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   Author  Topic: Rumours & Speculation & Rants  (Read 21277 times)
FSD8014
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Rumours & Speculation & Rants
 
« on: Jun 30th, 2005, 4:46pm »
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First off, has ICF taken control of the E&N as yet? Second. I have heard, reliably, that Dennis Washington and his son were on the island checking out the E&N last weekend. Thirdly. I dont recall who said it but I heard that Wellcox might not be the yard used by the future operator of the E&N, but rather a rebuilt Crofton yard, I'm not sure why. Duncan was mentioned as an alternative. Apparently a sale of land at Wellcox would pay for any improvements at Crofton. What shape is the barge slip at Crofton in? Can RA or whoever go after new( or previous ) clientele yet?

« Last Edit: Mar 30th, 2008, 4:23am by cn2220 » Logged
Aaron Lypkie
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Re:  Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #1 on: Jun 30th, 2005, 8:41pm »
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Personnally I think that the main yard should stay in the Nanaimo area, as it is strategically located halfway on the line. Whether that is at Welcox or near Duke Point. Assuming that more customers are found on top of what comes from Port Alberni, wouldnt it make sense to keep the existing yard first to find those customers before u start to dismantle Welcox.  
I know one thing is for sure, whoever the new operator is going to be. That there will be a lot of activity to try to bring more business to the railway, both passenger and of course freight.
 
Aaron


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FSD8014
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #2 on: Jul 1st, 2005, 4:04am »
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I'm speculating here but would moving the yard to Crofton in any way be advantageous to Norske? That would be a factor. Dont get me wrong, I agree with you on Wellcox's central location being important. But bringing Norske back online might secure the lines future. The E&N only has a future if its financially viable to its operator. Think about it. How big of a deal is it to us as railfans to see a short freight train headed to Victoria. Or the similar recent train to Courtenay. It actually rates as an event here. A RARE event. Much of the E&N rarely sees freight traffic ( The Port Sub sees none), the lifeblood of most railways. Only profitable railways live. This one needs more freight to stay alive.  Even the ICF has no mandate to keep it as a railway. So in my opinion: if change is needed to keep it going, change it. I dont want an E&N trailway. I know my opinion sucks, feel free to hate me for it.

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CroftonSpur88
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #3 on: Jul 1st, 2005, 5:44pm »
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I think you're a realist, my friend....
Any advantage of having Wellcox as the central location is offset by the value of that land on the Nanaimo waterfront.THe money for track upgrades and re-building the Crofton Spur will have to come from somewhere.  
 
In my opinion, the condition of the track in many places is a ticking time bomb. Double, or triple, the ammount of traffic on the line, and it's inevitable that a major accident will happen.No company in their right mind would assume running the E&N without some improvements to the right of way.
 
Then again, I'm just a dumb roofer, not a business man or a railroad executive...


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Cody
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #4 on: Jul 1st, 2005, 6:10pm »
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    I think relying on traffic from Port Alberni is not realistic.  My work takes me to that mill fairly often and from the information I gather on those visits it would seem that the likelyhood of the mill returning to it's former capacity any time in the near future is nil.  No one at the mill I have talked to has ever heard anything about any trains coming there ever again.  They are more worried about the whole operation being shut down.  For those of you who do not know,   Norkse claims it is losing money at both Crofton and Port Alberni, with the newsprint machine at Port Alberni, which used the Koalin clay tank cars, shut down.   The only Island operation currently turning a profit is Elk Falls.   At the moment the cost to shut down Crofton far exceeds the losses incurred by keeping it running, so its fate is in limbo.  The worldwide newsprint market, which Port Alberni served for many years is in a slump.   The Internet, changing lifestyles, and other factors has greatly reduced the market for newsprint in North America.  Competition from South America, mainly Chile, and the far east for pulp production has decimated the demand for local product, with growing markets in China served by foreign product.  It is my personal opinion (not fact, just opinion) that the future of the E and N should not be reliant on Norske shipping by rail.   I think that is a fool's game.   If the railway is to survive it should seek growth industries, not industies in the midst of a twenty year decline.   The tide will turn eventually, but I wouldn't put my eggs in that basket at the moment.
 
A bit of doom and gloom, but I really think whoever runs the tracks is going to have to get creative and "think outside the box".  I look very forward to being proven wrong!


