CN Rail Expansion Projects

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CN Rail Expansion Projects
Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 12:35 AM

Hello fellow train geniuses,

I wanted to ask for some insight on the CN's capacity expansion projects between Chicago and Vancouver/Prince Rupert. Traffic on this railroad was up significantly between the Midwest and the Prairies and the two ports in Western Canada, with a wide variety of commodities seeing significant increases.

The most recent article on this came last Friday: http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2018/01/12-nrc-for-friday?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=News0_TRN_180115_000000_Final&utm_content=&spMailingID=32623181&spUserID=MTE2ODA0MTUwMTc2S0&spJobID=1201943785&spReportId=MTIwMTk0Mzc4NQS2

I know CN's mainlines between Edmonton and Vancouver very well due to the Canadian Trackside Guide. Based on the article, it says they are adding 12 miles of double-track and a new siding between Vancouver and Edmonton. By process of elimination, I doubt that includes the Yale and Ashcroft Subdivision's due to the directional running arrangement with CP. My thought is that this is concentrated on the Clearwater, Albreda (south of Vailmount since northeast to Jasper is mainly double-tracked), and Edson Subdivisions. I can't find anywhere that says the specific sidings or location for these projects.

Does anybody know where the double-track/siding expansions will take place specifically?

In addition, why would they not expand the sidings between Winnipeg and Toronto on their Northern Ontario mainline? There is a lot of growth potential there and CN does love running their 2 mile long trains on this part of their system as well.

 

ADRIAN C. BALLAM

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Posted by kgbw49 on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 8:09 PM

This is just a guess, but it may be that population and the resulting economic activity and the traffic it drives is the reason for not as much further investment between Winnepeg and Toronto.

Greater Toronto has approximately 6.4 milliion people - it is a great, great city.

And there are Montreal at about 4.0 million and Ottawa further to the east at 1.4 million.

On the other hand, going south from Winnipeg, CN has access to Minneapolis-St. Paul (3.5 million), Milwaukee (1.6 million), Chicago (9.5 million), St. Louis (2.8 million), Memphis (1.3 million) and New Orleans (1.2 million) down the main spine, and Detroit (4.3 million) via the former Grand Trunk Western.

Those population centers are double the population of the three large eastern Canada population centers.

So perhaps that additional capacity on the Winnipeg-Chicago routes is warranted due to the greater concentration down the former Wisconsin Central-Illinois Central of large metroplexes and the economic activity they generate. 

 

 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 8:54 AM

The Winnipeg-Toronto line already has lots of sidings, but most of them are short (~6400').  As you can imagine this does not work well with 12,000' trains running in both directions.  But not all trains are run that long, so the shorter ones (especially VIA) always end up taking sidings.

When Hunter Harrison was still at CN his plan was to run every train as long as possible, and in Northern Ontario when two over-siding trains met they would saw by.  This went on for years.

Under the current operating plan a fixed number of trains per day are run long, and meets between them are planned well in advance.  Everything else is run short.  Fred Frailey has a good explanation of the strategy in one of his recent posts:

http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/fred-frailey/archive/2017/12/04/the-news-from-sioux-lookout.aspx

I believe that more sidings should be lengthened, as the current strategy leaves almost no wiggle room for future expansion, and significant operational savings could be obtained by running everything long.  But as always it comes down to the almighty dollar, and CN is notoriously cheap when it comes to capital spending.

EDIT:  the link won't heat up no matter what I try, sorry.

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Posted by cx500 on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 9:31 AM

I wouldn't be too surprised if the "added 12 miles of double track between Vancouver and Edmonton" turned out to be restoring part of the double track that EHH tore out on the British Columbia side of the Yellowhead Pass.  The same could be done on the Alberta side, except that the relationship between CN and Jasper National Park went sour. 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 1:24 PM

I doubt it, they have been running everything single sub west of Jasper for the last few years (crews change at McBride and Blue River, BC), and there is still a lot of double track in that area.  And the Park still hates CN, stemming from the demolition of the Jasper roundhouse literally days before it was to be declared a historic building; that happened at the same time the double track was ripped out. 

I believe the 12 miles of double track will be added from Spruce Grove to Carvel, AB, not far west of Edmonton.  This would give a 40+ mile continuous section of double track heading out of the city, all the way to Wabamun Lake (of tar-ball derailment fame).  A couple different mid-level managers have told me that this section is high on the priority list, but nothing has officially been said yet.

The 28 miles of double track on the Edmonton-Winnipeg line will most likely come in as three segments, each one connecting two sidings together (sidings are spaced around 10 miles apart).  This has been CN's pattern for the last few years as other sections of double track have been built in that corridor.  But I do not know exactly where these sections will go, there are numerous potential spots.

