Is It Feasible? Double-Tracking CN from Winnipeg to BC

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Is It Feasible? Double-Tracking CN from Winnipeg to BC
Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Sunday, April 08, 2018 10:08 AM

Throughout various discussions on the web and through Trains Magazine are how BNSF and UP are extensively double-tracking transcontinental routes around their system. Currently, there is a forum on BNSF’s double-tracking of their Transcon from Chicago to Los Angeles along with the one from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest. With UP, a forum also discusses their Sunset Route between El Paso and Los Angeles. However, no one ever discusses CN double-tracking their mainline, particularly from Winnipeg to Taverna/Valemount. Based on what I have read and determined, there may be strong reason to do so now

Over the course of the past few months, traffic growth for the Canadian National Railway has been so significant, that the railroad is having difficulty moving the traffic from various points to anywhere else (most growth has occurred in Western Canada). The growth in traffic has been attributed to a number of factors: 

  • Higher movement of grain, of which CN is desperately trying accommodate
  • Higher intermodal volumes, thanks to expansion at Prince Rupert and substantial growth at Vancouver
  • Higher sand volumes, mainly due to operations in Grande Prairie, AB
  • Higher coal volumes, mainly due to re-opening of mines near Tumbler Ridge, BC and higher demand across the Pacific
  • Higher potash volumes, mainly due to increase in growth from Asia
Last year in the March 2018 Trains Magazine article about CN Rail, it mentioned how CN “was a touch behind traffic growth” (Page 58). Clearly it was not because the railroad is now suffering terrible dwell times in major yards and intermodal terminals, causing many of their customers to complain and investor confidence to fall. Recently, the stock price was at a 52 week low on the markets. The railroad is also short on cars, locomotives, mainline capacity, and human capital. Most recently, CN has leased a number of units to accommodate this growth, including ones that were originally owned by UP, BNSF, and CSXT. With further respect to human capital, the railroad also terminated their CEO Luc Jobin, who is now the shortest serving CEO of the railroad since CN became publicly traded back in 1995.
 
As part of their extensive capital expenditures, CN Rail is adding sidings and double-track on their system from Chicago to Prince Rupert and Vancouver. The amount of double-track (which does not include the siding extensions and new sidings) is 49 miles, of which I only know for sure of 12 miles (west of Edmonton) and not the rest. To me, this does not seem like enough to suffice the current or future growth.
 
As per my calculations using the timetables from the Canadian Trackside Guide, between Winnipeg and Vancouver, only 696.54 miles of the 1,543.40 miles are multi-tracked (45.1%). This includes the directional running portion between Basque and Mission, BC. That percentage of double-trackage drops if you looked at it between Winnipeg and Prince Rupert since it does not have the directional running benefit of the other route to Vancouver. If you add the 12 miles and the 28 miles to be added between Valemount/Taverna and Winnipeg, it’s still less than 50% of the line double-tracked. 
 
