1951 June 9
Decision to Build the Canso Causeway
On this day, newspapers reported that the plan to build a bridge across the Strait of Canso had been abandoned, and "within a few weeks" tenders would be called to "fill in" the Strait. This was the decision to build the Canso Causeway.
1954 December 10
Canso Causeway Opened
On this day, the Canso Causeway, linking the Nova Scotia mainland to Cape Breton Island, is officially opened for regular traffic. It is 4,200 feet 1,280m long, and is the deepest causeway in the world.
1955 April 2
First Electric Transit Service to Dartmouth
The first day of regular operation of Route 11 of the electric trolley coach system across the MacDonald Bridge between Halifax and Dartmouth. In twenty years the population of Dartmouth nearly tripled, from 15,000 in 1951 to 50,000 in 1971. During the first month of operation, Route 11 carried 74,700 passengers; by August 1955 it was carrying passengers at the rate of more than one million a year. Nova Scotia Light & Power Company, which owned and operated the trolley coaches, paid an annual fee of $5000 to the Bridge Commission in lieu of paying tolls individually each time a trolley coach crossed the span.
This was not a railway. These trolley coaches ran on rubber tires. However, this company was the immediate successor to our most important electric railway, and is included here as epilogue.
1957 May 30
Last Steam Trains Halifax - Sydney
The last train powered by a steam locomotive from Sydney to Halifax was train #8, which arrived in Halifax at 7:35 am this day; locomotive 6007 Sydney to Truro and 6177 Truro to Halifax. The last steam powered train Halifax to Sydney was #7, which arrived in Sydney at 7:45 am this day.
1957 May 30
Last Westbound Steam Maritime Express
The last westbound trip, Halifax to Moncton, of the Canadian National Railway's Halifax - Montreal passenger train The Maritime Express was made on this day, powered by locomotive 6177, engineer C.W. Oulton and fireman R. Geldert, both of Moncton.
1957 July 27
Last Steam Train on Musquodoboit Railway
On this day, the last train pulled by a steam locomotive operated the round trip Dartmouth - Upper Musquodoboit. CNR locomotive 3409, engineer E.P. McLaughlin of Truro and fireman Reid Cameron of Halifax.
1957 July 30
First Diesel Passenger Train on Musquodoboit Railway
On this day, the first passenger train to be powered by a Diesel-electric locomotive operated the round trip Dartmouth - Upper Musquodoboit, 69 miles 111 km. On this line, freight trains had been powered by Diesels for about a year.
1961 June 27
Albion Rail Road, Last Remaining Section Scrapped
On this day "an Acadian Coal Company steam locomotive and steam crane went down from Stellarton to New Glasgow and dismantled the last remaining section of Nova Scotia's pioneer steam railway," wrote H.B. Jefferson in his paper Mount Rundell, Stellarton, and the Albion Railway of 1839, read before the Nova Scotia Historical Society on 9 November 1961. "The Albion Rail Road had been in operation for a total of one hundred and twenty-two years – the first 50 under its own name, the last 72 as part of the Acadia Coal transportation system in Pictou county."
1961 September 23
Maritime Coal, Railway & Power Company's Last Train
On this day, the last train operated on the round trip Maccan - River Hebert - Joggins, in Cumberland County, on the Maritime Coal, Railway & Power Company track. It was a mixed (freight and passenger) train. This railway track, 11.60 miles 18.68 km long, from the junction with the CNR main line at Maccan to the Joggins station, was officially abandoned soon after.
1961 November 17
Last S&L Steam Locomotives Retired
On this day, the Sydney & Louisburg Railway's last operational steam locomotives, numbers 88 and 90, were officially retired (meaning that their fires were drawn permanently, and they would never again be available for operation).
1961 December 31
Cornwallis Valley Railway Abandoned
On this day, the Dominion Atlantic Railway officially abandoned all of the Cornwallis Valley Railway, except 2.2 miles from Kentville to Steam Mill (which remained in operation until September 1993). The track abandoned included most of the Kingsport Subdivision, from Steam Mill to Centreville (2.55 miles 4.11 km), and from Centreville through Sheffield Mills, Canning, and Pereau to Kingsport (8.84 miles 14.23 km), and all of the Weston Subdivision from Centreville through Billtown, Lakeville, Woodville, and Somerset, to Weston (14.47 miles 23.30 km).
Cumberland Railway & Coal Co. Abandoned
The Cumberland Railway & Coal Co. officially abandoned 26.2 miles 42.2 km of track, its main line from Springhill through Southampton to Parrsboro. The track was dismantled in the summer of 1962.
1964 February 6
Last Extension of Electric Transit Service
On this day, trolley coach route 7 was extended three blocks north to provide direct service to the new Nova Scotia Trades and Technical Institute, later renamed the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology, on Leeds Street in Halifax. This was the last time any electric transit service was extended into previously-unserved territory anywhere in Nova Scotia. The actual length of the new 600-volt overhead was 2200 feet [670 metres] which comprised a double-track extension on Robie as far as Normandy, thence a one-way loop circling the block formed by Normandy Drive, Rosemead Avenue, Leeds Street and Robie Street. Previously, route 7 turned at the Highland Park loop which circled a small triangular piece of land bounded by Robie Street, Lady Hammond Road and Duffus Street. After this date there were minor alterations in electric transit routes for various reasons, but none of any consequence.
1969 December 31
End of Electric Transit Service
The final day of operation of electric trolley coaches in Nova Scotia. The next day, the Halifax transit system was taken over by the City, and a fleet of new diesel buses was put into service. The last trolley coach, number 243 driven by Bill Forbes, pulled into the Young Street terminal shed at 12:45am on New Year's Day. This was the last electrically-powered public transit vehicle to run in Nova Scotia.
This was not a railway. These trolley coaches ran on rubber tires. However, this company was the immediate successor to our most important electric railway, and is included here as epilogue.
