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General railway discussions

Sending the concentrates to Churchill because the smelter in Flin Flon is shut down?

Hudbay also has a mine in Snow Lake, which used to be connected to the Lynn Lake branch over a 80 or so km distance at Optic Lake. One wonders if the activity there will ever justify a new build 50 or km track between there and Wekusko on the Churchill mainline. Doesn't seem likely from a quick skim of the description of how frequently mines open and close in that area.
 
In the Bruce Rails group, someone posted this.



For a bit of context, this segment of the railway was previously of the NS&T, and Welland Railway before that, dating back to the 1850s. It has three active shippers. These are Kemira (chemicals), BIOrigin Specialty Products (receiving and transloading pulp from boxcars), and Trenergy (occasional steam boiler shipments, as well as steel coil car hoods subcontracted from NSC last year). Previously, there was also TIW Platework/Canadian Erectors on the Lakeshore Spur, but they haven't taken cars in a few years as they have dealt with downturns in business, company reorganisation, and an eventual sale of the plant.

These industries were serviced 2-3 times per week, typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While I don't know the specifics on what led to this, it is likely that poor track condition, middling volumes, and the grade on the Thorold Spur were contributing factors. I understand that the shippers are making alternate arrangements, but as to the a specifics, we will see soon. Of note, this is the second time that BIOrigin mill, previously known as Dunn Paper, and owned by Clearwater Paper and Interlake Paper before that has had to alter their rail shipping arrangements. Previously, the mill was served off the NS&T High Line, operated by Trillium as the Townline Spur, until an act of arson in 2007 took the line out of service, with the cost of other repairs to bridges on the large fill leading to the Grimsby Sub putting it out of action for good.

The final fate of the corridor will be remain to be seen. This isn't exactly a surprising outcome though. In the current policy environment, having track at all is highly disincentivised, as volumes are made low by subsidised road freight, and no government support is provided in Ontario to keep rail lines in a state of good repair, particularly for shortlines where margins are low. This will not stop happening without taking action, such as is common in many US States, and even other provinces like Quebec and Saskatchewan.
 
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The Hudbay traffic will be:
Mine concentrate trucked 190km by road Snow Lake-Flin Flon, loaded there and then shipped to Churchill

Ironically Snow Lake mines are only ~50km from the Churchill mainline at Wekusko but that location doesn’t have the ore loading facility already present in Flin Flon

 
For a bit of context, this segment of the railway was previously of the NS&T, and Welland Railway before that, dating back to the 1850s. It has three active shippers. These are Kemira (chemicals), BIOrigin Specialty Products (receiving and transloading pulp from boxcars), and Trenergy (occasional steam boiler shipments, as well as steel coil car hoods subcontracted from NSC last year). Previously, there was also TIW Platework/Canadian Erectors on the Lakeshore Spur, but they haven't taken cars in a few years as they have dealt with downturns in business, company reorganisation, and an eventual sale of the plant.

These industries were serviced 2-3 times per week, typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While I don't know the specifics on what led to this, it is likely that poor track condition, middling volumes, and the grade on the Thorold Spur were contributing factors. I understand that the shippers are making alternate arrangements, but as to the a specifics, we will see soon. Of note, this is the second time that BIOrigin mill, previously known as Dunn Paper, and owned by Clearwater Paper and Interlake Paper before that has had to alter their rail shipping arrangements. Previously, the mill was served off the NS&T High Line, operated by Trillium as the Townline Spur, until an act of arson in 2007 took the line out of service, with the cost of other repairs to bridges on the large fill leading to the Grimsby Sub putting it out of action for good.

The final fate of the corridor will be remain to be seen. This isn't exactly a surprising outcome though. In the current policy environment, having track at all is highly disincentivised, as volumes are made low by subsidised road freight, and no government support is provided in Ontario to keep rail lines in a state of good repair, particularly for shortlines where margins are low. This will not stop happening without taking action, such as is common in many US States, and even other provinces like Quebec and Saskatchewan.
I can't speak for CP, but I've been told by my managers that CN eventually wants everything in containers. Or have everything go through intermodal yards. We move tankers. It allows for a more streamlined process. CN has their own trucking division (CNTL) and their own containers which has pretty much replaced any kind of "branch line" service. CN would rather send a truck to their customers than a locomotive.

