November 2011




Newly formed West Central Road and Rail ((WCRR) part of Mobil Grain should provide "home" assignments for the 70 ton switchers

On September 22nd, Saskatchewan Highways and Infrastructure Minister Jim Reiter, along with representatives from CN, Mobil Grain, gathered Thursday in Eston, Saskatchewan, with officials West Central Road & Rail (WCRR) to mark the the company’s formal debut as the operator of a short line railroad.  WCRR says it “was formed in 1997 to prevent the certain abandonment of 300 miles of CN branch line that runs from Delilse west to the Alberta border. Initial efforts were concentrated towards the purchase of the rail network for the purpose of operating it as short line railway, thus our corporate name. When CN decided not to abandon the line in the summer of 2000 our focus changed from purchasing the rail line to grain gathering. The grain companies along our rail network had either closed or demolished all their elevators.”  WCRR’s producer car loading facilities located at Laporte, Eston, Lucky Lake, and Beechy, Saskatchewan.  (Railway Age).

 Big Sky Rail Now Operating Southwest of Saskatoon, Sask.

Highways and Infrastructure Minister Jim Reiter officially opened Big Sky Rail in August - Saskatchewan's 12th shortline railway. “The Government of Saskatchewan is proud to play a role in helping establish this latest addition to the provincial rail transportation network," Reiter said. "Shortline railways support economic development in rural Saskatchewan, give shippers another option to move their goods and help reduce truck traffic on our busy highways.

Big Sky Rail will receive a $5.6-million interest-free provincial government loan toward a portion of the purchase of 354 km of track from CN which stretches west to east from near Laporte to near Macrorie and from south to north from Beechy to Delisle. Big Sky Rail took over operations of these two segments of track from CN in early September. Formal purchase agreements and land title transfers will be finalized later this year for these two segments.

"This is all about working together to find the most effective way to move grain from southwestern Saskatchewan to export," CN Western Region Senior Vice-president Mike Cory said. "West Central Road & Rail and Big Sky Rail, with the support of the Government of Saskatchewan, have the local expertise to source the grain CN will move to markets across North America and around the world."

Big Sky Rail is a partnership that includes Mobil Grain Ltd., which has been hauling grain cars with locomotives on the track since Sept. 6; and West Central Road & Rail, which has five grain-loading facilities along the shortline, and will have an equity position in Big Sky Rail.

"The creation of Big Sky Rail has been a great team effort with CN, Mobil Grain, West Central Road & Rail, and the Government of Saskatchewan," Big Sky Rail President and Mobil Grain President Sheldon Affleck said. "A special thanks goes to CN for encouraging and promoting this shortline railroad. Mobil Grain will market and ship all crops and looks forward to serving farmers in the area."

"We believe this new shortline, under a competitive rate and service structure, will enhance our current operations and open doors to new business opportunities," West Central Road & Rail President and CEO Rob Lobdell said.  

The Government of Saskatchewan supports shortline rail through programs that include grants for feasibility studies and infrastructure, along with loans to purchase existing track.

Saskatchewan now has 12 shortlines and more than 2,200 km of provincially-regulated track. These provincial shortlines connect to about 6,400 kilometres of federally-regulated rail lines in Saskatchewan.

 West Central Road & Rail was formed in 1997 when local producers feared that CN was about to abandon the rail line. CN decided not to abandon the rail line in 2000 and the two organizations went into an agreement that would see West Central Road & Rail load unit trains that CN would spot at local producer sites. West Central Road & Rail operate four producer loading facilities in the communities of Beechy, Lucky Lake, Eston and Laporte. West Central Road & Rail confronted Mobil Grain (Last Mountain Railway) and informed them CN would grant Mobil Grain full trackage rights from Aylesbury, Saskatchewan to Delisle, Saskatchewan or over 200km of trackage rights. This means that Mobil Grain runs their units from Aylesbury and through Saskatoon Chappell yard across the CN mainline. September 6, 2011 saw West Central Road & Rail control of the rail and Mobil Grain gained leasing rights from WCR&R to run units along the line to spot the rail cars. 

Mobil Grain SD40-3 3147 and 6901 were photographed September 27th by Mark David Zuikoskey on the Big Sky Rail in the community of Eston, Saskatchewan. This is on the East - West Big Sky Rail line. The Government of Sask has been aggressive in developing shortlines for their hoppers, and therefore the yard was full of Saskatchewan painted grain hoppers.

At NRE-Dixmoor on October 3rd, Mike Garza caught freshly painted CN 2168 and Paterson Grain SD40-3 DLCX 6915, destined to western Canada. The Alstom-rebuild is former WC 6915, ex-GCFX 6915, nee-CN SD40 5212.

Andy Cassidy bagged SRY SW 900's 907 and 900 switching on the CN Line In New Westminster Yard, Mile 1.2, at the CN Lulu Island Industrial Spur in British Columbia.