Double-Tracking the Route from Winnipeg to Taverna/Valemount
 
The busiest section of CN’s transcontinental route is between Winnipeg and Valemount (or Taverna), BC. Winnipeg is the division of routes heading east to Chicago and Toronto while Valemount/Taverna provides the division of routes heading west to Prince Rupert and Vancouver. The route sees in excess of 100 million tons of traffic a year and has seen incredible growth over the past decade. Double-tracking CN’s transcontinental route between these two points is potentially worth doing for the fact that there is further tremendous growth opportunity, as well as to alleviate bottlenecks, that are being felt right now (and likely into the future). Double-tracking this portion may benefit in a number of areas:
  • Prince Rupert: CN serves the closest port in North America to Asia. The port recently completed an expansion of their intermodal terminal which drew an influx of international container traffic. This terminal is expected to further expand its capacity for more traffic in coming years. From what I recently read, CN has now turned away traffic from the port, which has now made it a premium gateway for shippers since it is now fed by a congested railway. It is also a heavy route for grain and coal. There is further0talk and high likelihood of them building a propane terminal for export, which would see a new set of traffic for CN to this port.
  • Vancouver: CN serves the second closest port in North America to Asia and busiest port in Canada. Two container ports, Roberts Bank and Vanterm, are undergoing expansion to accommodate higher container traffic, which will put pressure on CN, since with this port, they have to compete with CP, who unfortunately for them won over a large contract with the container company APL for handling its containers. In addition, they are building a new grain terminal in North Vancouver and there is talk of them building a second grain terminal Surrey. Also, CN serves a growing transload facility, accommodating to forest products, in Richmond. There is also a significant amount of interchange traffic between CN and BNSF bound for points south in Washington, Oregon, and California.
  • New Free-Trade Agreements: I say this one because in the past two years, Canada has entered into two new trade agreements: the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This involves free trade with collectively 39 nations (11 TPP and 28 CETA) which would mean a lowering of tariffs for many goods, causing growth in both imports and exports. This could help CN generate business in all directions, such as from the prairies to the Atlantic Coast and new shipments of products from Ontario and Quebec to the Pacific Coast.
  • Oil Traffic: with pipelines being delayed due to environmental issues and government roadblocks, CN has the opportunity to capitalize on shipping this commodity in all directions. First off, there is some oil traffic from Edmonton to Washington for refining and this business has the potential to grow. Second, there is still the possibility of exporting oil from both the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver, though at this time is unlikely due to a halt on tankers reaching the west coast as a result of government restriction. However, despite not likely happening in the near future, it could and the railroad should be prepared in this case. Finally, and this option is viable, is shipping oil to the east and the US Midwest. There are refineries in Saint John and Quebec City that do serve oil trains, along with the refineries that CN serves on the Gulf Coast. Recently, CN has been holding off shipping oil due to the risk of going via pipelines in the future, plus the fact the railroad is inundated with a lot of other traffic. Currently, they along with CP, are trying to initiate long-term contracts with oil companies to haul the commodity in order alleviate concern of this traffic being transported by pipeline.
  • Grain Traffic: this is a big opportunity for CN to capitalize on and do better in, considering that this year and the end of 2017 hasn’t go too well. Recently, I went of a railfanning trip and in a period of 48 hours, I saw more grain trains on CN than I have seen, of which many short and likely rush shipments to meet customer demands and alleviate yard constraints. Right now, they are working with various grain suppliers, including G3 and GrainConnects, in being more accessible to farmers and establishing supply chains for grain movements to the West Coast. Though this statement is obvious, grain is a wonderful commodity in that it is food source for all humans and overseas markets love using it, along with North Americans.
  • Forest Products: while this traffic may be impeded by the tariffs that were imposed back in April 2017 from the USA, there is still a lot of growth opportunity here and at this moment, a very high demand. The Asian markets love BC forest products and CN is utilizing this by shipping them to the transload facility in Richmond. That being said, thanks to CETA, it is time utilize agreements with the EU in transporting forest products to the Atlantic Coast from BC. Eventually, I think the shock of the tariffs will also subside and forest products will rebound between Canada and the USA.
In addition to this, double-tracking is worth it just to be ahead of growth, even if the opportunities are not short-term, rather long-term. CN could cite as a model for double-tracking BNSF’s Transcon as well as the continued double-tracking of UP’s Sunset Route (83% complete from what I have read). These routes are high on intermodal transport and while CN’s traffic is more focused on bulk commodities, it could still be worthwhile. Also, CN loves running most of their trains in excess of two miles so in building double-track sections much longer than 12,000 feet, this will allow trains to move past each other simultaneously, rather than stopping.
 
Where Double-Tracking May Not Be Worth It
 
Well I have outlined extensive double-tracking being ideal, there are some reasons where double-tracking may not be best:
  • There are number of parts CN’s transcontinental mainline that would be expensive or very challenging to double-track, mostly related to bridges over major waterways:

o   Fabyan Trestle: it would be very difficult to double-track the 2,775 foot trestle over the Battle River, west of Wainwright, Alberta on the same-named subdivision. However, they could use UP’s Cienaga Bridge layout as a model, of which one mainline runs over the bridge while the other runs below and crosses Battle River at another point.

o   Clover Bar Trestle: another large trestle spanning the North Saskatchewan, which sees many more train movements due to transfers from Clover Bar to Edmonton’s Walker Yard, along with traffic from Calgary to the West Coast. While it would be easier than double-tracking the Fabyan Trestle, it would still be very expensive. However, it is multi-tracked on both sides of the bridge for at least five miles in each direction.

