Algoma Eastern Railway

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Algoma Eastern Railway
Reporting mark AER
Locale Ontario, Canada
Dates of operation 1911–1930
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Turner, Ontario
Algoma Eastern Railway
85.5 Little Current
North Channel
84.6 Turner
Turner Wye
LaCloche Island
77.1 McGregor Bay
72.5 Birch Island
66.2 Whitefish Falls
Whitefish River
65.4 Lawson Quarry
64.0 Willisville
61.7 West River
61.2 McMillan Gold Mine Spur
58.9 Carson
58.0 Fox Lake
55.5 Merritt
53.2 Anderson Lake
48.4 Espanola
Spanish River
Espanola Wye CPR Transfer
Spanish River
36.7 Nairn
32.3 Turbine
31.7 Drury
24.4 Mond
Crean Hill Wye
22.4 Crean Hill
18.1 Vermilion River
15.9 O'Donnell
Gertrude Wye
12.7 Gertrude
11.3 Creighton
7.9 Mileate
3.8 Nickelton
3.2 Copper Cliff
Jct INCO Railway
0.0 Sudbury Yard
CPR Sudbury CPR Cartier Sub

The Algoma Eastern Railway (reporting mark AER) is a former Canadian railway operating in the province of Ontario. Today only a short section remains, used as an industrial spur.

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.

Traffic sources[edit]

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[edit]

The Lake Superior Corporation entered financial difficulty during the Great Depression. In March 1930 the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) leased the AER for 999 years.

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.