MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Discussion of present-day CM&Q operations, as well as discussion of predecessors Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) and Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (BAR).

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MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby GP40MC1118 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:21 pm

It's being reported in Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports 8/13 that MMA will file a 241 mile abandonment
proposal with the STB tomorrow.

Apparently the lines affected are "service to Presque Isle, Caribou, Houlton, Easton and all
communities on its line between Millinocket and Madawaska (non-inclusive)"

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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby MEC407 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:30 pm

Ouch. That's a big chunk (more than half) of the old Bangor & Aroostook mainline. :(

Here is a current MMA system map for anyone who wants to see what they'll be getting rid of:

http://www.mmarail.com/downloads/mma_rail_map.pdf
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby CN9634 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:55 pm

So basically Oakfield to Houlton and everything east of Squan Pan? It sucks but it does make sense. They won't have to pay for these money loosing lines.


EDIT: Further research found this.

http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/116046.html
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby NYC27 » Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:19 am

So basically Oakfield to Houlton and everything east of Squan Pan?


No, the mainline from Millinocket to Madawaska too.
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby roberttosh » Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:06 am

When I saw the title of this thread, I was certain they were talking about the old CP E-W main. At least the old BAR N-S line has some customers. They should make up with ST and funnel their traffic that way or via the CN up North. Can what little traffic that's generated from Millinocket really support the line to Montreal? This sounds like the beginning of the end to me...
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby MEC407 » Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:52 am

How many customers are left on the lines in question? It must be a pretty small number.

It would be nice if the state could buy this line, but now isn't exactly the best time, money-wise. The funny/sad part is that the state has a history of buying lines with zero customers, but now that it has a chance to buy a line with a customer or two, there may not be any money available.
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby roberttosh » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:09 pm

There aren't many customers left on the MMA period; but I know North of Millinocket you have Fraser, the big LP OSB plant at New Limerick, a couple other lumber mills, McCains, and maybe a fertilizer plant or two and some Fuel Oil receivers. Am pretty sure there's some Log loading facilities up that way as well.
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby MEC407 » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:23 pm

Well, that's a lot more customers than can be found on the Rockland Branch, the B&ML, the Mountain Division, or the Portland-Danville section of the SLR... all of which are owned by the state. With that in mind, it would seem hypocritical for the state not to buy this line, or otherwise attempt to help MMA to continue operating it.
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby CN9634 » Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:48 pm

All those lines you listed don't compare in Mileage to the Lines the MMA is trying to get rid of. The problem is that you have a hand full of customers and miles and miles of track between each. Portland-Auburn, MD and Rockland are being reserved for Passenger (excluding M&E). This is similar to the Calais branch scenario.
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby MEC407 » Fri Aug 14, 2009 5:13 pm

CN9634 wrote:All those lines you listed don't compare in Mileage to the Lines the MMA is trying to get rid of.


True, but that's because I forgot to mention the Calais Branch. That makes over 300 miles of track that the state has purchased thus far, with a total of maybe three or four customers. Granted, some of those lines were purchased with passenger service in mind... but let's face it, the likelihood of passenger service ever happening on the Mountain Division or the Calais Branch (excluding tourist trains) is slim at best. And the state is now ripping up most of the Calais Branch because they consider it a hopeless cause.

I don't know... I just think it would be a real kick in the teeth for the people of northern Maine if the state didn't do something to preserve these ex-BAR lines. If I lived up there, I'd be pissed that the state spent money on customerless lines like the Mountain Division and Calais Branch but didn't spend money on a line that might be critical to the employment and livelihood of the people of northern Maine. Look at it this way: the state can buy the line, thus keeping several companies in business... or they can let the line go, watch more people lose their jobs, and then provide those people with food stamps, medicaid, unemployment checks, etc. Either way, the state ends up paying... but I think we can all agree on which one is the better option.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's all hope that the freight customers up there can continue to receive some kind of rail service. The last thing northern Maine needs is to lose more jobs, especially if those job losses could be prevented by maintaining rail service.
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby MEC407 » Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:32 pm

More on the possible abandonment:

http://www.mpbn.net/News/MaineNews/tabi ... fault.aspx

Interesting quotes:

[Nate Moulton of Maine DOT] says the state owns about 320-miles of rail lines. Only about 80 are in active service, the remaining 240-miles are being preserved for future rail use.

"Every line kind of has to be evaluated on its own as to the condition and the economics -- obviously you need shippers on a line to make it viable," Moulton says
.

If that's the case, then the state should have no problem in finding justification to buy these ex-BAR lines. After all, if on-line shippers are what make a line viable, according to Maine DOT, then the ex-BAR lines would be a lot more viable than the other lines they've already purchased...
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby Cowford » Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:32 pm

Step 1. Negotiate trackage or haulage rights with PAR/PAS between No Me Jct and western connections. Step 2. Cease operations on CP line between Brownville Jct. and Megantic (or Lennoxville) Step 3. Secure public funding to build connection between Keag and E Millinocket. Step 4. Change rights with PAR/PAS from No Me Jct to Keag. Step 5. Set up interchange with NBSR at Keag. Step 6. Contract with PAR for heavy loco/car work at Waterville. Step 7. Shut down former B&A between Millinocket and No Me Jct; former CP between Keag and Brownville Jct.