1973 July 1
Cape Breton Steam Railway Opening
On this day, the Cape Breton Steam Railway's inaugural train pulled into the Victoria Junction station. Steam locomotive number 42 pulled three ex-Canadian National passenger cars, Miners' Museum, Ocean Deeps Colliery, and Fortress of Louisbourg. The CBSR owned no track; its trains ran on the Lingan Branch of the DEVCO Railway.
1974 November 16
The Whiskey Wreck at Ingramport
In the evening of this day, CNR freight train number 518, from Bridgewater to Rockingham, was wrecked at Ingramport. At the west end of the siding, mile 25.7 of the Chester Subdivision, an open switch derailed two diesel locomotives and seven cars. The cause was traced to children who had broken the switch lock and left the handle raised above the proper locked position. The vibration of the train caused the switch points to move far enough to catch the wheel flanges. The diesel units were numbers 1330 and 1327. The derailed cars included two box cars loaded with cases of distilled spirits in bottles. These had been loaded at the Bridgetown bottling plant, which was served by a spur from the CN main line; the Bridgetown bottler was the last customer (nearest to the end of the line) after the track to Port Wade had been abandoned. These two cars had travelled from Bridgetown over the CN track through Middleton, Springfield, New Germany, Bridgewater, Mahone Bay, and Chester, to the wreck site. The news spread quickly, that two carloads of whiskey had been wrecked at Ingramport. The wreck site was only a one-minute walk from Highway 3, and a crowd of onlookers gathered to view the proceedings, and to "case" the two boxcars full of liquor, with their mostly intact cargo. CN police kept these cars under continuous surveillance, but it is said that, through the night following the wreck, some of the unbroken bottles found their way to unauthorized destinations. The next day, CN retrieved some of the liquor, but most of it was dumped at the wreck site and buried by a bulldozer. The dumped cases were pushed into a hole dug for the purpose, and covered with earth – after the dozer driver, as instructed, ran the heavy machine back and forth over the dumped cases, to ensure that the bottles were crushed and the contents could not be salvaged by anyone. The CN track through Ingramport was abandoned in 1994, but, in 1997, the location of the wreck is easily found, and it could be that some future archaeologist will dig through those piles of crushed glass. Some say that a few bottles remained unbroken, despite the bulldozer's best efforts.
[The last revenue traffic on that siding was a boxcar loaded with flour for Snair's Bakery at Black Point, about 1992.]
1976 April 30
Railway Stations Closed
As of this day, CN train order offices at French Village, Chester Basin, Port Clyde, Tusket, New Germany, Bridgetown, and Caledonia were closed permanently.
1979 October 28
VIA Rail Takes Over The Atlantic
On this day, VIA began operating a new passenger train service between Halifax and Saint John, New Brunswick, shown in the railway timetable as trains 615, northbound from Halifax, and 616, southbound to Halifax. This was the same day that VIA Rail took over operation of the The Atlantic, a daily passenger train formerly operated by Canadian Pacific, running between Montreal and Saint John. Trains 615 and 616 were operated with RDCs (Rail Diesel Cars, often known as Budd cars). [Volume 37 Number 3, dated March 1998, of Branchline, the monthly newsletter of The Bytown Railway Society, Ottawa]
CNR Abandons Liverpool to Yarmouth Main Line
and Bridgewater to Bridgetown Branch
Canadian National Railway officially abandoned the former Halifax & South Western Railway's main line between Liverpool and Yarmouth. All track was abandoned, west of the switch for the spur to Steel & Engine Products manufacturing plant in downtown Liverpool. The stations along the abandoned track, westward from Liverpool (as given in a list published in 1915), were Hunt's Point, Port Mouton, Wilkins, Sable River, Lockeport, East Jordan, Jordan Falls, Shelburne, Sand Point, Birchtown, Gunning Cove, Roseway, Greenwood, Port Saxon, Port Clyde, Barrington, Barrington Passage, Atwood Brook, Shag Harbour, Woods Harbour, Upper Woods Harbour, Lower East Pubnico, D'Entremont, East Pubnico, Pubnico, Lower Argyle, Central Argyle, Argyle, Belleville, Tusket, Pleasant Lake, Ferry Road, Arcadia, and Yarmouth. Most of this track was at elevations less than 100 feet 30 metres above sea level, but Wilkins Station was at an elevation of 215.3 feet 65.6 metres (as measured to the top of the rail opposite the station order board), and the summit at mile 130.5 km 209.9 reached 337 feet 103 metres altitude. The last trains ran on this line west of Liverpool in the spring of 1982 – these were work trains carrying scrap metal (rails, tie plates, etc.) as the scrapping contractor worked his way eastward along the line.
[In April 1982, I saw one of these trains stopped on the main line at Port Mouton while the scrapper's trucks hauled scrap rails to the train from locations immediately west of Port Mouton station. ICS]
Also abandoned was all of the former Nova Scotia Central Railway's line northward, from the Bridgewater Junction switch 1.1 miles 1.8 km west of the Bridgewater station, (at the east end of the LaHave River bridge), to Middleton and Bridgetown. The stations along this line (as given in the 1915 list) were: Northfield, Riversdale, New Germany, Cherryfield, Springfield, Ridgeroad, Dalhousie, Albany, Alpena, Nictaux, Middleton (junction with the Dominion Atlantic railway), Upper Clarence, Elliott, Clarence, and Bridgetown. (This branch line track, beyond Bridgetown to Upper Granville, Belleisle, Granville Centre, Granville Ferry, Bath, Karsdale, and Porter, to Port Wade, had been abandoned many years earlier.)
[These station lists are excerpted from Altitudes in the Dominion of Canada, second edition, 31 July 1915, by James White, Assistant to Sir Clifford Sifton, Chairman of the Commission of Conservation, Ottawa.]
1981 November 15
VIA Rail Extends Halifax - Saint John Passenger Train to Fredericton
On this day, VIA extended its passenger train service Halifax - Moncton - Saint John, to run Halifax - Moncton - Saint John - Fredericton. These trains were operated with RDCs (Rail Diesel Cars, often known as Budd cars) and ran once a day each way. Between Halifax and Saint John they ran on CN track, and were shown in the CN timetable as trains 615 and 616. Between Saint John and Fredericton they ran on CP track, and were shown in the CP timetable as trains 157 and 158.
