'Old Agony' or 'The Blueberry Express'

1930s Algoma Eastern Railway Birch Island Canadian Canadian history Canadian Pacific CNR CPR Group of Seven Killarney Provincial Park La Cloche Northern Ontario train Whitefish Falls Willisville

The Train

The Algoma Eastern Railway connected Sudbury and Little Current in October of 1913. The train carried passengers and mixed freight on the 87 mile long line.  It was nicknamed the ‘Old Agony’ because it took  4 hours to travel from Sudbury to Little Current.  The McKerrow to Little Current stretch , however, is fondly remembered as the ‘Blueberry Express’. 

On April 4, 1919, Ernie Willis became the first Postmaster of Willisville. Everyone now had another reason to wait for the train and there was usually quite a gathering at Mile 64, the Willisville Station.

From 1914 to 1918, World War 1 created a demand for nickel and the Algoma Eastern Railway service. The International Nickel Company of Sudbury had the largest nickel deposit in the world and INCO shipped it’s refined nickel product to the Turner Coal Docks in Little Current. The train returned with coal and other supplies from the Great Lakes port however by 1920, the demand for nickel declined and the railway now depended more heavily on carrying coal, wood products and tourists.

Work at INCO’s Lawson Quarry began in 1924 and this quarry would provide many years of a steady work for the rail line.

On August 5, 1939, a derailment near Willisville, saw 3 freight cars tumble down a 50 foot embankment. The coach, containing 29 passengers, came to rest against an overturned baggage car on the edge of the embankment and fortunately only 10 people were cut and bruised. They were treated and finished their journey to Little Current by car. Auxiliary Railway Crews used two railway cranes to put the last of the cars back on the track by the following evening.


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