Shippers Express Support for Watco Acquisition of CN Lines in Michigan, Wisconsin

Even as some shippers are raising concerns others have expressed support for the sale by Canadian National of several lines in Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan.

The lines, many of which were once operated by Wisconsin Central, are being acquired by short line operator Watco.

The transaction involves 650 miles of what CN described as light density routes. Watco hopes to begin operating the routes on June. 30.

A major shipper group, a current shipper, railroad associations in Wisconsin and Michigan, a county economic development agency, and a Wisconsin business group are urging the U.S. Surface Transportation board to approve the deal.

“Access to reliable rail service is critically important to the viability of our agriculture, timber, and manufacturing sectors in the states of Wisconsin and Michigan. Having a company like Watco operating these important branch line segments is a great move towards the future of rail transportation in these regions,” wrote Kurt Bauer, who leads Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s chamber of commerce and largest business association.

Rail consultant William Schauer, a former vice president of marketing at Wisconsin Central, wrote in a letter to the STB that “the Wisconsin Central is gone and will not be coming back.”

He said the former WC main line remains vital to CN as a link between Western Canada and Chicago.

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