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Bob Armstrong Photograph Collection Railways With digital objects
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On Norton-Mackinnon Railway

Left to right: Mrs Kate Mills, Ozzie Rae, Olive Judd, and Minnie Rae on the Mackinnon Railway.

In 1910, a man by the name of Norton McKinnon came to the area to log by railway, laying track from the Mamquam River to the Northern Pemberton Railway line. Unfortunately, a company fire in 1913 by the Mamquam River resulted in the loss of McKinnon’s business, and he left Squamish soon after.

Despite this setback to one of the first logging pioneers, harvesting continued through the Squamish area with the company of Merrill and Ring. With a steam engine salvaged from Norton McKinnon’s company, Merrill and Ring continued laying railway track from what is now the log dump south of the Stawamus Reserve to Valleycliffe and across the Mamquam River.

Norton-McKinnon Railway

Left to right: Mrs Allen Rae (nee Robertson and would be Mrs Hughie Mills), Minnie Rae, Olive Judd, and Ed Rae on Norton-McKinnon Railway.

In 1911, McKinnon and Norton of the Newport Timber Company were logging in Squamish in the area known as the base camp road, near Curly Lews' place. They had donkeys, a large shay engine, and a weird whistle. Mr McKinnon was a bartender and Mr Norton was a logger. Amedy Levesque and George Laviolette worked as brakemen on the locomotive. The camp was run by Mr Fuller.

Railroad bridge where the FMC mudflats are

FMC is an international corporation that produces basic chemicals and industrial and agricultural machinery. The original company produced equipment specifically for canning, dried fruit, and orchard spraying. Hence the name: Food Machinery Corporation.

In 1948, when the company began producing chemicals, the name was changed to the Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation. With further product diversification in 1961, the name simply became FMC Corporation.

The FMC chemicals division in Squamish produces mainly chlorine, caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) and hydrochloric acid. The chemicals result from the breakdown of sodium chloride by the mercury cell process. The salt that is used by Canadian Oxy's Squamish plant comes from the San Francisco Bay region, where it is recovered by natural evaporation in huge ponds of salt water exposed to sunlight. It is barged from the bay area to Squamish 14,000 or more tonnes at a time.

The chemicals are mainly distributed to the BC pulp and paper industry. Hydrochloric acid is transported by truck while chlorine and caustic soda are stored in tanks and transported by rail or barge.

CanadianOxy has installed equipment that salvages the hydrogen, a byproduct, for burning in the boiler. This provides heat used in the operation of the system.

FMC Squamish plant covers 60 acres of land leased from BCR.

1957, June - Pennsalt Chemicals Corporation of Philadelphia announced plans of building a chemical plant in Squamish. Fred Shanneman, president.
1960 - Pennsalt dropped plans. Partly due to high cost of power. Western Minerals Ltd. of Calgary had also dropped plans to build a chemical plant.
1964, July 9 - FMC Corporation announced that a $10 million chemical plant would be built in Squamish.
1965 - Chlor-alkali plant built on the Squamish River estuary by FMC Canada.
1965, October - The British S.S. Argyll bought first cargo of 13,000 tons of Mexican salt to the nearly completed FMC Squamish plant. Was the largest ship ever to enter Howe Sound being 39,665 gross tons and 764 feet long.
1965, December - FMC Squamish began operations as the first outdoor chlorine cell installation in the Western Hemisphere. Plant manager was Charles E. Barnabe and controller was R.C. Bryant. Approximately 60 people were employed.
1970 - Original wastewater treatment plant built.
1974, November 8 - FMC Squamish earned award from Pacific Northwest Pollution Control Association. Presented to resident manager, Ralph Ross.
1983 - Approximately 70 people employed. Plant managaer Jack Selby. Production was at 175 tonnes of chlorine, 200 tonnes of caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) and 30 tonnes of muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid), daily.
1986, December 23 - FMC was taken over by Canadian Occidental Petroleum Limited.
1988, July - 75 people employed at the Chlor-Alkali plant. Plant manager, Brian Thorton. President, Brian Thorpe. Production has risen to a peak of 185 tonnes of schlorine, 217 tonnes of caustic soda and 32 tonnes of muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid), daily. The plant uses 340 tonnes of salt each day. There was not much change after the takeover (eg. no layoffs, strikes, or modernization programs). Products are shipped to Woodfibre and Powell River. Plans to build a hydrogen peroxide plant are on hold. Land has been set aside for the purpose though.
1988, August - Thomas A. Sugalski, senior vice president replaced Brian Thorpe as president.
1989 - Nexen buys plant from FMC Canada and assumes environmental liability.
1991 - Plant shuts down; Ministry of Environment becomes involved and recommends the company pursue independent remediation.
1999 - Remediation order issued by MOE.
2003 - Site remediation complete.
2004 - Provincial Crown transfers the site to the District of Squamish. Special Environmental Award presented to Nexen by the Minister of Environment.