Halifax - Fredericton
"Ar" means Arrival Time
[CN Rail Atlantic Region Employees' Timetable No. 82, effective Sunday, 15 November 1981] [CP Rail Atlantic Region Employees' Timetable No. 13, effective Sunday, 15 November 1981]
[Volume 37 Number 3, dated March 1998, of Branchline, the monthly newsletter of The Bytown Railway Society, Ottawa]
15 November 1981 was the same day that VIA Rail cancelled The Atlantic, a daily passenger train running between Montreal and Saint John. When The Atlantic was restored in 1985, trains 157 and 158 were cancelled, but trains 615 and 616 continued to operate between Halifax and Saint John.
1990 January 15
VIA Rail Eliminates Yarmouth and Sydney Trains
The last VIA Rail passenger trains ran this day, along the Halifax to Yarmouth route and along the Halifax to Sydney route. The Halifax - Sydney route ran all the way on track owned and maintained by CNR; from Halifax through Rockingham, Bedford, Windsor Junction, Truro, Stellarton, New Glasgow, Antigonish, Aulds Cove, across the Canso Causeway to Port Hastings, Port Hawkesbury, Orangedale, Iona, Little Bras d'Or, Florence, Sydney Mines, North Sydney and Sydney River to Sydney. The Halifax - Yarmouth route ran from Yarmouth through Digby, Middleton, Kentville, Wolfville, and Hantsport to Windsor on track owned and maintained by the Dominion Atlantic Railway; from Windsor through Ellershouse, Mount Uniacke, and Beaverbank to Windsor Junction on track (known as the Windsor Branch) owned by Canadian Government Railways but leased and maintained by the DAR; and from Windsor Junction through Bedford and Armdale to the Halifax station on track owned and maintained by Canadian National Railway.
1990 March 27
Dominion Atlantic Railway Abandons Kentville to Yarmouth Main Line Track
On this day, the Dominion Atlantic Railway officially abandoned all its track west of Coldbrook, Kings County. All of the Yarmouth Subdivision was abandoned. The Kentville Subdivision between mile 0.0 at Kentville and mile 4.6 at Coldbrook was retained; all of the Kentville Subdivision west of mile 4.6 was abandoned. The abandoned track was dismantled during the summer of 1990. The DAR Employees' Timetable which came into effect on 27 September 1936, listed the stations along the Kentville Subdivision, westward from Coldbrook, as follows: Coldbrook, Cambridge, Waterville, Berwick, Aylesford, Auburn, Kingston, Wilmot, Middleton, Brickton, Lawrencetown, Paradise, Bridgetown, Tupperville, Round Hill, Mochelle, and Annapolis Royal. The stations along the Yarmouth Subdivision were: from Annapolis Royal to Upper Clements, Clementsport, Deep Brook, Bear River, Imbertville, Smith's Cove, Digby, Acaciaville, Bloomfield, North Range, Plympton, Sissiboo Falls, Weymouth, Belliveau, Church Point, Little Brook, Saulnierville, Meteghan, Maxwelton, Hectanooga, Norwood, Lake Annis, Brazil Lake, Ohio, Hebron, Yarmouth, and Evangeline Wharf.
1991 September 18, Wednesday
Last Train From Mahone Bay
Shortly after 8am on this day, the last train departed from the town of Mahone Bay, in Lunenburg County. The last train was long and heavy, with 64 cars, and van [caboose] CN 79822, powered by six diesel locomotives 1751, 1764, 1760, 1754, 1758, and 1786 (in that order, with 1751 farthest east). Even with six engines, the train was seriously underpowered, as was shown when it stalled on a steep uphill grade Monday morning at Maitland, and on another uphill grade with two sharp curves Tuesday afternoon at Blockhouse. The farthest west it had gone was the then end of track, about half a kilometre west of the highway 3 crossing at Oak Hill (about one km west of Blysteiner Lake), which was reached on Sunday about noon. The driver was Bill Currie. Wednesday was a fine morning, with strong, low early morning sunlight. Video tape exists showing the switching moves to assemble the train in the Mahone Bay yard prior to final departure, and the whole train passing the video camera at three locations: departing Mahone Bay yard; at Oakland Lake, cresting the stiff grade up from the Mush-a-Mush River bridge; and crossing the Martins River bridge.
1993 September 16
Last Train from Kentville
On this day, the last train departed Kentville about 1:20pm. The Dominion Atlantic Railway had operated trains through Kentville since 1 October 1894. The DAR's head office and main shops were located at Kentville. In October 1993, the DAR abandoned the Kentville yard trackage, and the remaining main line west of New Minas to Coldbrook. The remaining track of the Cornwallis Valley Railway (CVR) northward from Kentville to Steam Mill was also abandoned at this time.
1994 August 22
Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway
The Canadian Labour Relations Board ruled that the Cape Breton & Central Nova
Scotia Railway is a provincially incorporated enterprise and not a federal undertaking. In
a defeat for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, the Board declared the
subsidiary of publicly-traded RailTex Inc. of San Antonio, Texas, is not bound by federal
successor rights provisions, which would have compelled it to recognize collective
agreements of Canadian National Railway Company, the former owner of the line, for
affected employees. CN sold the 400km railway line between Sydney and Truro to RailTex
last October for $20,000,000. The CB&CNSR is non-union and employs about 50 people. CN
employed 115 unionized workers on the line before the sale. A union spokesman said the
Board's ruling will be appealed, but Mark Westerfield, CB&CNSR's general manager, said
Friday [19 August] the ruling appears to offer few avenues for appeal and will help smooth
the way for conversion to shortline operation of more railway lines in Canada, except in
Ontario and British Columbia. Those two provinces have enacted legislation requiring
provincially incorporated enterprises to honour existing collective agreements when
acquired assets are moved from federal to provincial jurisdiction.
