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A VIA/CN shunting puzzle?


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Once again I'm reading about VIA 1&2, The Canadian being delayed by CN giving its freight trains priority. According to reports, the freights are now so long that they don't fit the sidings (passing loops) so the passenger train has to be held to let the freight pass. OK, I get that. However, the passenger train is adversely affected in BOTH directions, which means that there must also be over-long freights running in both directions. So, forgetting the passenger train for a minute, what happens when two over-long freights have to cross on the single line? (CJL)

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Is it not that there is a convoy of westbound freights, clear line, convoy of eastbounds etc., such that over-long freights only pass a major junctions/yards able to accommodate them? It’s those pesky passenger trains that throw a tomato into the mix.

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Having had this situation, there may be some sidings that are longer than others, there may be stretches of two main tracks.  You can meet trains longer than the shorter sidings at places, depends on how long and how many sidings, two main track areas there are.  Obviously the freights can get by each other someplace.  Not saying its a good plan.  The CN was notorious for stabbing Amtrak, I would assume they do the same thing to VIA.  https://www.amtrak.com/historical-on-time-performance

 

The interesting thing is that the Acela Express, which operates entirely on 2-4 main tracks, entirely on Amtrak or commuter agency owned and dispatched tracks only has on time performance in the 80's.

Edited by dave1905
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Different between Canada and the US, when AMTRAK was founded, they were given the highest priority of trains on the railway, VIA has no such protection.  Seems simple to me- should have been in C-49, or return Passenger Rail to CN & CP, and demand they re-instate all which have been de-funded & cut... it won't happen, but should.  There is a fair amount of annoyance at both CN & CP right now because they are being run as strictly businesses, with the bottom line driving all decisions, not service provision.  C-49 missed a lot of targets, IMO, because they are businesses, but not normal ones...

 

James 

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Two words, Hunter Harrison. In his zeal to save money Harrison had switches removed wherever possible and he had the top chair in both CN and CP so such passing sidings as remain will have been set up for the freight timetable and no consideration at all for VIA. It will take the Federal Government to step in and demand that passenger trains be given the right of way for this to improve but I don’t see that happening any time soon, if ever.

 

Cheers,

 

David

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Two words, Hunter Harrison. In his zeal to save money Harrison had switches removed wherever possible and he had the top chair in both CN and CP so such passing sidings as remain will have been set up for the freight timetable and no consideration at all for VIA. It will take the Federal Government to step in and demand that passenger trains be given the right of way for this to improve but I don’t see that happening any time soon, if ever.

 

Cheers,

 

David

 

You're right. It won't happen because the government wants Canada to be the first major Western nation to be entirely reliant on road and air for long distance passenger traffic. They want to cut VIA down to a small operation that they can privatise (i.e., the corridor) and while there's no cost in compensation ( because VIA doesn't cover consequential loss for delays outside its control - which they all are) there's no incentive to improve matters. Canada even escapes getting its own reputation trashed because overseas customers who miss their connections and cruises and wind up suffering losses of large sums of money, simply blame VIA and do fly-drive next time. 

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Its something more complicated than the late Hunter Harrison.

 

For Amtrak, CP has the BEST on time record, and CN has the WORST on time record.  If it was purely a HH issue they would be more similar.  Since they are at opposite ends of the spectrum, its something else (at least with Amtrak).  CN has been involved with lawsuits over performance for years  with Amtrak.

Edited by dave1905
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You're right. It won't happen because the government wants Canada to be the first major Western nation to be entirely reliant on road and air for long distance passenger traffic. 

 

I suspect the Canadian will last longer than some of the Amtrak routes in the US given the talk occurring in the US.

 

But its irrelevant.  Canada already is reliant on road and air for long distance traffic and has been for several decades.  Flying is both faster and cheaper, the bus is cheaper, and driving is cheaper.  You have to be dedicated to trains to even consider using the train outside of the corridor simply as a means to get from A to B.

 

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However, the passenger train is adversely affected in BOTH directions, which means that there must also be over-long freights running in both directions.

Logically yes, else operations would be unbalanced...

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Interesting discussion at the Club this morning about this. When I brought this subject up one of the guys, a retired aerospace engineer originally from Yorkshire immediatly responded that that a big part of the recent problems was CN trying to get the backlog of wheat and potash to the ports...apparently the bad weather this winter really slowed shipments down and caused a huge backlog of these types of products. Whereupon the now long-retired CN employee piped up to say that is exactly the cause and he explained that once a backlog occurs, even for just a few days it can take weeks and even months to correct. Funny enough he said that in his opinion he believes that CN has been taking on too much business in recent years that,when there are problems they are that much more likely to cause chaos. He also mentioned that in the days of Hunter Harrison was very careful about not over-stretching on taking on business and he would raise prices to calm the situation down. Now I honestly have no knowledge on these issues...I’m just reporting what was said for informational purposes only.

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If it is any comfort, CN has apologized and said they will order more railcars to deal with the traffic.

 

 

Well that won't work at all.  If the rail lines are clogged, that means they have too many cars loaded and can't get the cars they have loaded fast enough, can't get the cars they have over the road, or they can't get the cars they have unloaded fast enough.  In ANY of those cases adding more cars won't help.  Adding cars only helps if there is a backlog of product on the ground at origin and they are moving what they have efficiently. 

 

If you are stuck in rush hour traffic, if somebody said that the solution to solving the congestion was adding more cars on the road, you'd probably tell them they were crazy.

 

If they want to solve the problem they need to speed up the part that's broke (origin, destination or transit) and REDUCE the number of cars.  Been there, done that, fewer trains and cars moves faster than more trains and cars, adding cars to a mess never worked that I saw.

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CP has announced plans to order 5900 new grain cars over the next 4 years, with an initial order of 1000 with 500 arriving by the end of this year.

 

As for the "more grain cars to solve the problem" aspect, the new cars can carry more grain (10% greater weight) and the cars are also shorter, allowing more cars per train - CP is currently limited to 112 cars per 7,000 foot train which will increase to 118 with the new cars.

 

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/cp-announces-plans-for-half-billion-dollar-investment-in-future-of-grain-supply-chain-with-railcar-order-684839441.html

 

Also, heads up for anyone interested in the iconic Canadian Government grain cars, the new cars likely mean the end of their careers.

Edited by mdvle
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Weren't the railways fined last year for making too much money from the grain traffic? (I don't quite understand.)

 

A verse from an eastern Canadian MP from years ago

 

The little birdies in the trees go "tweet, tweet, tweet".

The little flowers in the spring smell sweet, sweet, sweet.

But the damnedest words I ever heard were "Wheat, wheat, wheat!"

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