o   Areas West of Hinton: though a good chunk of CN’s Edson Sub is easy to add more tracks throughout, much is not west of this Albertan town due to the mountains, the Athabasca River, and Jasper National Park. This would be a costly, time consuming project to figure out and there would also be some tunnels along the river that would have to be twinned. In addition, there is also the trestle next to Hinton along with a bridge over the Athabasca to contend with.

o   Evansburg to Gainford: another segment that would be hard to double-track, due to three trestles, including one over the Pembina River and another really big one over Highway 16. One further one over a creek would be easier, however, and probably needed if CN wanted to extend their very short siding at Evansburg.

o   Saskatoon: another bridge over the South Saskatchewan River, but not as high some as the ones mentioned above. It is interesting how on both sides of this bridge, like Clover Bar, it is multi-tracked for a significant distance.

o   Rivers Subdivision: some of the Rivers Subdivision between Estherhazy, SK and Port La Prairie, MB is quite difficult to double-track due to some grades, including one down into the Assiniboine River Valley and several into Manitoba heading east.

 

  • Another concern is the Prairie North Line, which runs from Portage La Prairie to Edmonton via Humboldt, SK; North Battleford, SK; Lloydminster, SK/AB; Vegreville, AB; and Fort Saskatchewan, AB. While this line isn’t as well used as the CN’s mainline, it could still provide directional running relief, particularly between Saskatoon and Edmonton. It would be tough for directional running east of Saskatoon to Portage la Prairie. Besides that, the line isn’t as direct and would not be ideal for intermodal trains and any manifests that would be considered higher priority.
Final Thoughts
 
I think based on what I have laid out that double-tracking is needed more than what has been slated to be built this year in CN’s capital budget. Whether the entire line between Valemount/Taverna and Winnipeg should be double-tracked is tough due to the many constraints throughout the subdivision, but it is worth considering. Again, I think CN should use BNSF and UP as models for double-tracking entire corridors, as in their cases with the Transcon and Sunset Route, respectively, as it seems to be worthwhile.
 
I would like to know your guys’ thoughts on this as well as to whether CN should double-track their entire corridor from Winnipeg to Valemount. You can also comment if more double-track is needed east of Winnipeg and west of Valemount/Taverna.
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Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, April 08, 2018 8:25 PM

Regarding oil, there is a proposed twining of an existing pipeline between the Edmonton area and Vancouver, but it has generated strong opposition.  Why would double tracking CN between those points for increased oil transport, generate any less opposition?

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Sunday, April 08, 2018 11:44 PM

The oil is lesser factor of interest to CN compared to the intermodal, grain, and forest products growth when it comes to double-tracking towards the west. Also, the oil traffic that is more likely to contribute to a greater increase of traffic would be heading east from Edmonton rather than west to Vancouver towards the other side of Canada and the Gulf Coast. Oil is tough commodity to forecast for railroads since there is so much volatility in the markets and the threat (to the railroads) of building pipelines. I don't believe CN would double-track a mainline based solely oil. It would have to be a variety of factors.

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Posted by traisessive1 on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 10:15 AM

CN doesn't really like to spend money. They are all about squeezing their infrastructure as tight as they can. That's their business model.

They'll do little tidbits of extra capacity here and there but I highly doubt you'll see a truly twinned mainline. You'll have your pinch points at bridges and valleys remaining single of course, but I just can't see CN investing that much money into the mainline. 

The biggest thing CN needs to work on in my opinion is their fluidity and capacity in their major terminals. A lot of the congestion and service issues are wholy the cause of terminals being major pinch points. 

10000 feet and no dynamics? Today is going to be a good day ... 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, April 12, 2018 1:58 PM

Is it feasible?  Yes!

Would it be a great investment and vote of confidence in both the Company's and the Country's futures?  Yes!

Does CN have enough money to do it?  Yes!

So will it happen?  Heck no!

Because like Traisessive said, they are too darn cheap.  Shareholders come first, everyone else last.  That's what really matters to those making the decisions.

I also agree completely about the yard congestion issue, but that is going to be even more expensive to fix and I don't see anything being done to address it.  We can't even get new yard engines, let alone track.

But if they do decide to do something (hint, hint J.J. if you guys are reading this) rebuilding and reopening the Edmonton (Walker) hump yard would be a great place to start.  It's closure has been a unmitigated, congested disaster for most of the past 7 years.