« Last Edit: Jul 2nd, 2005, 2:02am by Cody » Logged
cn2220
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #5 on: Jul 1st, 2005, 7:37pm »
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on Jul 1st, 2005, 6:10pm, Cody wrote:       (Click here for original message)
    I think relying on traffic from Port Alberni is not realistic.  My work takes me to that mill fairly often and from the information I gather on those visits it would seem that the likelyhood of the mill returning to it's former capacity any time in the near future is nil.  No one at the mill I have talked to has ever heard anything about any trains coming there ever again.  They are more worried about the whole operation being shut down.  For those of you who do not know,   Norkse claims it is losing money at both Crofton and Port Alberni, with the newsprint machine at Port Alberni, which used the Koalin clay tank cars, shut down.   The only Island operation currently turning a profit is Elk Falls.   At the moment the cost to shut down Crofton far exceeds the losses incurred by keeping it running, so its fate is in limbo.  The worldwide newsprint market, which Port Alberni served for many years is in a slump.   The Internet, changing lifestyles, and other factors has greatly reduced the market for newsprint in North America.  Competition from South America, mainly Chile, and the far east for pulp production has decimated the demand for local product, with growing markets in China served by foreign product.  It is my personal opinion (not fact, just opinion) the the future of the E and N should not be reliant on Norske shipping by rail.   I think that is a fool's game.   If the railway is to survive it should seek growth industries, not industies in the midst of a twenty year decline.   The tide will turn eventually, but I wouldn't put my eggs in that basket at the moment.
 
A bit of doom and gloom, but I really think whoever runs the tracks is going to have to get creative and "think outside the box".  I look very forward to being proven wrong!

 
If that is the case then why is Norske looking at going back to rail once the new operator is in place? I have it on good authority that it will happen.


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Tyler

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CroftonSpur88
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #6 on: Jul 1st, 2005, 8:35pm »
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Tyler wrote
 
If that is the case then why is Norske looking at going back to rail once the new operator is in place? I have it on good authority that it will happen. [/quote]
 
 
That's what we've been hearing for three years now...


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FSD8014
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #7 on: Jul 1st, 2005, 10:28pm »
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Thanks guys, for not voting me off the forum or whatever it is you do to someone who blasphemes against Wellcox. I've got nothing against it, honestly. I just really want to keep the E&N a railroad, and if it had to be sacrificed to get rail traffic up to do it, then so be it. I take it not all of you think Norske can save it, though. I dont know myself either. But Norske did ship by rail and has kept its facilities to do so. It currently ships in and out by truck, er, lots of trucks. To me it rates as a definite maybe. Other businesses would use rail transport if it didnt look like the line was near abandonment and could get better, more reliable service - even capacity - by using rail. NOT a rumour - That same conversation I was part of recently included that Washington Group had identified up to 25 users of rail transport here not currently being served. Bet you can think of some, too.

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B_Winkler
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #8 on: Jul 1st, 2005, 11:12pm »
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on Jul 1st, 2005, 8:35pm, CroftonSpur88 wrote:       (Click here for original message)
That's what we've been hearing for three years now...

 
 
Theres no new operator in place either.  
 
There is probably an element of truth in both sides of this story.  Norske is hurting a bit at Crofton and Port Alberni.  The newsprint market is slack right now.  But they are cyclical markets and likely will come back.  
 
If Norske can ship from Port Alberni to Crofton and directly to the US, bypassing both CP and the congestion on the mainland it will help reduce both shipping costs and times. That is absolutely for sure but whether it wil save them enough to make it worth changing back and make their product profitable is another question.  
 
I think that the new operator will go a long way to determining that.  If they are smart and hungry, market conditions cooperate and they can convince Norske then it will happen.  I think it makes sense, particularly with the skyrocketing value of land in Nanaimo.  
 
The city of Nanaimo is building a convention center downtown and there is talk of a cruise ship dock at the assembly wharf.  The new arena would be perfect on the Wellcox lands, with lots of rom for parking.  
 
