God damn the CPR ?

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by Biased turkey, Sep 24, 2007.

  1. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    It kind of helps if one has a passion for this stuff. And it also helps to re-read a few key books at least once a year ("Van Horne's Road" by Omer Lavallée, History of Canadian National Railways by G.R. Stevens, "Canadian Northern" by T.D. Regher, "Railway King of Canada - the History of William Mackenzie" by R.J. Fleming, "The Ontario & Quebec Railway" by Dale Wilson, and a whole bunch of other books on the history of the local railway lines.

    Next time you're at the used bookstore or your local hobby shop, browse around and see what used railway books they have. You're bound to find Pierre Berton's "National Dream" and the "Last Spike" - two good books to get you started. Then pick up the reprint of "Van Horne's Road" the next time you're into your local hobby shop or at the model railroad show.

    (Which reminds me, if you're in the Ottawa area, don't forget "Railfair" - the premier model railroad show in Ottawa - Algonquin College, Woodroffe Ave, Saturday & Sunday, October 13 - 14.)

    These books make for some very interesting reading!

    Then, pick a local railway line that you'd like to investigate further. You may find a bit of the history in some of the books. Supplement this with some visits to your local library (look in the "vertical files" or museum (someone may have done an "unpublished" history of your railway line). Talk to people who have lived along the railway line (a superb source of unpublished photos!). Ultimately, a visit to the provincial/state archives and, for us in Canada, a visit to the National Library & Archives in Canada.

    Don't forget to bring along your laptop, your scanner, and your digital camera.

    Some very simple steps to get you started into researching the history of your favourite railway line.

    Bob M.
  2. galt904

    galt904 Member

    I've got these 3, but can't find them right now because they haven't been unpacked after moving yet... I'm pretty sure the words to the poem are in one of the Berton books though...
  3. galt904

    galt904 Member

    I found my copies of the Berton books. Lyrics not in there. Back to more searching...
  4. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    Some interesting stuff since I'm a Canadian rail fan myself.
  5. ChadYelland

    ChadYelland Member

    Being from a western farm, i'd like to add a few cents, Freight rates, are say $1.00/bushel, for the last 25yrs were paid $1.70/bushel, does that even sound fair to the greenest railroader? at about 3,000bushels per car whats the income from a 100car train? In the 1930's a railway line to churchill manitoba's port was seen as a viable and very handy place to rail grain to from the northern parts of the prairies where the greatest production happens to be, an engine maintainance facility with roundhouse steel water tower and underground reservoir were constructed (the cement is there yet) but the whole idea was scrapped because of the grapes being pressed (whining) in Eastern canada because they wouldn't be getting the port traffic thru there. So now I belive an american company makes use of that line since CN (can't call it canadian anymore its being removed from all there cars) was sold to IC i belive. As far as i know if you can load 26cars the rail must service you thats likely a higher number now. Everytime a farmer wants to haul grain he gets the story "we don't have cars" but theres 12miles!!! of empty grain cars about 30miles from where i sit right now stored (hidden) on a unused CN line. Farmers are forced to buy more and more grain bins for longterm storage since the loss of the wooden grain elevators Saskachewan elevator storage has dropped to about a 1/3rd from 280million bushels (1950) to 100million bushels (1990)! with production being double+ that 1950. anyone elses calculator blow up with that kind of math???
  6. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    The cylindrical Canadian grain car carries 100 tonnes of grain and is the most efficient railcar for moving grain. The grain car typically weighs another 25 - 30 tonnes. Typically, there are about 100 grain cars in a grain train. I'll leave the math up to you folks as to the total tonnage being hauled. Except for replacing some wheelsets, very little maintenance has been done with the grain cars since they were first built over 30 years ago. The Government of Canada fleet numbers about 12,000 cars with Alberta and Saskatchewan owning smaller fleets. I don't know much about CN operations but it requires two 4,400 hp locomotives on the front and one 4,400 hp locomotive on the back to move one grain train over the Rockies and the Selkirks. CP uses AC4400s/ ES44ACs with the odd SD90.

    Over the past two decades, there has been a move to centralize grain loading to larger and larger grain elevators. Hence the disappearance of the prairie wooden grain elevator which has been replaced by the large concrete silos. Farmers now have to store the wheat on their farms in the grain bins and then truck the grain long distances to the elevators. This is doing a real number on the roads. A double-trailer grain truck carries a lot of weight!!

    It used to be that CN and CP would drop off small numbers of grain cars at every grain elevator. However, in the move to become more "efficient", that number has increased. A few years ago, it used to be that CN would drop off a minimum of 50 cars for loading. Now, they want to drop off a minimum of 100 cars.