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Thursday, April 12, 2018 9:47 PM

I never would have thought CN was a cheap railroad (3.2 billion is a lot of money for budget), but this is now cause for concern here. It's fine if it's a person like me, who is definitely cheap, to be this way, but in the case of CN here, that is not a good thing, especially with all the scope of expansion possibilities.

Walker Yard I have heard numerous times as a choke point. I have started developing an analysis on relocating Walker's main operations from Central Edmonton to Scotford or Fort Saskatchewan Yard near where many of the refineries are. Obvious downside would be this yard not directly on the mainline (on the Prairie North Line), but there are some good reasons to relocate the main operations. I even drove by that yard last October and noticed it was being added onto.

That being said, CN does have entirely double-track mainlines. From Pickering Junction, ON to Drummondville, QC, CN is entirely double-tracked. Also, from Aldershot to London, CN is entirely double-track. Those segments have been double-tracked for decades and whether they do such as a large scale project like UP is doing on their Sunset Route remains to be seen. I hope they do.

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Posted by traisessive1 on Friday, April 13, 2018 9:27 PM

The only reason the Toronto to Montreal line remains double tracked is because of the VIA traffic. If the VIA traffic wasn't there, Hunter would have torn the double track out years ago. The Kingston Sub does not have enough freight traffic to warrant double track. The same goes for the line to London. 

10000 feet and no dynamics? Today is going to be a good day ... 

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Saturday, April 14, 2018 6:01 PM

I am very surprised by that, yet it makes sense since there are a lot of VIA trains going to between Toronto and Montreal and Toronto and southwestern Ontario. The reason I am surprised is CN is the one who built it and it is owned by CN and if it was for VIA, that was nice of them to do that. That would be an interesting reading to me on the double-tracking of the Kingston and Dundas Subdivisions.

Three questions for you:

  • How do you know this?
  • Do you have any references to refer me to so I can look this up?
  • Also, would you happen to know when it was double-tracked (decade of completion)?
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Posted by SD70Dude on Saturday, April 14, 2018 11:49 PM

This pre-WWII map shows the Kingston and Dundas subdivisions as being double track:

http://www.npshistory.com/publications/stea/shs/images/shs3.jpg

I can't recall the exact date but it may have been Grand Trunk who built the double track, before CN was formed.  CTC would have been installed sometime after WWII.

It is unfortunately missing from the free online version, but a side piece to Fred Frailey's feature article "Hunter's Way or the Highway" (August 2009 issue of Trains Magazine) listed about 30 VIA passenger trains and 20 CN freights per day.  4 of those freights were wayfreights or roadswitchers.  This TSB report from 2015 gives similar numbers:

http://www.tsb.gc.ca/ENG/rapports-reports/rail/2015/r15t0245/r15t0245.asp

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Posted by Gotrans on Sunday, April 15, 2018 12:04 AM

 

Here is information on the double tracking of the Grand Trunk Railway between Montreal and Toronto.
 
Between the mid-1890s and the First World War, the GTR invested in massive infrastructure improvements. These included double-tracking of the main line from Montréal to Sarnia, reducing curves and grades to improve operating efficiency, and reconstruction of bridges, buildings and yards. The scale of these investments was such that no major upgrades were needed until after the Second World War.
 
 
It is important to note that Hunter Harrison ripped out sections of double track between London and Sarnia, Hamilton and Niagara Falls and most importantly between Edmonton and Jasper. The removal of the this trackage has played a big part in the current congestion on CN. It is important to compare the differences of opinion between the customers and the CN executives in the article from the Producer. It appears the customer is right. And CN’s focus on the operating expense has been a bit of a failure. FYI; I am a shareholder and in my opinion these removals should never have happened. As a taxpayer, the company should not have been allowed to rip up the trackage constructed at taxpayer expense. The company should be obliged to replace the track as all ground work is already done.
 