 
 


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Cody
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #9 on: Jul 2nd, 2005, 2:00am »
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   One additional thing that has solidified my personal opinion that Port Alberni is not returning to rail anytime soon, is that the last four times I have driven the road there in the past two months, I didn't really see a lot of trucks.   I am used to passing, or being passed by, a whole bunch of them, but recently I didn't notice many at all.  Believe me, I am look for this sort of thing, as I would love to see the Port sub back in service.    
 
   I hope your sources are better than the hearsay I collect Tyler.  It would be great if it happened.


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Aaron Lypkie
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #10 on: Jul 2nd, 2005, 12:03pm »
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A lot of good points being made so far. The problem with Crofton, is that there is very little public access.
 
Duke Point would be another good location for a new yard, as I recall, CP had looked at it and surveyed a route.
 
With Welcox, moving back the yard from the downtown area and perhaps building a industrial park served by rail (I believe this was suggested before).  
 
Aaron


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FSD8014
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #11 on: Jul 2nd, 2005, 12:26pm »
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Aaron, you just made my day. That is brilliant. Moving the yard from the valuable, but not income producing waterfront and putting it someplace like an industrial park serviced by rail is an idea that makes sense. Some railways actively market land for sale or lease that is serviced by their line. Check out:  http://www.sryraillink.com/   -go to Industrial Properties.  Keep the good ideas comin'.  Dan.

« Last Edit: Jul 2nd, 2005, 12:32pm by FSD8014 » Logged
ENR3005
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Re: Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #12 on: Jul 2nd, 2005, 3:53pm »
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on Jul 2nd, 2005, 12:03pm, Coastrail wrote:       (Click here for original message)
A lot of good points being made so far. The problem with Crofton, is that there is very little public access.
 
Duke Point would be another good location for a new yard, as I recall, CP had looked at it and surveyed a route.
 
With Welcox, moving back the yard from the downtown area and perhaps building a industrial park served by rail (I believe this was suggested before).  
 
Aaron

 
I found this document a couple of months back that showed something like this could still be in the works if enough prospective customers could be found. It was put out by the Nanaimo Economic Development Group. I have attached a copy of the document at the bottom of my post.  I am a bit skeptical myself, about the Port Alberni mill coming back to rail service in the near future due to the situation with Norske's bottom line. A company can only run at a loss for so many years. Unless the pulp market improves we will more then likely see the closing of Port Alberni's mill and other unprofitable ones such as Crofton. It is a sad prospect however this has become the age of the internet and cut-throat competion where our pulp is no longer desireable due to higher production costs.  
 
So where does our railway go from here? They need to start looking at alternative traffic. There is a huge demand for our coal right now and there is still plenty of it on the island. Port Alberni could easily become a terminus for this type of traffic that would more then likely be sent over seas. There is the prospect of cement, gravel, plastic pellets and propane traffic to Victoria which has been talked about and debated for years.  Another source of traffic could be the proposed ethanol plant at Cumberland by Courtenay. A similar ethanol plant is coming online at Winfield, BC which will receive raw grain by rail (Kelowna Pacific Railway & Okanogan Valley Railway) and ship the finished product by rail also. When this plant is finished it will generate several thousand cars of traffic for both railways almost insuring their survival which has been in doubt for the past couple of years for both lines. The Cumberland plant if it is built, would be unique in that it would almost require rail service being that Cumerland is inland. I can't see all that raw mateial and finished product being trucked in and out, that would make for one huge mess on the highways. Well thats my food for thought today and below is that document that I was talking about.  
 
 
 
Free Trade Zone
 
At our last EDG meeting John Lucas of Duke Point Terminals Limited brought up
a rather interesting idea that caused a good deal of excitement around the table.
He suggested that Nanaimo might be perfectly situated for becoming a Free
Trade Zone.
 
What is a Free Trade Zone? It is a city or area that brings in raw materials from
another country, adds value to that product in some way, and ships it out again
for resale. Because the product is not resold in the country where the secondary
manufacturing takes place duties and taxes are not levied.
 
To be a Free Trade Zone you have to be located on a main transportation
corridor, which Nanaimo most certainly can be. Lucas’ scheme has many
benefits. He proposes that Port Alberni acquire a couple of container cranes to
attract freighters coming up from California or across the Pacific from Asia. In
bypassing the Juan de Fuca and Georgia Straits, ships can save 20 hours or
almost $25,000 US in travel costs. The goods would be offloaded in Port Alberni
and shipped via E&N Railway to Nanaimo. This would not only revitalize the rail
corridor but also give Rail America some much needed business. The savings to the shipping companies increase considerably when you consider the port charges in Vancouver compared to Port Alberni.
 