I also have no idea where the additional sidings will be added on the BC North line.

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Friday, January 19, 2018 7:49 PM

I also doubt the small section of the Albreda Sub will be double-tracked. It is so insignificant compared to other parts of the Albreda, Edson, and Clearwater Sub's.

That being said, I think you maybe onto something with the increase of double-track between Carvel and Spruce Grove on the Edson Sub, but it could not possibly be the entire way due to the residential areas adjacent to the mainline in Stony Plain. I think that would be too expensive, too complicated to navigate around. Maybe going a few miles east from Carvel to alleviate the single-track congestion but not all the way to Stony Plain.

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Friday, January 19, 2018 7:55 PM

Exactly. The sidings on the Northern Ontario Transcon of CN are way to small to accommodate the train lengths of today. While 12,000 feet is huge train, from what I have seen, CN now runs them as long 15,000 feet. Last year, I saw one CN train that was 255 cars (intermodal), which is around 15,000 feet. Also, my profile pick on this train blog is a train that is 258 cars. Both trains were CN in Western Alberta on the Edson Sub. A railfan on Youtube named JayJr2007 mentioned in a video (sadly did not film) a CN 105 was 16,000 feet, which is around 280 cars.

Clearly, the vast majority of the sidings in Ontario are becoming increasingly insufficient for CN's current operations.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, January 19, 2018 10:20 PM

ADRIAN BALLAM
Exactly. The sidings on the Northern Ontario Transcon of CN are way to small to accommodate the train lengths of today. While 12,000 feet is huge train, from what I have seen, CN now runs them as long 15,000 feet. Last year, I saw one CN train that was 255 cars (intermodal), which is around 15,000 feet. Also, my profile pick on this train blog is a train that is 258 cars. Both trains were CN in Western Alberta on the Edson Sub. A railfan on Youtube named JayJr2007 mentioned in a video (sadly did not film) a CN 105 was 16,000 feet, which is around 280 cars.

Clearly, the vast majority of the sidings in Ontario are becoming increasingly insufficient for CN's current operations.

At one time 3 and 4 miles of parallell tracks was considered Double Track.  With the size trains being operated today they are merely passing sidings.

         

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Posted by williamsb on Friday, January 19, 2018 11:57 PM

Did CN ever finish the 10 miles of double track it started on the Rivers Sub. from Waldron to Cana SK in 2016 (approx mi. 262 - 272)?

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Posted by SD70Dude on Monday, January 22, 2018 6:10 AM

Cana to Waldron is still single track.

They did construct 4 or 5 other sections of double track along the Rivers and Watrous subs over the past several years, but it is not enough.

And almost nothing has been done on the Wainwright sub so far.

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Posted by trainboyH16-44 on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 11:10 PM

cx500

I wouldn't be too surprised if the "added 12 miles of double track between Vancouver and Edmonton" turned out to be restoring part of the double track that EHH tore out on the British Columbia side of the Yellowhead Pass.  The same could be done on the Alberta side, except that the relationship between CN and Jasper National Park went sour. 

 

I'm out of touch with the northern part - where around Jasper was track taken up?

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Posted by kgbw49 on Thursday, January 25, 2018 7:37 AM

CN announced as part of their 2017 earnings presentation that they would spend $3.2 billion on capital investments in 2018. As a comparison, CSX with similar route mileage is dropping down to $1.6 billion and NS with similar route mileage is going up by $100 million to $1.8 billion in 2018.

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Friday, January 26, 2018 6:28 AM

Yet Robert Krebs was run out of the BNSF for saying the entire old Santa Fe needed to be double tracked to LA.  Execpt for a couple bridges and that will change soon all of the Transcon is now double and in spots triple track.  Why was he run off by the BOE for not being like EHH.

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Posted by CNSF on Monday, January 29, 2018 4:47 PM

At one time (years ago) there was talk that CN and CP might execute a shared, directional running agreement on their northern Ontario lines (similar to the Fraser Valley arrangement).  If there is still any life to this idea, it might explain a reluctance to invest in siding extensions based on an assumption of continued bi-directional traffic.

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, January 29, 2018 5:09 PM

CNSF

At one time (years ago) there was talk that CN and CP might execute a shared, directional running agreement on their northern Ontario lines (similar to the Fraser Valley arrangement).  If there is still any life to this idea, it might explain a reluctance to invest in siding extensions based on an assumption of continued bi-directional traffic.

 

This directional running agreement shows in Canadian Trackside Guide 1913, p. 14-42, as follows: "CN and CP operate directioonal running between Sudbury (Wanup) and Parry Sound (Boyne), with southbound movements on CN's Bala Subdivision and northbound movements on CP's Parry Sound Subdivision."