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I can't speak for CP, but I've been told by my managers that CN eventually wants everything in containers. Or have everything go through intermodal yards. We move tankers. It allows for a more streamlined process. CN has their own trucking division (CNTL) and their own containers which has pretty much replaced any kind of "branch line" service. CN would rather send a truck to their customers than a locomotive.

This is where public policy and railway wishes collide. Clearly railways want to eliminate loose-car shipments, and look for opportunities to create transloads that remove the investment and effort involved in small volume shipments.

That assumes that someone else (ie the taxpayer) will provide a road network and will accept the impact of all those trucks on the highways. In my view, the railways want a free ride on this topic.

That doesn't mean that railways should continue to own and operate branch lines.... there is ample precedent for these to be run as short lines and/or owned and maintained by municipalities. In this case, it's quite reasonable for the province or the municipality to look at what it can do to retain those industries as rail served. Removing the rail option may in fact hinder the success of the business, causing it to move or shut down altogether. Railways should not be allowed to harm our industrial base in this way.

As for the Trillium situation, it doesn't make a lot of sense for freight that can be switched onto CN directly at St Catherines to be hauled all the way to Welland to reach CN rails.... so the branch may not be all that necessary, and it has several large bridges that will be costly to maintain. But certainly service to the customers can be maintained.

- Paul
 
As for the Trillium situation, it doesn't make a lot of sense for freight that can be switched onto CN directly at St Catherines to be hauled all the way to Welland to reach CN rails.... so the branch may not be all that necessary, and it has several large bridges that will be costly to maintain. But certainly service to the customers can be maintained.

I've googled for maps to try and understand this track, and where what links up with what, but haven't found any results that weren't too historical to reflect the current configuration. Sadly the Wikipedia pages on Trillium Railway and the Port Colborne Harbour Railway lack any maps or diagrams. In Google Maps' satellite view the connection to CN at Merritton looks too sketchy to still be in service, but I don't see where else those cars could possibly go from the sidings shown in the Bruce Rails group's video. Any resource you know off the top of your head that you could point me to?
 
I've googled for maps to try and understand this track, and where what links up with what, but haven't found any results that weren't too historical to reflect the current configuration. Sadly the Wikipedia pages on Trillium Railway and the Port Colborne Harbour Railway lack any maps or diagrams. In Google Maps' satellite view the connection to CN at Merritton looks too sketchy to still be in service, but I don't see where else those cars could possibly go from the sidings shown in the Bruce Rails group's video. Any resource you know off the top of your head that you could point me to?

There's a good map in the Canadian Trackside Guide published by the Bytown Railway Society.. (If you haven't discovered that resource....you're missing a great reference tool)

- Paul
 
There's a good map in the Canadian Trackside Guide published by the Bytown Railway Society.. (If you haven't discovered that resource....you're missing a great reference tool)

- Paul

Thank you! That price is a little dear just to satisfy one day's idle curiosity, but I recognize the amount of work it must be for them to compile it, and that they can't just give it away. I'll keep it in mind...
 
I've googled for maps to try and understand this track, and where what links up with what, but haven't found any results that weren't too historical to reflect the current configuration. Sadly the Wikipedia pages on Trillium Railway and the Port Colborne Harbour Railway lack any maps or diagrams. In Google Maps' satellite view the connection to CN at Merritton looks too sketchy to still be in service, but I don't see where else those cars could possibly go from the sidings shown in the Bruce Rails group's video. Any resource you know off the top of your head that you could point me to?

@crs1026

This isn't a bad bit of info on this trackage:


And one a bit more specific from the above page:

 
I can't speak for CP, but I've been told by my managers that CN eventually wants everything in containers. Or have everything go through intermodal yards. We move tankers. It allows for a more streamlined process. CN has their own trucking division (CNTL) and their own containers which has pretty much replaced any kind of "branch line" service. CN would rather send a truck to their customers than a locomotive.

