Algoma Eastern Railway
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|Dates of operation||1911–1930|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
Algoma Eastern Railway
The AER can be traced to a charter in 1888 under the provincial government as the Manitoulin & North Shore Railway (M&NS) which intended to connect Manitoulin Island with the mainland. The charter was held by a syndicate headed by Robert A. Lyon, however, no construction took place throughout the 1890s. The charter was acquired in 1899 by Francis Clerque of Sault Ste. Marie.
The M&NS was re-chartered under the federal government in 1900 to connect Sudbury with Little Current on Manitoulin Island. From there the line was to run to the southern end of Manitoulin Island and via a railcar ferry to Tobermory and on to Meaford, Wiarton and Owen Sound. In October 1913 the line reached Little Current on Manitoulin Island with the opening of the Little Current Swing Bridge; it would never extend further to the southern end of the island, nor the ferry service to the Bruce Peninsula and connection to Owen Sound.
On May 19, 1911 while it was still under construction to Little Current, Clerque had the M&NS renamed to the Algoma Eastern Railway in order to maintain naming similarity with the other Lake Superior Corporation subsidiary companies.
The line had a traffic base focused on forestry products from the abundant forests on the north shore of Lake Huron such as pulp and paper and milled lumber, as well as the metal mining and smelting industries of the Sudbury Basin. Major traffic sources included the Canadian Copper Company's smelter at Clarabelle and a Canadian Copper Co. mine at Creighton. The Lake Superior Corporation had a nickel mine at Elsie and a nickel mine and smelter at Gertrude. The Spanish River Pulp & Paper Company had a pulp and paper mill at Espanola. The Haight & Dickson Lumber Company had a sawmill near Creighton and the Mond Nickel Company opened the North Star Mine near Creighton as well. Another Canadian Copper Co. mine was served at Crean Hill. A yard, offices, engine repair facility and deep water port was located at Turner, directly opposite Little Current on Goat Island.
Lease by CPR
Under CPR management, the tracks of the AER were consolidated and merged into the CPR system. System rationalization eventually saw duplicate AER tracks between Sudbury and Espanola removed. AER tracks serving metal mining and smelting industries in the Sudbury area were maintained as spurs. The AER line from Espanola south to Turner and Little Current was renamed the Little Current Subdivision and remained active into the 1970s for transporting iron ore pellets to a ship loader at Turner for furtherance on lakers and coal from Turner to smelters in the Sudbury Basin.
By the 1980s traffic on the Little Current Sub had entered decline as metal products were no longer being shipped by lakers from Turner. The 1913-era Little Current Swing Bridge built by the AER had been converted by CPR to a dual railway and road vehicle bridge in 1946; the 1980s traffic declines saw CPR eliminate rail service to Little Current and the bridge became exclusively a road vehicle bridge. During the 1990s the line between Espanola and Turner was downgraded by CPR to the Little Current Spur and eventually abandoned south of the pulp mill in Espanola.
Today, aside from remote sections of industrial track in the Sudbury area, the only remnant of the AER in operation is the 2.95 mi (4.75 km) Little Current Spur which runs from the former CPR mainline (now operated by the Huron Central Railway (reporting mark HCRY)) at McKerrow south to Espanola.