in his large canvas, Falls, Montreal River. Among all the painters, he responded most deeply to Algoma, creating a magnificent series of large-scale compositions.
Mile 113: Agawa Canyon
The artists stayed in their boxcar studio in Agawa Canyon to sketch for several days and then using an Algoma Central Railway hand-car, they ventured north and south to sketch and paint.
Mile 123: Eton and Mile 138: Sand Lake
In the fall of 1921 Harris, Lismer and Jackson came north again to sketch and paint in the Eton area, and then moved further north to finish up on Sand Lake.
Mile 195: Franz
At the end of their 1921 fall trip, Harris and Jackson decided to travel west along the shore of Lake Superior. They took the ACR north to Franz, where they caught a C.P.R. freight to Schreiber where they got off and walked to Rossport, their final destination.
Looking back, moving ahead.
The Algoma Central Railway has a rich history. There’s over a century of significant events and occasions that have shaped this awe-inspiring railway excursion that continues to take peoples breath away to this very day.
1899: On August 11, 1899 the Algoma Central Railway Company is incorporated.
1900: March 20, 1900 construction of the ACR begins and on November 17th of that year the first passenger train travels to the end of track at Mile 19.
1901: Plans are made to push the rail line to Hudson’s Bay and on May 23rd the name is changed to Algoma Central and Hudson Bay Railway Company.
1903: Clergue’s empire collapses and construction is halted for 6 years. At this point, track is laid to Mile 56 on the mainline north of the Sault and on the branch line from Michipicoten Harbour to Josephine, 6 miles from short of Hawk Junction.
1909: Construction of the line resumes.
1911: The Montreal River Trestle is constructed and track is laid over it by the end of October. The line reaches Hawk Junction and the branch line to Michipicoten Harbour is connected.
1912: By mid-year the main line crosses the Canadian Pacific rail line at Franz (Mile 194.9) and then crosses the Canadian National Railways line at Oba (Mile 244.7) six months later.
1914: Track is laid as far north as Hearst, Ontario and shortly after plans to continue to Hudson Bay are abandoned.
1918: Group of Seven artists, Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frank Johnston rent a boxcar fitted out as a portable cabin and spend a month painting in the areas of Agawa Station, Hubert and Batchewana. They continued to travel the ACR on painting trips until
1923, joined on various occasions by A.Y. Jackson and Arthur Lismer.
1935: Construction began on the power dam that now sits at the base of the Montreal River Trestle at Mile 92. The dam became operational in 1937.
1952: Algoma Central Railway became the first Canadian Railway to switch over entirely from steam to diesel locomotives. The first picnic area is cleared between the track and the Agawa River and Agawa Canyon Park is born. Customers travel up on the northbound passenger train and return with the southbound passenger train.
1959: 60 years after start up, Railway shareholders receive their first dividend cheque.
1965: References to Hudson Bay are removed and the name is changed to Algoma Central Railway.
1972: Due to increased popularity, the Railway begins operating the dedicated Agawa Canyon Tour Train.
1995: On February 1st the railway is purchased by Wisconsin Central Railway and with the change of ownership the name is changed to Algoma Central Railway Inc.
1998: In the previous year the steel mill announced it would be shutting down its low-grade ore mine in Wawa and on June 25th the last 18-car ore train rumbled along the branch line to Hawk Junction. It then moved down to the Sault and with it an important chapter in the Railway’s history came to a close.
2001: On October 9th Wisconsin Central is purchased by Canadian National Railway and Algoma Central Railway Inc. becomes a part of CN’s Eastern Division.
2015: The Railway has the pleasure of your company aboard the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, joining over 3 million people who have experienced the beauty of this one-day rail tour.