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Posted by cx500 on Monday, January 29, 2018 7:14 PM

The problem with trying to arrange directional running across northern Ontario most of the way to Winnipeg is the two lines are separated by a considerable distance, with few roads to taxi the crews back and forth between them.  Winter driving on those roads can also be problematic at times.  The territory south of Sudbury is about the only area where the logistics are easy.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 2:33 PM

trainboyH16-44
cx500

I wouldn't be too surprised if the "added 12 miles of double track between Vancouver and Edmonton" turned out to be restoring part of the double track that EHH tore out on the British Columbia side of the Yellowhead Pass.  The same could be done on the Alberta side, except that the relationship between CN and Jasper National Park went sour. 

I'm out of touch with the northern part - where around Jasper was track taken up?

East of Jasper, from Henry House (the Snaring River bridge) to Devona.  Devona to Park Gate (west end of the curved Brule tunnel) is still double track.

One of the first things CN did after Hunter left was try to put that double track back in.  That was when they found out just how mad the National Park was.

What is not widely known is that Hunter was not going to stop ripping track up; he wanted to remove the Robson sub (ex-GTP line) main track west from Red Pass Jct to Taverna.   He was adamant that this would save a huge amount of money and minimally affect train operations.  So to prove him wrong a test was done, and the Robson sub was shut down for a day.  This created a traffic jam stretching all the way from Kamloops to Edmonton, with trains backing up until every single siding was full.  Only then did he back down from that plan.

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 3:19 PM

Somehow, I have the impression that Mr. Hunter did not understand the operations on the Robson Sub, and was more concerned with what he thought would be money in his pocket than he was with efficient railroad operation.

I may be mistaken, but I have the impression that the operation of the Albreda and Robson Subs gives you good two-track operation between Red Pass and Charles, with EB freight traffic from Prince Rupert going down to Charles and then up to Red Pass. (When I went to Prince Rupert and back in the fall of 2014, we went directly from Harvey to Red Pass, and did not go around by way of Charles.)

I wonder if the park will ever get over the removal of that second track (when was that done?) and allow the CN to put it back.

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Posted by Norm48327 on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 3:54 PM

Johnny,

Who, other than Hunter Harrison, understands his motives  for doing what he did to North American railroading?  Perhaps while he was at CN his motives were pure and hid desires were to mane CN a star regarding operating ratio then collecting a chunk of cash based on his performance. It appears he accomplished that goal and then went on to try his best to do the same at CP. In the above two cases Harrison accomplished his mission because both CN and CP were end  to end railroads.

CSX is a different kettle of fish as it it is/was a gatherer of coal from the Appalachain mines that had to be transported to whatever destination be it coal fired generating plants or export coal.

I see a difference in both of the above, and charging enough to cover costs and gaining a reasonable profit to be the corporate norm.

What I see CSX has failed to do is accept a reasonable rate of return on their investment and cost of doing business. As was said in the thread about CSX charging Consumers Power exhorbant charges for delivering coal there is a limit the consumer will accept.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 2:33 PM

Norm48327

CSX is a different kettle of fish as it it is/was a gatherer of coal from the Appalachain mines that had to be transported to whatever destination be it coal fired generating plants or export coal.

Norm is correct.  Have spent enough time in the area especially Huntington to note full coal trains going both ways and empty coal cars going both ways.  The only difference was coal car markings. 

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Posted by caldreamer on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 3:14 PM

I do NOT believe that the park has any say as to whether the second track can be put back in.  It is the railroads right of way, owned by them.  If they want to put the second track in they can do so without the parks permission.

 

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Posted by Gotrans on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 4:23 PM

CN may still be required to get a construction permit from Parks Canada. Hopefully there is not that much red tape that a new environmental assessment is demanded. A construction permit should just be rubber stamped if it is merely relaying track that was previously there.

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Posted by cx500 on Thursday, February 01, 2018 11:10 AM

caldreamer

I do NOT believe that the park has any say as to whether the second track can be put back in.  It is the railroads right of way, owned by them.  If they want to put the second track in they can do so without the parks permission.

 

That may be technically true, but the reality is that CN has to exist within the Park environment.  I'm sure Parks Canada would have many ways to severely inconvenience CN if the railway went ahead unilaterally.  For instance at present CN has a number of access roads, useful for maintenance vehicles, relieving crews and other such activities, that cross Parks land and could be closed off.  At the moment there is a truce; resuming hostilities might backfire. 