CN Rail rips out line on double track near Jasper
 The Producer Published: October 18, 2001hare to More
Railway track that was laid 20 years ago to help move grain to west coast ports more efficiently is being torn up by Canadian National Railway.
The company is removing 64 kilometres of double-tracked line from its main line in and around Jasper National Park, leaving only a single line. CN says improvements to railway operations mean the double track is no longer needed and assures shippers it won’t have adverse impact on the shipments.
“It will have no effect at all on our ability to handle traffic to the West Coast, including grain,” said CN spokesperson Jim Feeny. The track being torn up represents about 16 percent of the roughly 400 kilometres that were double-tracked between Edmonton and Vancouver in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The double tracking was laid to ease congestion in westbound traffic, but Feeny said that’s no longer the case, thanks to improved scheduling and planning, longer trains and longer sidings.
“There’s a fewer number of trains running on the track at once, so they don’t need to pull over as much,” he said. “Trains aren’t competing for track.”
News of the removal came as a surprise to some farm organizations and grain shippers.
Ian McCreary, chair of the Canadian Wheat Board’s transportation committee, said it’s unsettling that at the same time as freight rates continue to rise, CN is taking potentially valuable surge capacity out of the system.“I hope that’s not the result, but it is a twinge of concern,” said the CWB director from Bladworth, Sask.
While the railway may not need the double track now, he added, that could change.
“There’s a whole bunch more productive capacity in Western Canada than is being put out in these last few years,” said McCreary. “If the market gives us a decent price, there’ll be a lot of volume to move.”Feeny said the railway has taken that into account.“We think the way we operate is so much better than it was that we can accommodate any foreseeable increase in traffic with no strain.”
Darren Qualman, executive secretary of the National Farmers Union, said CN is obsessed with short-term profits.“It seems extremely shortsighted,” he said. “It just seems like one more unnecessary sale of assets and destruction of infrastructure for very little money.”
        It would be one thing if the railways were losing money and were tearing up track as a matter of economic survival.
             “But when they’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, then ripping up double track that was put in at the expense of taxpayers to send that to shareholders as well, seems really illegitimate and shortsighted,” he said.
       Feeny said the double-tracked rail isn’t needed to run the railways and so it makes no sense to keep it and pay the related ownership and maintenance costs. He added the company will continue to review the future of other sections of the double track.
 

https://www.producer.com/2001/10/cn-rail-rips-out-line-on-double-track-near-jasper/
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Posted by blue streak 1 on Sunday, April 15, 2018 3:11 PM

Gotrans
.”Feeny said the railway has taken that into account.“We think the way we operate is so much better than it was that we can accommodate any foreseeable increase in traffic with no strain.”
Darren Qualman, executive secretary of the National Farmers Union, said CN is obsessed with short-term profits.“It seems extremely shortsighted,” he said. “It just seems like one more unnecessary sale of assets and destruction of infrastructure for very little money.”
        It would be one thing if the railways were losing money and were tearing up track as a matter of economic survival.
             “But when they’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, then ripping up double track that was put in at the expense of taxpayers to send that to shareholders as well, seems really illegitimate and shortsighted,” he said.
       Feeny said the double-tracked rail isn’t needed to run the railways and so it makes no sense to keep it and pay the related ownership and maintenance costs. He added the company will continue to review the future of other sections of the double track.

 
Wouldn't  it be interesting if the Canadian authorities called Feeny back in to testify ?
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Posted by Murphy Siding on Sunday, April 15, 2018 5:24 PM

     Is there any financial incentive to CN to make the grain move faster? 

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Posted by Gotrans on Sunday, April 15, 2018 5:52 PM

It is interesting how the truth comes out eventually and how flippant Mr Feeny appears to have been at the time. He seems like a spin doctor who believes that if you say something is true often enough everbody will believe it is true. I would imagine that very few people would have had the courage to stand up to Mr Harrison.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, April 15, 2018 6:44 PM

Gotrans
It is important to note that Hunter Harrison ripped out sections of double track between London and Sarnia, Hamilton and Niagara Falls and most importantly between Edmonton and Jasper. The removal of the this trackage has played a big part in the current congestion on CN. It is important to compare the differences of opinion between the customers and the CN executives in the article from the Producer. It appears the customer is right. And CN’s focus on the operating expense has been a bit of a failure. FYI; I am a shareholder and in my opinion these removals should never have happened. As a taxpayer, the company should not have been allowed to rip up the trackage constructed at taxpayer expense. The company should be obliged to replace the track as all ground work is already done.

It is also important to note that the Ontario single-tracking coincided with the installation of bi-directional CTC signalling on those lines.  Previously they had only ABS, and I believe each track may have only been signalled in one direction.  Freight traffic down east has been declining for many years for a multitude of reasons, many of which CN has little to no control over.  