What sort of goods could come to Nanaimo for re-manufacturing? Nanaimo has
a skilled workforce particularly in the marine fields. There are Free Trade Zones
in the United States where skilled workers are assembling large motors and
machinery before shipping them out of the country. This is exactly the sort of
thing we could be doing here.Imagine the benefits to Nanaimo in terms of jobs alone! The spin-offs in transportation and in service industries are enormous.
 
At the moment Nanaimo as a Free Trade Zone is only a concept. But Lucas has
already begun talks with various interested parties who have shown a positive
response. Certainly we at EDG are most interested in seeing how this scenario
unfolds.
 
For more information about EDG partners, plans and initiatives, please visit our
website at www.edgnanaimo.com.


« Last Edit: Jul 2nd, 2005, 3:57pm by ENR3005 » Logged
Aaron Lypkie
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Re:  Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #13 on: Jul 2nd, 2005, 7:18pm »
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Yes I saw that article before.  
It is an interesting concept. One that could work. There is a lot of traffic potential on the island. Apparently dozens of interested parties are willing to ship by rail, but refuse to do business with CPR and Rail America.
 
Going back to the Welcox discussion. Any changes that might occur, wont for several years. So in the mean time, the main yard stays where it is.
 
It is interesting to note, that this railway is special. How many rail lines does anyone remember having so many people fighting to keep it running for so long. CPR over the years (and VIA) have probably been very fustrated that for everything they have done to shut it down it keeps on chugging along.
 
This little railway isnt dead yet, so when the time comes that it is in the hands of the island, lets make it a symbol of how great our island home really is.
 
 
Long Live the E&N
Aaron


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FSD8014
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« Reply #14 on: Jul 2nd, 2005, 9:12pm »
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Hear, Hear. Youre damned skippy this Railway aint dead yet. There are still all kinds of uses for it. As trucks become more expensive to operate ( fuel cost+ insurance+ increasing demand for qualified truck drivers), the train moves bulk cheaper. I'm not convinced that trucking (with ferry) is cheaper than barges and trains. I'd like to hear what you think should be moving by ENR instead of by truck.

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ENR3005
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« Reply #15 on: Jul 2nd, 2005, 9:32pm »
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on Jul 2nd, 2005, 9:12pm, FSD8014 wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Hear, Hear. Youre damned skippy this Railway aint dead yet. There are still all kinds of uses for it. As trucks become more expensive to operate ( fuel cost+ insurance+ increasing demand for qualified truck drivers), the train moves bulk cheaper. I'm not convinced that trucking (with ferry) is cheaper than barges and trains. I'd like to hear what you think should be moving by ENR instead of by truck.

 
The costs of operating tractor trailers have become increasingly expensive over the last couple of years due to a number of factors, mainly due to insurance costs and fuel. The company that I work with operates a large fleet of trucks across North America and we have watched the cost of insuring our fleet almost double in the past five years. If you factor in the recent jumps in fuel costs you will find that most trucking outfits are not making much money if any right now. Luckly our warehousing and freight division is only a small part of the bigger picture and has not really affected our bottom line as much as other companies. You will find that trucks are not very competitive at all right now with some compaines charging large fuel surcharges much to the annoyance of their customers.  
 
Personally I think the best chance the E&N has is with the Washington Group. Pair the E&N up with their Marine Group and the railway has a fighting chance. The Washington marketing group is ruthless in their pursuit of new carloadings. Over the past four years I watched as they turned an almost  traffic dead (two trains a week) branchline in New Westminster / Lulu Island into a two train a day operation. They recently installed a new spur into a large mill last month that has added considerable traffic to the line. This mill had ripped up their old spur in the mid 1980s when they started shipping all their product by truck and over seas.  Apparently the Washington group helped this new mill find a new customer here in North America and the mill now ships the product to this customer through the new spur they built. This is the type of marketing the E&N needs by going beyond the traditional point A to point B traffic. They need to be looking for possible point C and D traffic for their customers also. This type marketing is something that is lacking in the trucking outfits and even some of the larger railways as you can see with the current state of the E&N. If you can show your customer that you are interested in making sure they are successful by helping them find new customers, it makes for a more amicable working relationship. The guys over at Rail America or the Wasington Group should be taking advantage of the crappy times in the trucking industry to find some new traffic for our railway. I really do hope the Washington Group takes over this operation.


