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Singer Factories - Thurso, Quebec, Canada

In 1922 the Singer Company decided to purchase a license to cut timber and to establish a Canadian sawmill to feed its cabinet plant in St John’s, Quebec. In 1923 the company purchased an area of approx. 500 square miles of primarily mixed hardwood forest which had its southern boundary around 25 miles north of Thurso.

The major species were birch, maple, hemlock, spruce and beech, but for Singer the most important was the yellow birch was the not that common in Canada.

To transport the timber to Thurso it was necessary to construct a railway line (The Thurso & Nation Valley Railway). Initially this ran for a distance of 34 miles roughly due north of Thurso, but over the next 20 years it was gradually extended a further 22 miles into the forest as cutting progressed further northwards.

Construction of the railway was started in early 1925. It became operational in late 1926 at the same time that the new sawmill and drying kilns were opened in Thurso.

In 1942 a veneer mill was added on the Thurso site to produce birch veneers for sewing machine cabinets and to avoid the need to import veneer from the United States.

By the 1950s the forests, which had been logged of their softwood before being purchased by Singer, were again ready for softwood logging. In 1958 the Thurso Pulp and Paper Company opened a pulp mill. As well as pulping the softwood logs it also used the previously wasted branches of hardwood logs harvested for veneer and timber.

In 1959 Singer moved the complete manufacture, assembly and finishing of sewing machine cabinets from St. ’s to Thurso. However this was a period of declining sewing machine sales and the increasing use of plastic for machine cases.

In 1964 Singer sold the Thurso facility to the James MacLaren Company.