While the London-Sarnia line still has healthy freight freight traffic the Hamilton-Niagara Falls-Fort Erie line does not (it hosts fewer than 5 freights a day) and neither line currently has much passenger traffic.  I would not be surprised at all to see Metrolinx (GO Transit) purchase the Grimsby Subdivision as part of their expansion plans.

The Jasper area is quite a different story.  Almost as soon as Hunter left CN they tried to put that double track back in, only to have the request denied by Parks Canada.  Why?  Because during the same summer the double track was being removed CN tore down their old Jasper roundhouse in the middle of the night, quite literally the day before it was to be declared a historic building.  That sin has yet to be forgiven.

But the best part of that story is the roundhouse site's current use: Jack Squat.  They pushed some debris into the turntable pit, smoothed it over and left.  Sure was worth the cost of demolition.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, April 15, 2018 6:54 PM

blue streak 1
Wouldn't  it be interesting if the Canadian authorities called Feeny back in to testify ?

Feeny was just the spokesman, the PR talking head that is.  I doubt he could tell the difference between a locomotive and a grain car.

People seem to get him confused with Jim Foote for some reason, I guess their names sound similar but they are two very different people.  Foote was the head of marketing at CN and a member of Hunter's inner circle, and I would be quite happy to see him and Keith Creel hauled into court to explain these things.

Hunter would be a better witness but he is of course unavailable, having fled to warmer regions when things started to fall apart.

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Sunday, April 15, 2018 7:27 PM

Wow. What an article. 64km from the Edson Subdivision removed under Harrison. I am shocked by that. I didn't know that much double-track was removed from that line. What a mistake that was, especially since that was before intermodal was heading to Prince Rupert as that terminal was completed in 2007. Thank you very much for the information and link to the article.

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Sunday, April 15, 2018 7:32 PM

I had feeling that VIA was not the reason for the double-trackage. I am very surprised that the double-track dates back to the 1940's. I thought the only long distance double-track mainline was UP's Overland Route from Chicago to Salt Lake City. I still have the August 2009 Issue of Trains Magazine which I still like to look at frequently which is totally contradicated by the March 2017 issue. I love the CN map in that magazine article. Thank you for the information.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, April 15, 2018 8:45 PM

ADRIAN BALLAM

I had feeling that VIA was not the reason for the double-trackage. I am very surprised that the double-track dates back to the 1940's. I thought the only long distance double-track mainline was UP's Overland Route from Chicago to Salt Lake City. ...

 

Santa Fe's Chicago-Los Angles mainline was historically double tracked, except for the middle section between eastern Kansas and central New Mexico, where the mainline split.  With the downgrading of the Raton Pass line, the Southern Transcon is also now double tracked except for a couple of bridges.  Of course many mainlines east of Chicago were double tracked.

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Posted by traisessive1 on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 5:43 PM

With Hunter's disdain for double track, you can see how he would have wasted no time ripping out much of the second main between Toronto and Montreal if VIA wasn't there. 

He ripped out a bunch on the IC in the US as well. 

10000 feet and no dynamics? Today is going to be a good day ... 

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Posted by Gotrans on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 6:34 PM

SD70Dude

It is also important to note that the Ontario single-tracking coincided with the installation of bi-directional CTC signalling on those lines.  Previously they had only ABS, and I believe each track may have only been signalled in one direction.  Freight traffic down east has been declining for many years for a multitude of reasons, many of which CN has little to no control over.  

While the London-Sarnia line still has healthy freight freight traffic the Hamilton-Niagara Falls-Fort Erie line does not (it hosts fewer than 5 freights a day) and neither line currently has much passenger traffic.  I would not be surprised at all to see Metrolinx (GO Transit) purchase the Grimsby Subdivision as part of their expansion plans.

The Jasper area is quite a different story.  Almost as soon as Hunter left CN they tried to put that double track back in, only to have the request denied by Parks Canada.  Why?  Because during the same summer the double track was being removed CN tore down their old Jasper roundhouse in the middle of the night, quite literally the day before it was to be declared a historic building.  That sin has yet to be forgiven.