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Posted by kgbw49 on Thursday, February 01, 2018 6:06 PM

CN is in great position to take on rail traffic to support the growing fracking operations in the Duvernay, Montney and Horn River formations. There will be a lot of loads going in and loads coming out as those areas get developed for energy production.

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Saturday, February 03, 2018 1:25 PM

I do not see the viability or point in reinstating the double-track east of the Snaring River. It seems rather silly to put it back in after just a few hundred of being single from Henry House. I think that they should ignore that section for double-tracking (and they probably will).

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Saturday, February 03, 2018 1:35 PM

That's not the only area where CN has the potential to take great new amounts of business:

  • With the hold of the Energy East Pipeline, CN becomes the viable (though not so efficient) method of transporting oil from Alberta's Industrial Heartland to refineries it accesses in Quebec City and Saint John.
  • The initiation of the Canada European Trade Agreement could create an increase in shipments all over the system towards their ports on the Atlantic Coast and St. Lawrence Seaway
  • The ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership, which will initiate free trade between Canada and a number of other countries, including Japan, which will make the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver more popular for goods being imported and exported.

There is just so much growth opportunity for CN, it's amazing.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, February 03, 2018 5:00 PM

ADRIAN BALLAM
.

There is just so much growth opportunity for CN, it's amazing. 

Only when the destruction comitted by EHH has been mitigated ?

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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, February 03, 2018 8:23 PM

ADRIAN BALLAM

That's not the only area where CN has the potential to take great new amounts of business:

  • With the hold of the Energy East Pipeline, CN becomes the viable (though not so efficient) method of transporting oil from Alberta's Industrial Heartland to refineries it accesses in Quebec City and Saint John.
  • The initiation of the Canada European Trade Agreement could create an increase in shipments all over the system towards their ports on the Atlantic Coast and St. Lawrence Seaway
  • ...

The TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline project was cancelled as the Keystone XL Pipeline got US presidential approval, so it's still not going by rail.  Also, from what I read in the Canadian press, eastern Canadians (especially Quebec) are opposed to tar sand oil no mater what the method of transport.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Saturday, February 03, 2018 11:02 PM

ADRIAN BALLAM

I do not see the viability or point in reinstating the double-track east of the Snaring River. It seems rather silly to put it back in after just a few hundred of being single from Henry House. I think that they should ignore that section for double-tracking (and they probably will).

Au contraire, the single track section Hunter created is more like 10 miles, not a few hundred yards.  That area is continually congested as westbound with crews short on hours try to get into Jasper, and eastbounds try to get around them, and gain access to the single track east of Park Gate.

Between Park Gate and Dalehurst (the next section of double track, near the Obed summit) there are 3 sidings:  Swan Landing, Entrance and Hinton.  Entrance is only 6500' long so very few trains fit there, and Swan Landing is always congested with switching work, as numerous mainline trains pick up and set off traffic to/from the Grande Cache sub (ex-Alberta Resources Railway to Grande Prairie).  This leaves the 12,000' Hinton siding as the only reliable place to make meets along a 40 mile stretch of single track.  

The removal of double track between Henry House and Devona limits the number of eastbounds that can be let out of Jasper at a time, which can cause trains to be held in the yard or on the double track west of town, causing even more congestion there.  

Adding more double track between Park Gate and Hinton would be helpful too, but would be limited to a couple smaller segments (essentially long sidings) without some very high expenditures, as there are two major bridges (Athabasca River and Prairie Creek) and the curved Brule tunnel to contend with.

Dalehurst to Hinton would be easy though, and there is already 6400' of grade ready along there where the Pedley siding used to be.

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Posted by ADRIAN BALLAM on Sunday, February 04, 2018 7:54 PM

The two pipelines go totally different directions. Keystone goes directly south to the US while Energy East goes to the Atlantic Coast of Canada. How does the Keystone decision have an impact of oil moving by rail to the Atlantic Coast? Also, I just read that CN is planning to move crude oil this summer after they have completed a number of capacity projects: http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2018/01/24-canadian-national-to-invest-record-amount-to-handle-current-anticipated-traffic-growth?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=News0_TRN_180129_000000_Final&utm_content=&spMailingID=32824061&spUserID=MTE2ODA0MTUwMTc2S0&spJobID=1203645665&spReportId=MTIwMzY0NTY2NQS2. 

I know there is opposition to the oil and pipelines in Quebec, but I have feeling that it is not to the extent of a majority of citizens. I found an article that supports your statement, but the problem with this poll is it asked 1,401 people: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/poll-shows-few-quebecers-support-energy-east-pipeline. There are 7.2 million people in the province. These types of polls are usually way off what the general public thinks as they fall into the same category as polls in guessing the outcome of elections. I don't believe New Brunswick would be against the pipeline either.

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