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It's complicated. Service sensitive customers are attracted to intermodal because it's services are faster, simple, and reliable. The railways are attracted it operationally for the same reason. But generally, intermodal service is more expensive for the shipper, less profitable for the railways than carload, and comparatively wasteful of line capacity. Certain carload service used to be timely and reliable, but changes to supply chains over time and competition from trucks have disincentivised railways from providing such a standard of service. It also doesn't help that more and more warehousing is being built without rail access for boxcars.

There are certain things that will always be more at home in carloads, particularly anything low value and heavy. There remains lots of potential here, but a big challenge is building out the infrastructure to serve it. Additionally, if low volume business isn't operationally convenient to retrieve, the railways aren't super interested in going after it. The upshot of this is a problem Ontario has, which is its reliance on transloading for carload commodities. This is very pronounced for plastics. Compare how many plastics manufacturers have sidings, vs the number of massive plastic transload yards scattered around the GTHA. Generally, drayage hauls for transloaded commodities are not as lengthy compared to intermodal as transloading is less centralised. (For an example of a long drayage haul, see the Highbury Canco plant in Leamington, now served by intermodal, formerly with insulated boxcars).

As mentioned above, the public interest does come into conflict with the reality of our policy environment here in both cases.

As for Trillium and hauling loads from Welland to St. Catherines, it is less nonsensical than it looks, particularly since a good portion of BIOrigins inbound pulp loads come from CP. But of course as business declined, it became less economical.

Now for some updates on the situation: https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/gio-railway-ends-service-to-st-catharines-ontario

Bad news: Contrary to previous rumours, the yard in Thorold is being taken out of service. A red flag is being put up past the 406 in Welland to denote the end of active track. This potentially makes the situation with railbanking on this corridor a bit more dire. The Canal Spur is more at risk, albeit far from any planned development, but thankfully, the Thorold Spur exists in cuttings and along the escarpment, and isn't suited for redevelopment or even a rail trail since the line is already completely paralleled by roads and trails.

Good News: Kemira recently completed a $1 million expansion of its plant in St. Catherines. This explains the uptick in shipments I have observed over the past year. It is rather unhappy with this development and is exploring its options to maintain rail service.

Good News: It has been mentioned on the BruceRys group that the scrap yard in Merritton may reinstate rail service in the near future.

BIOrigin is reportedly moving their warehouse to the Thorold Multimodal Hub. Admittedly, it is a better spot for them since the access roads are better and it's closer to their mill. It's also interesting to see this former paper mill serving the last one in the region. It's disappointing though to see a bit of HOPA's growth in the region be at the expense of other rail served facilities.

Regardless, there is likely more to come on this story.
 
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It's complicated. Service sensitive customers are attracted to intermodal because it's services are faster, simple, and reliable. The railways are attracted it operationally for the same reason. But generally, intermodal service is more expensive for the shipper, less profitable for the railways than carload, and comparatively wasteful of line capacity. Certain carload service used to be timely and reliable, but changes to supply chains over time and competition from trucks have disincentivised railways from providing such a standard of service. It also doesn't help that more and more warehousing is being built without rail access for boxcars.

There are certain things that will always be more at home in carloads, particularly anything low value and heavy. There remains lots of potential here, but a big challenge is building out the infrastructure to serve it. Additionally, if low volume business isn't operationally convenient to retrieve, the railways aren't super interested in going after it. The upshot of this is a problem Ontario has, which is its reliance on transloading for carload commodities. This is very pronounced for plastics. Compare how many plastics manufacturers have sidings, vs the number of massive plastic transload yards scattered around the GTHA. Generally, drayage hauls for transloaded commodities are not as lengthy compared to intermodal as transloading is less centralised. (For an example of a long drayage haul, see the Highbury Canco plant in Leamington, now served by intermodal, formerly with insulated boxcars).

As mentioned above, the public interest does come into conflict with the reality of our policy environment here in both cases.