[The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 22 August 1994]
220,000 Passengers Annually
More than 220,000 people travel each year on the passenger trains along the Halifax
to Montreal main line railway, according to VIA Rail President Terry Ivany.
[The Chronicle-Herald, 23 November 1994]
1995 March 27, Monday
National Railway Strike Ends
The federal government passed legislation yesterday sending Canada's railway workers back to their jobs. Company and union officials expected that some trains would run Monday, today, and that full service would be restored by Tuesday morning. The back-to-work law, passed after a weekend sitting of the House of Commons and the Senate, ordered all 30,000 union members to be available for work by 5:30 am EST this day, 12 hours after it received royal assent, regardless of whether they were locked out or were on strike. Restarting a railway after a week-long shutdown is not a simple chore. Track repair crews must, by law, inspect every kilometre of track to make sure there were no washouts or landslides and no serious frost heaving, to check all crossing warning signals, and perform other essential inspection and maintenance tasks that must be completed before trains could be operated. The first rotating strike began on 8 March by CP Rail track maintenance workers. CP Rail continued to operate, but when CN Rail and VIA Rail employees walked out on 18 March, the railways shut down and the government decided to intervene.
The Port of Halifax emerged from the railway shutdown relatively unscathed financially. "We ended up with the port overall having a gain of $2,550,000," said Claude Ball, senior vice-president of the Halifax Port Corporation. Halifax lost container business from two ships diverted to other ports, but "we worked seven ships that were diverted here from Montreal just before the railway strike hit us. The net result is positive," Mr. Ball said. "We were fortunate. Had the rail strike dragged on a few more days it would have been a different story."
While CN's container shipments were back to normal by Tuesday, passenger services in
the Maritimes were restarted more slowly. The Ocean, VIA's only passenger train in Nova
Scotia and New Brunswick, resumed normal operation on Wednesday. Passengers who were
booked on trains which were cancelled during the strike were given refunds, or exchanged
their tickets for later dates, or were offered bus or air seats to their destination with
no extra money being paid by the customer. "To stimulate traffic and encourage people
to come back and try the train again we are immediately launching a welcome-back discount
– up to 50% off on all seats, including sleeping car and first-class
accommodations," Malcolm Andrews, a communications officer with VIA Rail in Montreal,
said on Monday. No advance booking was required, but tickets had to be purchased by 23
April at the latest for travel on or before 31 May, Mr. Andrews said.
[Excerpted from The Globe and Mail, 27 March 1995, and
The Chronicle-Herald, 28 March 1995]
1996 April 30
Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway
Making Money in the Railroad Business
The Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, in Nova Scotia, is a 394 kilometre railway line which was purchased by RailTex from CN in October of 1993.
Ottawa, Tuesday, April 30, 1996 – The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, to which was referred Bill C-14, to continue the National Transportation Agency as the Canadian Transportation Agency, to consolidate and revise the National Transportation Act, 1987 and the Railway Act and to amend or repeal other Acts as a consequence, met this day, at 4:30 p.m., to give consideration to the bill. The following is part of the transcript of this proceeding.
The Chair: We will now hear from Mr. Bruce Flohr, Chief Executive Officer of Rail-Tex.
Please proceed, Mr. Flohr.
Mr. Bruce M. Flohr, Chief Executive Officer, Rail-Tex:
I last spoke to your committee in 1992 before the Canadian National rail line in Nova Scotia was sold. This committee then, under the chairmanship of Senator Finlay MacDonald, was looking carefully at that whole transaction. We have come a long way since the last time I appeared before this committee.
We very much support Bill C-14. From our standpoint, we are focusing more on how to save rail service in rural Canada.
Today, Rail-Tex is the leading short-line railroad company in North America. Our company now operates 25 railroads, covering 3,475 miles of track in 20 states, two Canadian provinces, and Mexico. Our 1995 revenues were $108 million U.S., with an after-tax profit of $8.3 million. We have assets of $205 million U.S. Our company, over the last five years, has had a 41 per cent per year compound annual growth rate in revenues.
We are making money in the railroad business. Our Goderich and Exeter railway in Ontario is a 70-mile line purchased from Canadian National in 1992. In Nova Scotia, we operate a 245-mile line, the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, which was purchased from CN in October of 1993. Most recently, we purchased the rail assets of the Central Vermont Railway, a former CN line, running southward 326 miles from East Alburg, Vermont, on the Canadian border, south of Montreal down to New London, Connecticut.
Combined, we have over 650 employees. Three of our 25 railroads have labour unions representing the employees.
Our financial information is on file with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission because our company's stock is traded on NASDAQ [National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, in the United States]. In fact, The Globe and Mail carries the listing of Rail-Tex stock every day, and I checked that this morning.
In the material I have provided is a brochure that tells a little bit about all 25 of our existing railroads.
As I mentioned earlier, we have purchased three lines from Canadian National. All three have been arm's-length transactions in which we bid to buy the line. Each bid included a purchase price and a per-car fee, or the amount of money that Canadian National pays back to us to cover our costs of bringing the car from the shipper down to the main line of Canadian National.
Canadian National received 100 per cent cash payment for each acquisition, and Canadian National does not guarantee any of our debt. Our debt is with the National Bank of Canada for our Canadian lines. We do not have any minimum revenue guarantees with CN, nor with any of our other railroads. There are no federal or provincial loan guarantees, no tax abatements, and no government subsidy payments on any of our Canadian lines. We like doing business in Canada.
I am deeply concerned that many interested parties, especially shippers, do not understand the real reasons large railroads in North America are selling off their light density branch lines. The ability to sell those lines is another big part of this legislation.
This really reflects the same process that has been ongoing in the North American airline industry for years. The large airlines are turning over the service in the smaller communities to regional airlines or commuter airlines which can operate at lower costs with smaller-sized planes while still providing service to rural parts of Canada and the United States.