Benefits
Significant customers affected: 0
Mileage reduced: Net 220 route-miles (160 former CP, 75 former B&A, Keag connection +15)
Improves long-term viability of PAR's former MEC Eastern Sub to Keag, as well as PAR's main line.
Route mileage reduction and shop consolidation further improves cost position
Creates an integral, single route between northern Maine and points west/south

Radical? Sure. But to RobertTosh's point, it's the beginning of the end (again). This is the second time the B&A has proven itself to be unviable... and no-one could truthfully say that rail-oriented prospects in the County are anything but grim. Time for a new approach,
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby CN9634 » Sun Aug 16, 2009 8:16 am

Ummm Whoa.You make it sound like it would be easy

Cowford wrote:Step 1. Negotiate trackage or haulage rights with PAR/PAS between No Me Jct and western connections. Step 2. Cease operations on CP line between Brownville Jct. and Megantic (or Lennoxville) Step 3. Secure public funding to build connection between Keag and E Millinocket. Step 4. Change rights with PAR/PAS from No Me Jct to Keag. Step 5. Set up interchange with NBSR at Keag. Step 6. Contract with PAR for heavy loco/car work at Waterville. Step 7. Shut down former B&A between Millinocket and No Me Jct; former CP between Keag and Brownville Jct.

Benefits
Significant customers affected: 0
Mileage reduced: Net 220 route-miles (160 former CP, 75 former B&A, Keag connection +15)
Improves long-term viability of PAR's former MEC Eastern Sub to Keag, as well as PAR's main line.
Route mileage reduction and shop consolidation further improves cost position
Creates an integral, single route between northern Maine and points west/south

Radical? Sure. But to RobertTosh's point, it's the beginning of the end (again). This is the second time the B&A has proven itself to be unviable... and no-one could truthfully say that rail-oriented prospects in the County are anything but grim. Time for a new approach,
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby cpf354 » Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:31 am

According to Burkhardt in R&P, they had considered cutting their Montreal connection in favor using ST at Keag, and possibly routing traffic to Montreal via SLR, but explained that would "run into a lot of problems", and went on to describe the the Brownville to Montreal route as "profitable". There wasn't any further elaboration on that point.
As for the three customers affected, he said Fraser has been splitting their traffic with CN, which MM&A delivers via haulage they inherited via St Leonard, and all the traffic would be over CN if the abandonment went forward. McCain is described as 95% trucking and that there isn't a lot of a customer support base in that area for rail. He said Louisiana Pacific in New Limerick was getting one train a week with a "handful of cars". Based on what I read here, there is no way they will abandon the ex CP. They've carefully studied the expense structure and have concluded that these are the routes that are no longer sustainable.
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Re: MMA To File 241 Mile Abandonment With STB

Postby Cowford » Sun Aug 16, 2009 12:52 pm

I never said it would be "easy."

MMA is positioning themselves for a large tax-dollar infusion. So how should the state react? Some could argue that the County has never been a big rail supporter, so screw 'em... let the railroad die. Others would argue that the railroad is essential. Assuming the latter as the prevaling opinion, the next logical step is to ask the question, "What's the best way to try to foster long-term viability for northern Maine's rail network?" CP pulled out of the County in 1987 and the International of Maine in 1995; Iron Roads B&A venture failed; MMA's B&A venture is failing. Simply pouring additional $$$ into the former B&A right-of-way doesn't address the fundamental issue at-hand, namely: Northern Maine's rail traffic density (or lack thereof) makes viable service unsustainable.

There are two ways to deal with the issue: (1) build traffic volume, and/or (2) shed route-miles. OK, (1)...for the forseeable future, there are no significant prospects for rail traffic growth in Maine in general, or the County in particular. That leaves (2). Looking at Maine as a whole, the state's branch line network has been rationalized. Not so with the overhead "bridge" routes. Way back when, there were seven. Today, with traffic a fraction of what is ever was, there are still four bridge routes. PAR's former BM line is the core overhead route, owing to PAR's local franchise and its physical route connections. CN's St Leonard connection is to an overhead route between the Maritimes and the rest of North America... MMA's business is minor and incremental and the interchange is not viable for non-MMA traffic. SLR limps along, and would likely be torn up by now had it not been for chronic PAR service issues that fueled transloading demand. And then there's the former CP... its train density speaks for itself. While I'm not privy to MMA's books, I find it very difficult to believe that it can be run/is being run profitably. ~300 miles of barely one train per day territory???

Another way to look at it is that Maine has one interstate "spine," that being I-95. If one highway can easily handle all the road business to/from Maine, why not focus on one rail spine via Portland, Waterville, Bangor, Mattawamkeag, Millinocket and points north? I suppose running between Keag and Millinocket via Brownville is possible, but at 75 miles, it's very circuitous... and what a cluster! Go to Brownville, run around, haul up to B Jct, run around, head east, run around at Keag.

Of course, the biggest wild card in all this is PAR. Without their cooperation (unless this can be forced through STB edict), it's all kind of a moot point.

CPF, what is "R&P?"
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