Ontario Southern Railway finally took possession of their latest locomotive OSRX506, soon to be renumbered OSR 507. It is ex Tembec Pulp Mill109 in Kapuskasing Ontario and took about 6 months to make the trip after being held up due to repairs. Here we see it just after it arrived in Woodstock Ont. on Nov 11, 2011

On October 8th, Wayne D. Shaw clicked a pair of Quebec-Gatineau GP38’s with QGRY 2008 leading and working in the Huron Central Railway Sault Ste. Marie Yard.

Mike Robin clicked ONR GP40-2 2202 posing in the sunshine at the Cochrane Shop October 1st.

ONR 1809 wearing the new "White Chevron" paint scheme:


Ontario Northland announced it has been awarded a contract to refurbish 24 rail cars for Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT), the metropolitan transport agency located in Montreal. This $8.69 million dollar contract starts in November 2011.

"We are extremely pleased with being awarded the AMT refurbishment contract," stated Paul Goulet, President and CEO of Ontario Northland. "This is a new client for our remanufacturing division and builds on the strength of our reputation for outstanding quality of work." Ontario Northland's refurbishment capabilities span from the complete disassembly of cars, to rebuilding them from the frame up and providing full painting services. Ontario Northland has expertise in upgrading both electrical and mechanical systems, completing truck overhauls, and also offers interior design and layout services. Their 150,000 thousand square foot facility is equipped with 900 feet, elevated service track, overhead cranes, drop tables, floor jacks, synchronized high lift jacks, tool cribs, blacksmith shop, metal fabrication shop, machine shop, wash bay, two 125 foot paint shops, stores and document control areas, and a designated training facility. The Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) serves the Montreal area with commuter transit, currently operating five train lines, 51 stations, one metropolitan express bus line, 61 park-and-ride lots, 16 metropolitan terminals and 85.2 km of reserved lanes. Annual ridership on AMT's commuter trains is close to 16 million trips, which places it as the sixth largest public transportation company in North America. For further information, visit the AMT website at

On September 26th, CEFX GP20D 2006 arrived on the Southern Ontario Railway (SOR) in Hamilton and then during October, CEFX GP20D 2015 also arrived on the SOR, the fourth one to arrive.  CEFX 2006, had previously seen service in Houston, TX, Atlanta, GA, and on the CBNS in Nova Scotia, before being leased to SOR.

The National Research Council in Ottawa has put up their ex-CP S3 6593 for sale.


Quebec-Gatineau SD40-3 update:

Now working in Schefferville, QC.


GCFX 6057 to QGRY 6057 for the Labrador Iron Mines project.

WC 6900 to WLRS 6900 to QGRY 3325

WC 6905 to WLRS 6905 to QGRY 3326

WC 6906 to WLRS 6906 to QGRY 3327


Now working between Quebec City and Montreal, QC.


WC 6904 to QGRY 6904

WC 6908 to QGRY 6908

WC 6913 to QGRY 6913

WC 6920 to QGRY 6920

CEFX SD9043MACs 118 and 133 were in transit from CSX to Becancour QC in late October. We could not confirm destination but these are likely for the Cartier or the Arnaud Railway. Motive-power will be needed as the New Millenium Mine project starts up over the next few months.  Eight CEFX GP20D units were leased and arrived earlier this year, and were assigned switching duties on the Arnaud Railway. 

On beautiful Thanksgiving long weekend October 8th, Dominic Girard chased four CSX trains (Taschereau-Massena) in Huntingdon, QC.  A surprise was one of the newly leased CREX (ex-UP) Dash 8-40C’s in one of the lash-ups. Here are some of the locomotives:

Train 1: CSXT 5933 GE Dash 8-40B; CSXT 5946 GE Dash 8-40B

Train 2: CSXT 4708 EMD SD70MAC; CSXT 7384 GE Dash 8-40CW

Train 3: CSXT 4711 EMD SD70MAC

Train 4: CSXT 7772 GE Dash 8-40CW; CSXT 4599 EMD SD80MAC

CREX 8028 Dash 8-40C (Ex-UP)


Michel Daoust photographed Quebec North Shore & Labrador 4-6-2 # 702 after two months of fixing up and repaint for the display in front of the station at Sept Iles, QC. The locomotive was built as a Ontario Northland Railway #702, and was sold to QNS&L in the early diesel-era, Newly installed spotlights have been positioned around the locomotive as well.


Chris McMahon sent this article on a study for Commuter trains for Halifax, NS.

Montreal Maine & Atlantic Vignettes

On April 23, 2006, the power for the day’s Job #1 is a CDAC F40M-2 and two MMA C30-7’s. The units are seen moving through the yard in Millinocket, Maine early in the morning, with one of the few remaining modified ex-AMTRAK F40s on the system CDAC #461.  (Photo by C. Bellows)




© CRO November 2011