The big railroads are selling off their branch lines to downsize for profitability. There is a reduction in wage costs and wage rates, but the biggest change is the improvement in work rule efficiencies because the small railroads do not have the same union craft lines. For a big railroad like CN, a locomotive engineer cannot even wash the windshield on his locomotive. That is another employee's job, a person who belongs to a different labour union. Having no work rule craft line distinctions produces great cost savings by reducing the number of employees working on a rail line.
As an example, on our Cape Breton railroad, 47 employees today are handling 20 per cent more business then when CN operated the line with 110 people. When we acquired the Central Vermont from Canadian National, there were 161 employees. Today, we are operating the same line with 95 employees.
The big railroads also sell off so they can get a higher return on their invested dollar, as was asked of Paul Tellier in the last presentation. They can improve their asset utilization, and they get better service from the little short line. That is all we have to sell.
On our Goderich railroad, Canadian National was going back into Stratford three times a week. The big shipper on that line is Sifto Salt from their big salt mine in Goderich. We are now going five or six days a week, compared with CN's three trips per week.
We have improved car supply. Rail-Tex has 3,480 cars today. Many of those are brought to Canada to haul grain. I will tell that story later.
We provide better management supervision of the activities. We certainly caused the line to stay alive rather than being abandoned. We actually generate more business. The big railroads, not just CN or CP but all the big railroads in North America today, are selling their traffic under the 80/20 rule where 80 per cent of the business comes from 20 per cent of the customers. They pay real close attention to the Ford Motor companies of the world but the little shipper does not even get a telephone call any more. That is where we get our business.
For the first three months of this year, our business is up over 8 per cent over last year, and the big railroads' business for the first three months is actually down 3.2 per cent. That is how hard we work at bringing shipments back to rail.
We also focus on the short haul. We won a Golden Freight Car award back in 1982 for a 14-mile haul of steel from a shipper to a receiver. It took 35 trucks a day off the highway.
On our Goderich railway, we came in and charged the shippers down around Centralia – the small elevators in that area – a half a cent a bushel less than the trucker was charging. For each shipping season, generally around August and September, we have taken 900 trucks off the highway going through downtown Goderich down to the grain elevator during their peak tourist season. The grain elevator has increased its rail car unloading from a two-car spot to a 25-car spot.
We are taking wood chip cars and wood rack cars to Nova Scotia. We were astounded in Nova Scotia that the two paper plants were not bringing any wood fibre in by rail. It was all coming by truck. We are now hauling pulp wood and wood chip into those paper plants by rail. We got the trucks off the highway. We can beat the trucks, even at short haul.
What do the shippers think about this? In 1989, the Interstate Commerce Commission in the United States did a survey of shippers that had been on a large railroad. The large railroad sold the line to companies like ours. What did the shippers say? Of the 382 responses, only 5 per cent reported worse service and 52 per cent reported improved service. As far as freight rates are concerned, 12 per cent reported higher rates and 20 per cent saw lower rates. The large shippers saw very little change, but small shippers saw significant improvement.
Many people do not realize there is a death spiral to a branch line. If a big railroad does not want to continue service to rural areas in Canada or the United States, it will cut back on track maintenance and the speed of the trains. Then it will cut back from daily service to weekly service. It will not supply the railroad cars. It will literally cause the branch line to die. Companies such as ourselves want to get in fast enough, before all the business is driven off to truck, so that we have a chance of making it.
We tried to buy a rail line in Ontario for over four years. It runs from Stratford up to Owen Sound. It was during the time the NDP was in power when there was successor rights legislation in Ontario. This meant that we would have had to take all the existing CN rail unions. We worked very diligently to accommodate rail labour in this case. We could not come to an agreement, and all that track has now been torn up. We would have continued to operate approximately 150 miles north of Stratford and then take the rest of the rail and build into Kincardine where the Bruce energy centre is located. An active industrial activity in that area will take the waste heat from the Bruce energy centre to do everything from processing alfalfa to processing canola beans. They are growing tomatoes in hothouses. They could have used rail service, and it is all gone because of the issue of successor rights.
I mentioned earlier our Cape Breton-Central Nova Scotia railway and how the employees there went from 110 to 47. Of the 47, 45 are former Canadian National employees who were all working for labour unions. I include in my testimony a publication with interviews from the employees of that railroad, all former Canadian National employees, talking about how wonderful it is working for a new company. One of them is the former local chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the person who drives the train. He talks about how he really likes his new job. He gets to go down off the locomotive and do line switches. He even make sales calls. We give all of our employees business cards. He likes the variety of the job. I thought if there was one person whose work habits would be hard to change, it would be the locomotive engineer. They sit in the nice, warm, dry seat of the locomotive all the time. However, this gentleman loves to do other things. He also says that he does not need a guaranteed job provision in his labour contract when he sees the new owners trying to bring more business back to rail. That is his guarantee of a job. He sees our traffic growing rather than shrinking.
This same story was told in the November 1995 publication of the Canadian Reader's Digest. I did not bring a reprint with me, but I will supply a copy of that reprint to the committee because it relates to outsiders talking to our employees and, I think, getting a very impartial opinion of how things work.
The problem that we faced in the past and that the legislation seeks to correct is the length of time for the approval process. When we signed the agreement with CN to buy the Goderich railroad, it took us nineteen months, over a year and a half, from when we signed the agreement until we finally received approval. First, we needed federal approval; then we needed provincial approval. With respect to the Nova Scotia line, the same thing happened, but we cut the process down to twelve months.
This legislation eliminates federal involvement in the sale of a rail line. We definitely support that part of the legislation because it is not fair for the shippers to be in limbo for a long period.
Although the Nova Scotia line took twelve months to finalize, we have been in the court system in Canada for over two years, first before the labour board and then through the court of appeal. It was only three months ago that we finally won in the Supreme Court. We did not have to take back the former union structure. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Ways fought that.
There still is successor rights legislation provincially in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. There was successor rights legislation in Ontario, but it was recently removed. However, this legislation does not address the issue of successor rights for rail lines on which VIA operates or rail lines which cross provincial boundaries.
