VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Ken V » Tue Jun 27, 2017 10:11 pm

There is a report in the National Observer that VIA is looking into ways of retrieving its stranded train.

Most of the talk since rail service to Churchill in northern Manitoba was indefinitely interrupted by washouts and other track damage last month has focused on how to get goods and tourists in to the remote Hudson Bay community.

Via Rail has a different problem — how to get one of its trains out.

"Options to retrieve that (train) are being evaluated at this time," Via spokeswoman Mylene Belanger said.

http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/06 ... il-closure
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Jun 29, 2017 7:35 am

Great find, Ken. I also found this sentence interesting:
Omnitrax, which has been losing money on the line and has been trying to sell it, has said it has yet to get on the ground and fully inspect the almost-300 kilometres of remote track.

They really don't want to put in the time and effort, do they?
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Backshophoss » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:20 pm

More likely Omitrax wants out of the contract to run the line to Churchill
(A buy out by the government,and walks away deal)
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby timberley » Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:02 am

mtuandrew wrote:They really don't want to put in the time and effort, do they?


Omnitrax hasn't gone out yet, but a pair of motorcyclists rode the whole line a week and a half ago...

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/churchill-motorcyle-riders-rail-line-1.4170059**

Now I wouldn't necessarily trust their engineering assessment (what looks "fixable" to an untrained eye may actually be a very difficult and expensive project), but it seems that prior to their firsthand observations, the impression that Omnitrax was giving (to the town, VIA, etc.) was that the condition was much worse than it may actually be (i.e. still flooded, more extensive damage). Definitely seems like they're trying to get out of it altogether.

**Worth saying that I don't condone riding a rail line like that, particularly as it sounds like they were going to do it even if it was active, but it is an interesting perspective anyway.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Backshophoss » Fri Jun 30, 2017 6:50 pm

Waiting for a 3rd party Engineering team is a way to drive up the $$$$$ needed to reopen the line.
CN or CP would have used a Hi-Rail pickup or a track speeder by now to get some idea of whats needed to open the line
to the Canadian version of Class 1 track to get the freight moving at least.
Not thrilled that a pair of "Dirt Bikers" were on the ROW,but now there's some idea of what needs to be done to reopen the line.
Time's a wasting Omnitrax,it's summer ,get some Hopper cars of Rip-rap and ballast and start the repairs,NOW!
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby NS VIA FAN » Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:31 am

Backshophoss wrote:Waiting for a 3rd party Engineering team is a way to drive up the $$$$$ needed to reopen the line
........Time's a wasting Omnitrax,it's summer ,get some Hopper cars of Rip-rap and ballast and start the repairs,NOW!

This is not rebuilding a trackbed in southern Canada! You're dealing with Permafrost.....

http://www.borealbirds.org/sites/defaul ... afrost.png

....and areas of Muskeg that have been known to swallow whole section of track!
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Jul 01, 2017 3:07 pm

NS VIA FAN wrote:This is not rebuilding a trackbed in southern Canada! You're dealing with Permafrost.....

http://www.borealbirds.org/sites/defaul ... afrost.png

....and areas of Muskeg that have been known to swallow whole section of track!

All the more reason to get to it in the dry season. If the money isn't there though... and short of the province or the Federal government (I'm assuming the First Nations up that way aren't swimming in cash) I don't know who would pay for it if OmniTrax won't.

Ironic that the unfinished line to Port Nelson is nearly as visible from 200,000 feet as the operational line to Churchill. Wonder what it is like from ground level.

EDIT: Happy Canada Day and 150th birthday as a confederation, Canada!
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby NS VIA FAN » Sat Jul 01, 2017 4:24 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
NS VIA FAN wrote:This is not rebuilding a trackbed in southern Canada! You're dealing with Permafrost.....

http://www.borealbirds.org/sites/defaul ... afrost.png

....and areas of Muskeg that have been known to swallow whole section of track!

All the more reason to get to it in the dry season........

If you look at the map link I posted above showing the extent of permafrost you will see that it extends to near Tuktoyaktuk in the far northwest where the new highway from Inuvik has just been completed with the work done during the winter.....

The majority of the work, aside from some smoothing of the top layer, has to be done in the winter to preserve the integrity of the tundra and its permafrost. A geotextile fabric is laid on the proposed building site before it is topped with at least a metre of gravel.