« Last Edit: Jul 2nd, 2005, 10:16pm by ENR3005 » Logged
Aaron Lypkie
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Re:  Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #16 on: Jul 3rd, 2005, 4:39am »
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It is a possiblity that Washington Group could be the future operator, but that is only speculation. From what I have heard, thru this forum, is that several groups are interested.  
 
I am well aware of the success of the SRY of BC under the Washington Group. Whatever was used to help the line, should be applied to the E&N.
 
As to what should be hauled by the E&N that is being hauled by truck. I would say anything that is being hauled over the Malahat. Pretty much anything flammable, toxic etc. Anything that is not time sensitive could be hauled by rail. Prehaps having a distribution centre at Langford or Esquimalt served by rail. Also a lot of recyclable material is shipped from Victoria to the Mainland via truck and I am pretty sure that it goes up the Malahat.
 
Campbell River is a  huge market potential that is not served by rail on the island.  
Now this is probably jumping the gun, but if u wanted a true island railway, extend it to Port Hardy and to Tofino via Uculet, where a large resort is being planned. Although Campbell River is probably the most realistic extension at this time.
 
The liberals are funding another study as to what to do about that route, and we all know what the liberals want. They want another highway, a 4 lane bypass, which is not going to solve anything. We have the railway, so why not fund improvements to bring up the E&N to mainline standards.
 
I have heard from people that there is no traffic for the E&N, and there will never be traffic. Thats because no one has really done any real agressive advertising to promote the E&N. The CPR never really bothered to promote any new customers and RA couldnt because CPR wouldnt let them. VIA is run from back east, and is so occupied with improving service over there, that it seems that they dont know we exist.
 
Anyway, its going to be an interesting few months once the new operator is annouced.
 
Aaron
 
 


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Aaron Lypkie
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Re:  Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #17 on: Jul 3rd, 2005, 5:01am »
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Another thing that would help.
Encourage companies to build their factories or warehouses near the railway, as what Washington Group has done with the SRY of BC. Progressive Rail is another example of a similar operation, where the those that run the railway have been advertising to companies to build along the route. Progressive Rail is based in Minnesota.
 
If companies see that the E&N is more than willing to work with them to ship their product in a timely and efficient manner, then they will want to ship by rail. This is not rocket science, this makes sense.
 
Now passenger service is a whole different kettle of fish. The same idea can be applied. Encourage developers to build residential and commercial projects along the railway, so that customers can walk from home or work and catch the train to any destination. This will only work if the E&N is served by good connecting transit services in each community.
 
For example in Victoria, the E&N can be served by connecting LRT, Rapid Bus, Streetcar and feeder bus routes. The same goes for Nanaimo with its bus routes.  
We have no excuse, this is an island, so we should be actively pursuing sustainable transportation and development practices. This makes sense with our growing elderly and student populations.
 
Aaron


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Aaron Lypkie
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Re:  Rumours & Speculation
 
« Reply #18 on: Jul 3rd, 2005, 5:10am »
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I almost forgot, here is that website for Progressive Rail.
Let me know what u think. There are some ideas of what the E&N could ship.
 
 http://www.progressiverail.com/
 
 
Aaron
 


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FSD8014
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« Reply #19 on: Jul 3rd, 2005, 11:39am »
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It would be interesting to actually compare costs between shipping by truck and by rail between any two points on the line. Also between someplace off the island and here. Then we could quantify any savings.  Coastrail, I agree with you about expanding towards Campbell River, though it would be expensive. The area has the potential to be worthwhile for rail service. Isnt there a mill there that takes railcars by barge? Even now the E&N rails pass lots of businesses that could ship by rail but dont. Could we mention transloading for businesses not directly on the line? How about a facility for container shipments in larger centers (Victoria,Nanaimo et al). Lots of former CP and CN trackage is now profitable in the hands of smaller operators willing to work with the lines available resources. So can the E&N.

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