Especially in the prairie provinces, the natural layout of those rail lines crosses provincial boundaries, and we will not be able to acquire some of those lines as long as legislation mandates successor rights on federal undertakings which cross provincial boundaries. We are only buying rail lines within a provincial boundary.
We are not anti-union. I mentioned that we have three railroads where the employees have chosen to unionize, and one of them is in Goderich. However, we are an anti-craft line because we believe the person who runs the train can also wash the windshield.
We are disappointed that the legislation does not go into successor rights. I was one of the stakeholders that helped write the legislation, and this was an area where we did not prevail.
I will be happy to answer questions on captive shippers, but I think you had a good dialogue with Paul Tellier [Chairman of Canadian National] on that issue.
There are two other issues I do wish to talk about. One is with respect to testimony before the House of Commons committee.
The shippers said they do not like the provision that a short-line railroad only outlets to a single, large railroad, and there should be access rights or trackage rights to go to another large railroad. If CN were to sell a line to us, we would have the right to operate over the CN and eventually to connect with the CP. The legislation does not permit this, and I totally oppose anything that would affect this, even though the shippers have been pushing for it.
Of our 25 railroads, only ten outlet to a single carrier, two of those being our largest. We willingly negotiated the agreement. We are in partnership with the big railroad. They want the traffic, but they want it delivered to them more efficiently than they could bring it down to the main line system. We have an excellent relationship with CN. They do not dominate what we are doing.
The concerns of the shippers simply are not justified, and I ask you to talk to the shippers on our rail lines to determine if they feel that CN is dominating us in any way. It simply does not happen.
We will willingly buy more lines that only outlet to one large railroad. In fact, in the United States, the United Transportation Union is trying to get similar running rights legislation passed. The UTU is supporting this because they know that if it ever were enacted, the big railroads would stop selling their branch lines to avoid giving up that long haul traffic to another large carrier. The UTU is doing this to stop the sale of branch lines, which really means allowing branch lines to go through this death spiral.
I believe this legislation goes a long way to continuing to preserve rail service to rural Canada. It is similar to the situation in the United States. The provincial laws provide protection on how they want to treat the buy-sell of a railroad, but they do not go far enough to addressing the successorship rights. At some time, Canada must address that issue.
I will be happy to answer any questions.
The Chair: Mr. Flohr, what do you see as the total market potential for short lines in Canada?
Mr. Flohr: Right now, we see about 10,000 miles of light density branch line. In fact, I give talks to many shipper groups here in Canada. I will lay a Canadian $20 bill on the podium.
The Chair: We want an American.
Mr. Flohr: It is worth more, yes. I will bet them the $20 bill that if their factory is now served by a one-train-per-day railroad, that within the next five years, they will be served by a short-line railroad company, because that is what is happening all over North America.
The big railroads do best by putting 100 cars behind four locomotives over a long haul. The little guy does best by bringing that traffic down to the main line. I foresee, in Canada, that the two main-line railroad systems will ultimately be owned by CN and CP while everything else will go to small railroad operators, companies us or like Tom Payne and the Central Western.
Senator Atkins: I sat through the hearings on the Truro to Sydney line. One of the major questions then was maintenance. When you talk about reducing the number of employees from more than 100 down to 42, it is surprising to me that you are able to continue the level of maintenance expressed throughout those discussions. Is the standard as high if not higher?
Mr. Flohr: We believe the standard is as high and, in some cases, actually higher than before. We made big savings in situations like this: A train crew would go on duty at Sydney and drive the train down to Havre Boucher, roughly 120 miles. They would get off the train, rest, and then, the next day, take another train back east into Sydney. They worked for about four and a half hours but were paid the equivalent of ten hours' pay.
Now we run the train from Sydney all the way down to Stellarton with one crew, about 200 miles. They are being paid about nine hours' pay. They do more work for the same amount of pay. They get rest at Stellarton and go back to Sydney after their rest. We have literally cut the train crew costs in half. We pay them for eight to nine hours' work, and they actually work those eight to nine hours.
In the track maintenance area, we are using some outside contractors to do heavy repair work. They will come in and change out a large number of ties. However, Canadian National left that railroad in very good condition. We are now doing just continual maintenance of the line.
Senator Atkins: Have you reduced the number of people working on the line?
Mr. Flohr: No. The net result is that we have not reduced the number of people working on the line. We simply changed the organization of how they do the work. We actually have more people working on locomotives right now than CN had when they were operating the line.
Senator Atkins: If this legislation goes through, it is a big opportunity for you to increase the number of short lines in this country.
Mr. Flohr: Let us just say it provides an easier opportunity. We acquired lines under the existing legislation, and it did work. We were very patient for the 19 months and 12 months. This will simplify the process. We remain interested, but there is a lot of agony that goes on with both the federal hearings and the provincial hearings. I think that agony is unnecessary in this particular case. This will simplify the process immensely.
Senator Atkins: The notion exists that CN is responsible to its board of directors and its shareholders. CN will be selling off more of its rail lines.
Mr. Flohr: I agree, yes.
Senator Atkins: Is that a good thing?
Mr. Flohr: Yes, and we see a real opportunity for us here. We want to buy more rail lines here in Canada.
Senator Atkins: Do the shippers see that as an opportunity for them? I know it turned out to be that way in the Truro-Sydney line, but what about these western lines?
Mr. Flohr: We do not agree with some of the things Canadian Pacific has said about their prairie lines. CP is publicly stating that they would prefer to move all the grain to large, very efficient elevators already existing on the main line of Canadian Pacific. Then they can tear up the rail lines going out to the smaller elevators.
We would rather see the smaller elevators exist so that the farmer can bring the grain in from his harvesting machine, have a place to dump it quickly close by, and then we can move the grain from those small elevators, four or six cars at a time, down to the big elevator. It will sit in the big elevator for six to nine months until it is sold into the world market-place.