“That will insulate the permafrost from melting in the summertime,” Gruben said. “If you put the gravel down in the summertime it’ll disturb the surface layer of the tundra. You can’t operate out there in the summertime; the tundra covering the permafrost is just too fragile.”


https://norj.ca/2014/11/inuvik-to-tuk-h ... rosperity/
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Backshophoss » Sat Jul 01, 2017 8:20 pm

How long has the ROW existed to Churchill? You should be able to do some basic repairs right now,in the confines of the of the
ROW to get the freight moving,and get VIA's equipment out of there. Or is this now subjected to Environment-Canada rules
as some form of "new" construction? This ROW was built long before the rules/regulations were created!
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby NS VIA FAN » Sun Jul 02, 2017 5:44 am

Backshophoss wrote:How long has the ROW existed to Churchill? You should be able to do some basic repairs right now,in the confines of the of the
ROW to get the freight moving,and get VIA's equipment out of there. Or is this now subjected to Environment-Canada rules
as some form of "new" construction? This ROW was built long before the rules/regulations were created!

The railway to Churchill opened in 1929.......but why would they re-construct to old standards and regulations? I believe VIA is looking at options to get their equipment out and I'm guessing barged.

Perhaps Churchill will now only have air and marine access like numerous other communities across the north. (See the Canadian North Airlines map here: (Churchill is actually south compared to other communities and is near the centre of the map)

http://www.canadiannorth.com/sites/defa ... %20V22.pdf

On the east coast.....I travel occasionally into Labrador for work. The road ends in Goose Bay and the Government has constructed gravel airstrips at the tiny communities. In the 180 miles to the Indigenous community of Natuashish ....our 19 passenger Twin Otter made 5 stops (almost bus-like) Here's a trip-report I posted of one of those trips:

http://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopi ... #p13121781
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Jul 02, 2017 2:00 pm

I learned something new today about construction on the tundra. Thanks, NS VIA FAN!
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Tadman » Thu Jul 06, 2017 2:00 pm

The local First Nations railroad is claiming they can repair the Churchill line for $2m. They also claim that it will take only 45 days, save for bridge work.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/ ... -1.4191900

Much as I think Omnitrax is playing hardball here, I think $2m and 45 days is a bit optimistic. It sounds like the claims of someone who has never done a project like this before. Where does one get the men, equipment, and material in 45 days? And if it takes more time to fix the bridges, can you really claim the work is done in 45 days if the line isn't operating?

For comparison, consider the Port of Tillamook Bay railroad. POTB is another remote branch line that experiences major washouts. They have ranged from $2m to $57m. The railroad declined to reopen after the $57m damages in 2007. This doesn't sound much different than the HBR problems.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_of_T ... y_Railroad

Another comparison is the Northwestern Pacific, which required $500m to repair and reactivate after washouts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest ... c_Railroad

Another $50m to repair washouts on the Gatineau-Wakefield tourist railroad.

http://ottawacitizen.com/storyline/a-pl ... g-up-steam

Granted these are all different scenarios, but $2m sounds ridiculously low. Yes, it sucks that the Omnitrax business model isn't working, it sucks that Churchill port is closed. But if it cost $2m and 45 days, they'd have cleaned it up by now and put it up for sale. $2m is a rounding error for them. $2m to repair 30 miles of track is $66k/mile, which is very much within the average cost per mile of regular track maintenance. Experts have pointed out that $50k-300k/mile is expected, with the variance resulting from degree of track design and usage.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby mdvle » Mon Jul 24, 2017 8:34 pm

Omnitrax has the report, claims $13 to $60 million to fix the line:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/manitoba-churchill-omnitrax-rail-1.4210403

So far, the engineering company has identified 13 bridges, 68 culverts and 31 washout areas needing repair in the roughly 300-kilometre stretch connecting Churchill to Gillam, Man.


The $13 million does not include fixing any bridges.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Tadman » Wed Jul 26, 2017 1:15 pm

That sounds a bit more realistic. The guys who were claiming it would only be $2m (the motorcycle guys) are a bit nuts. It reminds me of the times when a foamer trys to tell a railroader how to do his or her job. Sometimes you gotta put in the work.

As for getting it done this year? Where are you going to find 20+ backhoes and front end loaders plus 200 men and thousands of tons of dirt and gravel this late in the construction season? It's not like construction companies wait til summer with millions of dollars of idle equipment. They gear up 6-12 months ahead of time depending on size of project. A massive line rebuild would be a 12 month out project. Short of wartime circumstances, I just don't see a rebuild happening this year.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby NS VIA FAN » Thu Jul 27, 2017 3:07 am

Tadman wrote:As for getting it done this year? Where are you going to find 20+ backhoes and front end loaders plus 200 men and thousands of tons of dirt and gravel this late in the construction season? It's not like construction companies wait til summer with millions of dollars of idle equipment. They gear up 6-12 months ahead of time depending on size of project. A massive line rebuild would be a 12 month out project. Short of wartime circumstances, I just don't see a rebuild happening this year.

See 7 posts above.......construction work on Permafrost and Tundra is usually done during the winter. So maybe a Nov or Dec start.
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