    If you read the newspapers, or subscribe "Branchline", the Canadian Wheat Board and a group of farmers complained to the Canadian Transportation Agency about this increase in minimum cars. It is now before an arbitrator but may be going back to the Canadian Transportation Agency as it appears that CN is not willing to move on their position.

    This is a case where the wheat farmers need to band together and get political, get the provincial governments involved and make a big noise.

    The grain cars are marked CNWX and CPWX but are still owned by the Government of Canada with the Government of Saskatchewan (being repainted a nice green) and the Government of Alberta (painted blue) also owning a fleet of grain cars. Both CN and CP have a smaller fleet of grain cars, both of the "Canadian grain car" design and also of the standard covered hopper design.

    The Government of Canada recently signed contracts with both CN and CP for the repair and repainting of the grain car fleet over the next 5 years. About two years ago, the Harper government wanted to sell the grain car fleet. However, intense lobbying by the grain farmers stopped that idea. CN and CP wanted to buy the fleet and the grain farmers stepped in as they wanted to buy the fleet. In the end, the government decided to retain ownership and to start a refurbishment program. It was because of the Canadian grain car fleet that Canada was able to retain its lead as a major exporter of wheat. A very big mistake to sell the fleet!

    Since then, the government has signed several contracts with CN and CP to repair and repaint the fleet. Major work will be to weld some seams on the cars and to replace the bottom doors with a better door so that the grain doesn't leak out of the car. The government recently signed a contract with CP Rail for $20 million over 5 years to refurbish their fleet.

    The abolition of the Crows Nest rate (the "Crow") was supposed to have resolved the problem as "improved" freight rates would make the shipping of grain more competitive. Instead, the problem of supplying grain cars to the elevators continues to persist. The Canadian Wheat Board has used its clout over the past number of years to make sure that grain cars are supplied to the elevators. However, the clout of the CWG has been diminished in the past several years by grain farmers believing they can get better prices on their wheat by being outside the CWG, and by government attitudes towards the CWG. A most unfortunate situation as the prairie wheat farmer had power when they were organized into strong coops and wheat pools.

    With regards to the Hudson Bay route to Churchill, Hudson Bay Railway (a subsidiary of OmiTrax of Denver Colorado), connects with CN at The Pas, Manitoba and runs north to Churchill, Lynn Lake and Flin Flon. Since 1997, the line has been operated by HBRY with the tracks still being owned by CN. Major customers include Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting, Tolko Manitoba, Inco, Gardwine North, Stitcco Energy and the Canadian Wheat Board. HBRY also handles ores and concentrates, copper, zinc, logs, kraft paper, lumber, and petroleum products. It provides passenger service under a contract with VIA Rail Canada.

    The line shipped over 600,000 tons of wheat through the port this past season - the second highest in the history of the port. CN said that the Canadian grain car couldn't be used on the Hudsdon Bay route. It took HBR to prove otherwise. Unfortunately, because of the condition of the road (muskeg, flooding, etc), there are lots of derailments. The only drawback is that the port is only open for 4 - 5 months of the year. Otherwise, it makes clear economical sense to ship as much grain as possible through Churchill.

    It will be interesting to see how the grain car allocation problem unfolds.

    Bob M.
  7. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    A website you might be interested in. This deals with wheat sales before the changes of May 2000.
    Transport Canada; Policy

    "The size of the hopper car fleet varies based on the demand of the grain industry and consists in total of about 23,500 cars. The federal government owns about 13,000 cars and pays for 2,000 cars leased through the CWB. The Saskatchewan and Alberta governments each purchased 1,000 and the CWB owns 2,000 cars for a total of 19,000 cars. The railways provide all additional car requirements. "

    As to the condition of the grain cars, check this Transport Canada report done in September 2004
    Transport Canada; Policy; Rail

    And for the complete history of when the fleet was built, check out the bottom of the page on this Transport Canada report done in April 2002
    Transport Canada; Policy

    Bob M.
  8. ChadYelland

    ChadYelland Member

    Glad to hear theres some tonnage going to churchill, but its not from the CN trains loaded here unless there taking a very indirect route, loaded trains head west when they only have 70miles or so to go east to get to the churchill line. dispite the size of the trains, storage is still a huge problem and exspence, and your absolutely right about roads and road damage, anyone know the maintaince figures for a Mile of rail vs road for tonnage moved??
  9. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Among the red "Canada" cars I see, some have been patched from CPWX to CP.
  10. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Have the cars been patched out (ie very obvious that the CPWX was painted out) or are these cars some of the original CP-owned cars?