1. If the decline in freight traffic has occurred then why is there less track space available for passenger trains and why are they being re-scheuduled at slower and slower speeds over the years in eastern Canada? The reason for Via's dismal on time performance is due to the decline in track capacity. The reduction in passenger service is not just the fault of the railways, governments are to slow to fund Via in order to upgrade tracks that would allow faster, more frequent and more reliable service.

The government allows abandonment of sections of track that destroy the network for passenger service. The government should not have allowed CN to abandon the 

2. Do the railways need to get government approval to remove track from service when it is not a discontinuance? If they do why does the government not force the railway to maintain double track where it exists? When coal traffic almost dissapeared on the Prince Rupert line, CN didn't pull up the rail, they left it in place along with the signals. The cost to restart the unused portions was probably limited to some surfacing, tie replacement,checking track circuits and signal light bulbs.

3. How can Parks Canada deny CN the right to relay the tracks previously pulled up? Does Transport Canada not have authority over Parks Canada especially when it is not new construction? This applies whether CN demolished a historical building or not.

 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 8:15 PM

Gotrans

1. If the decline in freight traffic has occurred then why is there less track space available for passenger trains and why are they being re-scheuduled at slower and slower speeds over the years in eastern Canada? The reason for Via's dismal on time performance is due to the decline in track capacity. The reduction in passenger service is not just the fault of the railways, governments are to slow to fund Via in order to upgrade tracks that would allow faster, more frequent and more reliable service.

I cannot speak to specifics but suspect you would find that a combination of longer, heavier, underpowered trains and poor decisions by operating management on a daily basis contribute to the congestion.  Bigger trains are more prone to breakdowns, and when that happens they cause bigger delays.

I also suspect, but cannot confirm that increased commuter traffic (GO and AMT) around Toronto and Montreal contribute to delays.  VIA has also been adding trains of their own again since Laliberte ceased to be CEO.

Gotrans

2. Do the railways need to get government approval to remove track from service when it is not a discontinuance? If they do why does the government not force the railway to maintain double track where it exists? When coal traffic almost dissapeared on the Prince Rupert line, CN didn't pull up the rail, they left it in place along with the signals. The cost to restart the unused portions was probably limited to some surfacing, tie replacement,checking track circuits and signal light bulbs.

The BC North line to Prince Rupert has always had other traffic besides Tumbler Ridge coal (Alberta mines ship there too along with much grain, and the line has significant traffic in forest products), and by the time those mines closed in the early 2000s the intermodal plans were already in the works.  The line previously had no signals, CN installed CTC and increased tunnel clearances to prepare for the startup of intermodal service.  

I believe you are referring to the Tumbler Subdivision, which was mothballed both in the mid-2000s and quite recently during periods of mine closures.  But it was not abandoned or officially removed from service, CN simply stopped running trains there.  No trains meant no need for inspections or maintenance.  I do not believe a railway needs Federal approval to perform these actions.  The Tumbler subdivison has also never had signals of any kind.

Gotrans

3. How can Parks Canada deny CN the right to relay the tracks previously pulled up? Does Transport Canada not have authority over Parks Canada especially when it is not new construction? This applies whether CN demolished a historical building or not.

The government would then be in a position of having two powerful departments arguing with each other.  Not something particularly appealing to them.  

There are also many things the Park could do to make CN's life hard that they are currently not doing.  I would compare this to the current "debate" over Trans Mountain pipeline construction in B.C.  Despite the Province having no jurisdiction or legal ability to block that project they are still managing to punch above their weight and have nearly succeeded in killing it.

I do not believe that CN wants to start a similar fight.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 6:13 PM

SD70Dude
The BC North line to Prince Rupert has always had other traffic besides Tumbler Ridge coal (Alberta mines ship there too along with much grain, and the line has significant traffic in forest products), and by the time those mines closed in the early 2000s the intermodal plans were already in the works.

A slight change of subject but as you mentioned the Tumbler Ridge operation, I hope you can answer a question I have. My Dad was born in 1904 and worked for the MoPac until about 1947. He wrote about six articles for Trains back in the early forties. In the mid 1990s he wanted to see the Tumbler Ridge area and the WacBennett Dam. So we flew to Vancouver and took the BC to Prince George, rented a car and drove there. We saw the mine and the shops where the Electric Locomotives were serviced. As you mentioned, the mine shut down and the line went dead. Am I correct that the Mine was reactivated and then again shut down? And did they run the coal trains through the tunnel with diesels when it reopened? Thanks.