As for Trillium and hauling loads from Welland to St. Catherines, it is less nonsensical than it looks, particularly since a good portion of BIOrigins inbound pulp loads come from CP. But of course as business declined, it became less economical.

Now for some updates on the situation: https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/gio-railway-ends-service-to-st-catharines-ontario

Bad news: Contrary to previous rumours, the yard in Thorold is being taken out of service. A red flag is being put up past the 406 in Welland to denote the end of active track. This potentially makes the situation with railbanking on this corridor a bit more dire. The Canal Spur is more at risk, albeit far from any planned development, but thankfully, the Thorold Spur exists in cuttings and along the escarpment, and isn't suited for redevelopment or even a rail trail since the line is already completely paralleled by roads and trails.

Good News: Kemira recently completed a $1 million expansion of its plant in St. Catherines. This explains the uptick in shipments I have observed over the past year. It is rather unhappy with this development and is exploring its options to maintain rail service.

Good News: It has been mentioned on the BruceRys group that the scrap yard in Merritton may reinstate rail service in the near future.

BIOrigin is reportedly moving their warehouse to the Thorold Multimodal Hub. Admittedly, it is a better spot for them since the access roads are better and it's closer to their mill. It's also interesting to see this former paper mill serving the last one in the region. It's disappointing though to see a bit of HOPA's growth in the region be at the expense of other rail served facilities.

Regardless, there is likely more to come on this story.

Really insightful, thanks! To me, it sounds like a prime candidate for municipal ownership and shortline (e.g. G&W) operation. Guelph Junction Railway has been operating on this model since and it's seen steady growth, particularly after GEXR took over operations from OSR around the pandemic. Plus, this comes with a better appetite for proximity of rail trails, which could be a big opportunity for pedestrians and cyclists.
 
Really insightful, thanks! To me, it sounds like a prime candidate for municipal ownership and shortline (e.g. G&W) operation. Guelph Junction Railway has been operating on this model since and it's seen steady growth, particularly after GEXR took over operations from OSR around the pandemic. Plus, this comes with a better appetite for proximity of rail trails, which could be a big opportunity for pedestrians and cyclists.
I agree. A rail line serving an industrial area is a major asset, and shouldn't be allowed to disappear forever due to a setback like this. I would also say this line is a fairly good candidate for rails with trails.

Where things are right now, a good interim solution could be to serve Kemira with a trackmobile for the time being. This isn't entirely dissimilar to Ingenia Polymers in Brantford. They acquired the rail lines they use (CN Burford Spur, CN GTHB Spur) when CN was planning to abandon them in 2014. They started with operations contracted to SOR (Railink) when they were still running the Hagersville Sub, but shifted to Allied Track Services in 2018 when CN took that operation back.
 
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March 23
Looks like London CPKC grade crossing will be history by June when traffic is move to the new southbound lanes for the new underpass. Still some retaining wall to be built on the westside along with some other work compared to the eastside. The eastside retaining wall and sidewalk cannot be built until traffic is moved to the new southbound lane. They can build as much of the retaining wall now and leave the ends until traffic has been shifted.

This will mean the end of shooting trains either working the yard, arriving, and departing it.

More up on my site and it includes 141 car train departing it as well a pair of CPKC locomotives in the yard.
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March 23
Looks like London CPKC grade crossing will be history by June when traffic is move to the new southbound lanes for the new underpass. Still some retaining wall to be built on the westside along with some other work compared to the eastside. The eastside retaining wall and sidewalk cannot be built until traffic is moved to the new southbound lane. They can build as much of the retaining wall now and leave the ends until traffic has been shifted.

This will mean the end of shooting trains either working the yard, arriving, and departing it.

More up on my site and it includes 141 car train departing it as well a pair of CPKC locomotives in the yard.
53621561997_7870e170ef_b.jpg

53622776534_430de30337_b.jpg

53622776349_9fa8f7bfd7_b.jpg

53621561702_2ae11d1b0b_b.jpg

53622891705_d3ceb9f095_b.jpg

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Any plans to grade separate Egerton St., right by the CN rail yard?
 

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