    If they've been patched out, then there might have been some horse-trading going on?

    The direction that the grain trains head (east or west) depends to a large extent to the contract being filled. From the information on the Transport Canada website, the end purchaser is responsible from shipping from the Canadian port (eg FOB - Free On Board Vancouver) if the grain has been bought through the Canadian Wheat Board. If bought from the grain company (like Cargill, Midland Archer Daniels, Richardsons), the seller usually assumes responsibility for delivery to the purchaser (CIF - Customs, Insurance, Freight - Tokyo).

    In years gone by, the purchasers were governments and usually preferred dealing government-to-government (ie the CWB). It still happens to be the case today where a large majority of the wheat shipments are still government-to-government. However, with the increase in the demand for other kinds of wheat (eg Durham? wheat for pasta), there has been an increase in sales of specialty wheats to the United States. And this has gotten the US farmers all upset. Which kind of offsets the complaints from the soybean and corn farmers in Ontario and Quebec about the huge subsidies that the US government pays to US farmers for their soybean and corn crops.

    We're getting a bit off topic here, but there's even politics in railways and commidity shipments.

    Bob M.
  11. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Very obvious. The spot where the WX would be is painted in a mismatched, and not nearly as weathered, color.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I recorded a recent episode of "Voyages" on the History International channel on the building of the CP. I finally got around to watching it a couple of nights ago. They mentioned in the program that when the CP was built and had all of the land available to sell to farmers that they actively recruited farmers from all over Europe and sold them land for farming sight unseen. Part of the requirements of the sale of the land was that the farmer had to ship his grain via the CP even though the lines owned by James Hill just over the border had lower rates. I don't know how true the story was since this is the first history I had seen on the CP.
  13. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Selling land to settlers was how the CPR managed to get built without any debt in the long run. They actively recruited settlers from Europe, transported them to the prairies, and even provided them with instruction as to the best farming procedures.

    Part of the deal with the Government of Canada was that the CPR would have a monopoly on transportation north of the 49th parallel (US - Canada border) for a period of time. In due course, the Government of Manitoba began to support other lines (notably the Canadian Northern).

    As to competition from James J. Hill, Hill was one of the original partners in the CPR syndicate. Or rather, the line in the US was the first line that was bought by the CPR syndicate (Stephen, Smith, Hill, Angus, et al). It was from ownership of this line that they got the idea of building the CPR.

    Bob M.
  14. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I've been away and with very limited internet acces for 3 months . I'm glad to see that this thread is still alive.
    A special thanks to Railwaybob for all that historical information.
    Shortly after my arrival in Canada I remember watching a rerun of "The National Dream " on CBC. It was around 1982 I think.

    "I'm not a Canadian citizen, I'm living in Québec" just reflects my true situation, I live in Montréal and have a Belgian passport.At least that statement made som of you laugh.

  15. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    If anyone is interested in a really good history of the politics of the CPR from the beginning up to the 1970s, a good read is "Lords of the Line". This will help you understand in more detail the people and personality aspects of this railway.

    Bob M.
  16. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    I've read that book. Very informative. Apartently Canadian Pacific gave the author unprecedented access to the companies historical files for the research into the book.
  17. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    on The National Dream: when it was first broadcast, my boss had a young son (under 5, I think). After 4 weeks of the show showing politicians arguing in parliament, explorers crossing endless plains and mountains, he asked, "Why do you call this the railway show?"
  18. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    The problem with "The National Dream" was that it focused on the politics of the situation. Like the Energizer Bunny, it kept on going on and going on and going on and going on about the debate in parliament for several weeks without showing anything about the construction of the Grand Trunk, the Intercolonial (which was going on around this time), and the short lines being built to the north of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the St Lawrence, the Maritime lines.

    After several weeks of this, everyone began to yawn.

    Bob M.
  19. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    I have the national dream on tape from about 15 years ago. While it is true that alot on the political debate slows the movie down one does have to remeber that these were the men that fought to keep the railway going. Imagine what would have happened if the CPR had collapsed without finishing the railway? Sir John A Macdonald's Tories would have be outsted from power, leaving no strong voice for confederation. And I would be living in another country right now, probably the United states. The movie follows the books very well and Pierre Burton Tended to write about the politics alot in both.
    The movie did have a few intresting snippets of footage, such as the prarie railway building when Van Horne takes over, the Riel Rebelion and the driving of the last spike: 'Missed' (I can't remeber who said that in the movie)
  20. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Thanks Bob! That was a very quick but interesting lesson.

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