In Goderich now, for a half-cent less per bushel than the truckers charge, we will haul it down to the big elevators. That has become very popular with the farmers in Goderich. We are doing the same thing in the state of Kansas. Canadian Pacific is missing an opportunity. It will be fighting a lot of opposition from the farmers. It would be much better for them to sell these grain branch lines to companies like ourselves and let us haul it down to the big elevator with just shuttle trains moving back and forth.
We bring a number of our covered hopper cars here. Last year we brought over 60 up to Goderich just for that two-month period in August and September, shuttling the grain from places like Centralia into Goderich. As soon as that movement was over, we took the same covered hopper cars and moved them to Michigan to haul edible beans from small, rural elevators down to the big elevators. It is the same sort of concept. That is the one area where we do not agree with Canadian Pacific on their abandonment policy in the prairie provinces.
Senator Atkins: Do you agree with CN that allowing market forces to prevail will be in the best interests of both CN and the shippers?
Mr. Flohr: We believe that is the case. I do not believe that there are truly captive shippers, as much as I enjoyed your eloquent comments on that.
Nova Scotia Power has two power plants on our line in Nova Scotia. All of their heat comes from coal which is currently being mined by Devco in Sydney. Now that Nova Scotia Power is privatized, they are really working on Devco to drive down the price of the coal, for reasons everyone here will know.
Nova Scotia Power has been out in the world market looking to buy coal offshore to bring into Nova Scotia to power those power plants. It does look like they are now captive to coal and rail with us, but three years from now they might start buying coal from Poland or Australia. We bought 140 rail cars to serve the coal movements for Nova Scotia Power, and they are not at all captive to us because they could start buying coal offshore.
In the case of grain and world market competition, if rail does not keep their price down to make the customer competitive, they will not ship into the world marketplace.
With our railroad, the old Central Vermont, we are now working hard to bring more chemicals from the Montreal area down into New England, chemicals which had been coming from the Houston, Texas, Gulf Coast area. Now, with NAFTA in place, the chemical producers in Montreal are very price-competitive. There is more chemical movement from Canadian manufacturers going into New England than there is coming from Houston. When the chemical shippers claim they are captive to rail, overall, yes, they probably are, but you can change that source from Houston up to Montreal. One railroad will lose and another railroad will win. That is the marketplace functioning the way it is intended to function.
Senator Atkins: Does this legislation, in your view, create more abandoned lines?
Mr. Flohr: No. This legislation will actually save lines from being abandoned because it creates an easier process for companies like us to come in. It also creates a process that, if a local community or a province wants to buy the line, there is a mechanism in place that would allow various parties to bid on buying the line. Yes, there are some things that I would like to see a little different, but it is not really worth the argument. The legislation is drafted in such a way that the structure of potential branch line sales is adequate and protects all parties.
Senator Spivak: I am particularly interested in the western situation. I am delighted to hear your comments because, in many areas, the cost of trucking is not just the cost of shipping but also the cost of the roads. The taxpayers are bearing the costs of roads which were never designed to carry that kind of truck traffic. There are also safety issues involved.
You mentioned the difficulties in the western provinces. Will there be enough time for you to get in there and get those lines before they are torn up? Why are they tearing up lines? If you have lines now in Owen Sound, you could get in there at a later date. I do not understand that. What is required to give you that time line?
I understand succession rights. I think it would be very beneficial for western grain farmers to have the option, aside from hauling everything 100 miles, of using the smaller elevators. That makes so much sense. I guess that is why it will never happen.
Mr. Flohr: A few more lines may need to be physically torn up before reality sets in. We have had several meetings with the Rural Municipal League in Saskatchewan. In fact, at their fall 1995 semi-annual convention, we were given two hours on their agenda to make a presentation about how Saskatchewan will need to eliminate successorship rights, at least in railroads. If they want to do it in other industries, fine.
We even proposed in Ontario that at least the very small operations should be carved out, those rail lines affecting less than 50 employees. There was much talk about how their highways would be torn apart if more grain trucks operate there. Reality will not set in until several lines are physically torn up.
Senator Spivak: Have you been to Manitoba?
Mr. Flohr: There is no problem in Manitoba. Canadian National or Canadian Pacific has not put any lines on sale yet.
Senator Spivak: Will you aggressively get into that area?
Mr. Flohr: Yes, we will. We are working in Alberta. I personally have been to Edmonton several times. I met with the vice-president, western region, for Canadian National. They are looking at several of the lines in Alberta and Manitoba. There is still the problem, if you look at a railroad map, that many of those lines run more east and west and cross provincial boundaries. There is still a problem of successorship rights on lines which cross provincial boundaries.
Senator Spivak: Regarding offshore coal, you must remember that we need to keep jobs in our economy. If we cannot ship grain from our western provinces, our economy is devastated. We cannot hold that option as a matter of public policy and public interest.
Senator Adams: According to these figures, where CN had 160 employees, you reduced it down to 92. You mentioned that your employees are happy and are not unionized. A few years ago, Mr. Tellier was here and talked about union regulations that would only allow engineers to drive locomotives for about eight hours per day. Between Montreal and Ottawa, although it is only a four-hour drive, they would get eight hours' pay.
Short lines do not have great distances to run. You mentioned some engineers get eight hours, some get ten hours. Do you pay them overtime, or is it straight hours?
Mr. Flohr: We pay by the hour. After 40 hours in any one week, then we pay them overtime. Sometimes they take the train over the territory in five or six hours, and we pay them that amount. However, we guarantee 40 hours a week in a five-day work week. Anything worked on a sixth day or anything worked over 40 hours is overtime.
Senator Adams: According to our figures, an engineer makes about $80,000 per year.
Mr. Flohr: That is correct.
Senator Adams: Your employees are now happier. Do they have any guarantee for retirement? How does that system work?
Mr. Flohr: The retirement system is the existing Canadian retirement system. There is nothing special on that. Our people do receive profit-sharing, which is approximately 15 per cent of their base wage.
Senator Adams: Mr. Payne was here last week and talked about buying an abandoned railway line for about $30,000 per mile. Is that true?