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Posted by STEVEN DERRICK on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 9:07 PM

THERE IS A CP LINE THAT PARALLELS THE CN LINE BETWEEN WINNIPEG AND EDMONTON.PERHAPS THEY COULD WORK A DEAL AND USE DIRECTIONAL RUNNING.BUT,CP HAS ALOT LESS TO GAIN FROM THIS ARRANGEMENT,AND MAY NOT WANT TO HELP THEIR RIVAL.  STAY TUNED

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 10:55 PM

RE: Tumbler Ridge, coal traffic never did reach the level the line's designers anticipated, and it turned out that there was enough spacing between trains to allow air to clear in the two long tunnels with diesel operation.  

The electrification was shut down in 2000, after the Quintette mine closed.  All trains have been diesel-powered since then, with crews being required to carry portable bottled air packs and masks with them.  

The Bullmoose mine continued operating until it ran out of coal in 2003, at which point the entire branch line was mothballed.

But coal prices started to rise dramatically around that time, and by 2005 new mines had opened in the area, causing the railway to be re-activated.  Teck even started the process of re-opening the Quintette mine, but the good times did not last.  Coal prices crashed in 2014, and within a year all the mines were closed again.  Once again the railway was mothballed.  

History then repeated itself, the mines re-opened as coal prices rose in 2017, and the rail line was returned to service by last fall.  CN dragged their feet on doing repairs, wanting a longer-term commitment or extra contribution from the mines.  As you can imagine this has not made CN very popular in the area.

Today trains are composed of up to 116 aluminium cars and are powered by 3 GE ES44AC or ET44AC locomotives, normally with two on the head end and one on the tail end.  By comparison at least 4 of the electrics were required for a 100 car train.

You were very fortunate to be able to see the line in its original configuration.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, April 19, 2018 6:42 PM

How long are the 2 tunnels?

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, April 19, 2018 7:47 PM

The Table Tunnel is 5.6 miles long, and the Wolverine Tunnel is 3.7 miles.  Neither tunnel has ever had any form of forced ventilation.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, April 20, 2018 9:33 PM

Full air-packs last 30 minutes.  It's doubtful the crew could walk out of the middle of the 5.6 mile tunnel in that time.

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Saturday, April 21, 2018 10:47 PM

CN would not have much to gain either. The problem with using CP and CN in directional running here is that CN is quite a direct, straight line from Winnipeg to Edmonton. CP's route is quite meandering and parts of it are not that well rode on. Here is a map of the railroads across the prairie's (you can download a PDF of it): http://trn.trains.com/railroads/railroad-maps/2010/03/evolution-of-canadas-grain-network

Between Saskatoon and Edmonton, CP route does parallel CN to Unity, where CP splits: one line to Lloydmister and the other, much busier, to Wetaskawin. Neither route goes of Unity would work as they are way off CN's operations. Honestly, I don't CN has benefit for directional running Unity and Saskatoon as well. From Saskatoon to Portage la Prairie, where CN and CP's transconinental routes meets, it does not work either. CP's route is just too curvey and going east of the point Lanigan, SA, is not that well used. It would probably significant upgrades to accomodate CN traffic.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, April 22, 2018 1:21 AM

MidlandMike

Full air-packs last 30 minutes.  It's doubtful the crew could walk out of the middle of the 5.6 mile tunnel in that time.

Replacement air bottles are located at two locations in the Table Tunnel, and one location in the Wolverine Tunnel.

If trouble arises in the tunnel that makes it impossible to move the train, the crew is to immediately uncouple the head-end locomotives and remove them from the tunnel.  I suspect (but cannot confirm) that DP remotes are to be shut down.

If it is not possible to move the locomotives they must all be shut down before the crew exits the tunnel on foot.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by tree68 on Sunday, April 22, 2018 6:58 AM

MidlandMike

Full air-packs last 30 minutes. 

Our new packs are rated for 45 minutes, and 4500PSI packs with the 'big' bottles are rated at one hour.   At a leisurely pace of 3 MPH, they could likely get out.

Rated vs actual is another story.  A working firefighter might only get 15 minutes out of a 30 minute bottle.

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