Mr. Flohr: If it is a line in very poor condition with light rail – that is small, cross-section rail – the price will be as low as $15,000 per mile. If it has fairly heavy rail and is in good condition, it is about $30,000 Canadian per mile.
Senator Adams: Do you have a problem with that sort of price? Are you still interested in buying more short lines?
Mr. Flohr: No, we have no problem buying at a price like that. The big problem we have, first, is to find enough shippers on the line who will continue to use the line. After we find that there are enough good shippers, then we will go to look at the condition of the rail and the bridges and figure out a purchase price. We have no problem with that as a selling price of railroads.
Senator Adams: You do not have long-distance rail. If you receive a large, bulk order that you cannot cover, do you have some kind of agreement with CN or CP for an at-cost rate for transport by CN?
Mr. Flohr: A shipper could approach us about wanting to make a movement originating on our railroad. In Nova Scotia, it might actually move 240 miles. Then it would go onto CN at Truro and be hauled all the way out to western Canada. CN and ourselves and the shipper will agree that the tariff will be, for example, $4,000. That is what the shipper sees, and the shipper will get its bill from Canadian National. Canadian National then turns around and pays us perhaps $500 for bringing the car from the factory down to the interchange point at Truro. That is a separate agreement between CN and ourselves.
In our agreements with them, we have a standard division of revenue for single-car movements, things that do not happen very often. If there are big movements, such as from Michelin Tire, Scott Paper, and so on, in Nova Scotia, we have special divisions of revenue, especially if we supply the railroad car or if Canadian National supplies the railroad car, but it is a sharing of revenue.
Senator Adams: You are an American company. Because of conflict of interest, you do not have to answer if you do not wish to. What is your percentage of shareholders between Canadian and Americans?
Mr. Flohr: I do not know. That is the easy answer. I do know that some of our employees here in Canada own stock in Rail-Tex and it is listed in The Globe and Mail, but as far as the number of Canadians, we do not even keep track of that.
The Chair: Do you have any problems with liability insurance?
Mr. Flohr: It is expensive, but we can buy liability insurance. In fact, today we are carrying $50 million per occurrence, and this is primarily for something like a major train wreck where you might be handling chemicals and you might have to evacuate a town. Our self-retention is $250,000. We were down as low as $50,000 but we have now moved it up as the company has become larger. We have no problem buying liability insurance.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation.
1998 January 8, Thursday
The Ocean Passenger Train Cancelled Due To Ice Storm
Beginning on this day, VIA Rail cancelled all passenger trains originating or terminating in Montreal, including all trains west from Halifax and east from Toronto, because of debris on the tracks such as fallen trees and live power lines, and track signal failures and loss of trackside radio links with the Montreal dispatchers' office due to power failures and downed communications lines. Many track switches were frozen deep in hard ice, which in places was up to the railheads. Also, there were many highway crossing warning signals that were not operating due to local power failures. This was a result of the extensive ice storm that swept over eastern Ontario, southern Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on 6-10 January 1998.
The westbound Ocean which departed Halifax on Wednesday, January 7th, was halted at Aston Junction, Quebec, by downed wires and trees – passengers were taken by bus to Montreal and days later the train remained where it stopped. The following westbound Ocean, which departed Halifax on Thursday, January 8th, was terminated in Moncton, New Brunswick. Departures from Halifax scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, were cancelled.
The eastbound Ocean, VIA's train to Halifax, scheduled to depart Montreal on Thursday, January 8th, "remained in the bowels of Montreal's Central Station and became a 'bed and breakfast' operation." The Ocean was cancelled for departures from Montreal on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with Monday the 12th being the first departure of the reinstated schedule.
The Ocean resumed operation with the westbound and eastbound departures on Monday, 12 January, but part of the regular route was still out of operation. The regular route eastbound was to depart the Montreal Station, then immediately cross the St. Lawrence River on the Victoria Bridge, and go east along the south shore of the St. Lawrence. But, on Monday 12 January, the rail lines along the south shore were still shut down because of the ice storm. The reinstated eastbound Ocean departed Montreal Station and travelled eastward along the north shore of the St. Lawrence via Garneau, Quebec, crossing to the south shore on the Quebec Bridge. The westbound Ocean followed the same route, crossing the St. Lawrence on the Quebec Bridge. This temporary route was congested with heavy freight and container traffic. VIA warned all Ocean passengers to expect delays, in both directions, of two to three hours. This temporary route, across the Quebec Bridge, continued in use for the Ocean for all trips up to and including the departures on Sunday, 18 January. The departures on Monday, 19 January, reverted to the regular route across the Victoria Bridge. As of 17 January, all passenger train service remained cancelled until further notice between Montreal and Quebec City, and between Montreal and Ottawa.
At this time, the Ocean's regular schedule was as follows:
2007 July 9
Last Roundhouse Demolished
The Kentville Roundhouse, the last remaining railway roundhouse in Nova Scotia and a major heritage building, is demolished by the Town of Kentville on this day.
2007 August 17
Last Train from New Minas
On this day, the last train departed New Minas, in Kings County. It consisted of one diesel locomotive pulling one empty tank car taken from the Frito-Lay spur at the Minas Warehouse Road crossing.
2010 November 02
Last Train to Windsor Junction
On this day, the last train operated over the Windsor Branch between Windsor and Windsor Junction. Eastbound toward the Junction it consisted of two diesel locomotives pulling eleven empty grain hoppers, and one hopper still loaded with corn for animal feed that had not been emptied before the last train departed. The return trip westbound to Windsor consisted of the two locomotives "running light" (no cars). The two engines were WHRC 1968 and WHRC 4079, both B23-7s painted Conrail blue (former Nashville & Eastern, former NREX, former Norfolk Southern, former Conrail).
2013 February 05
End of the Windsor Branch
Discontinuance Notice: Windsor Branch
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 5 February 2013, page C3
Significant Dates in
Nova Scotia Railway History
Before 1850 1850-1899 1900-1949 1950 to now