Posts Tagged ‘Grand Elk Railroad’

Watco to Take Over CN lines Jan. 29

January 26, 2022

Watco Company said it plans to assume control of several Canadian National branches in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario on Jan. 29.

Many of the branches were formerly operated by the Wisconsin Central, which CN acquired on Jan. 30, 2001.

All of the 142 miles of tackage in Michigan is located in the state’s upper peninsula and will be operated by Grand Elk Railroad, which already operates lines in the lower peninsula.

Grand Elk will base its operations in Newberry, Michigan, and use two GP38 locomotives. It will employ five workers.

In Wisconsin, the Fox Valley & Lake Superior will operate 329 miles of track, employ 27 and use eight locomotives, six SD40-2s and two GP40-3s.

In Ontario, Watco will operate on former Algoma Central track between Sault Ste. Marie and Oba.

Passengers excursion trains through the Agawa Canyon will be reinstated, the short line holding company said.

Dispute Leaves Michigan Shippers Without Rail Service; STB Asked to Break the Deadlock

September 21, 2016

A dispute between the Grand Elk Railroad and CSX has left a half-dozen Michigan shippers without rail service for the past six weeks.

STBThe two railroads are arguing over a 3-mile stretch of track in Grand Rapids, Michigan, owned by CSX and over which Norfolk Southern had trackage rights.

CSX last month said that Grand Elk can not use the track because the NS trackage rights were not conveyed to the Grand Elk when it leased an NS line in 2008.

Grand Elk, which is owned by Watco, has asked the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to rule on the matter, asking the board to render a decision as soon as possible.

The short line said the trackage rights were “inadvertently” left out of Watco’s agreement with NS.

For its part, CSX has asked the STB to deny Grand Elk’s petition and argues that the short line has been operating illegally on the track in dispute.

Grand Elk, which began operating the former Conrail line in 2009, contends that it assumed that trackage rights had been assigned to it even if they were not specifically stated in the lease agreement.

In a filing before the STB, Grand Elk said if the trackage rights had been excluded, it would make no sense to sign the lease agreement.

CSX told the STB that Grand Elk had six opportunities to include the disputed trackage, but failed to do so when it negotiated the lease agreement with NS.

“CSX believes that [Grand Elk] has been operating surreptitiously over the line to mislead shippers about the product it is selling,” a CSX filing said.

It said Grand Elk’s failure to obtain STB authorization for more than seven years should not be viewed as an oversight but part of an illegal operation on CSX track.

CSX also contends that all previous trackage rights agreements expired in 2014. Grand Elk has sought to circumvent this by asking the STB to make the trackage rights retroactive to 2009.

The dispute dates to an effort in the 1980s by the city of Grand Rapids and the Michigan Department of Transportation to reduce the number of railroad lines in Grand Rapids in order to improve traffic safety.

The Chesapeake & Ohio gave Conrail trackage rights so it could abandon its right-of-way.

The 122-mile Conrail route in question extends from Grand Rapids to Elkhart, Indiana, and was conveyed to NS as part of the 1999 Conrail breakup.

Supporting the Grand Elk are shippers, city government and state elected officials.

One such shipper is Brink Farms, which in 2015 built a $2 million transload facility in Grand Rapids that has sat idle due to the trackage rights dispute.

Brink, which provides bulk transportation service for farmers, including feed, fertilizer, and grain, has another Grand Rapids facility that is not affected by the dispute.

Filings in the case indicate that CSX has said it will provide switching at the new Brink facility for $300 per car move, whereas Grand Elk would charge $105.

Brink said the CSX charges make it cost-prohibitive to use its new transload site. Brink Farms ships about 1,000 cars per year.

BO Tower Interlocking Machine Shut Down

September 12, 2014


Operators are still lining signals and switches at BO Tower in Kalamzoo, Mich., but not for much longer.

This past Tuesday the 44-level Saxby & Farmer interlocking machine inside of the tower was taken out of service. The tower remains open 24 hours a day with operators using a control panel to authorize movements.

But in the not too distant future an Amtrak train director in Chicago will be handed the responsibility to control the junction of Amtrak’s Michigan Line (former Michigan Central) and the Grand Elk Railroad.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is acquired the former MC line east of Kalamazoo from Norfolk Southern. NS will eventually relinquish to Amtrak the dispatching of the route.

The Michigan Railroad Commission approved the now decommissioned interlocking by New York Central affiliate MC in January 1915

BO tower once controlled lines affiliated with the Grand Trunk Western, NYC and Pennsylvania, along with interurban Michigan Railway

The ex-MC was divided between Amtrak and Conrail in 1976. Conrail also acquired the ex-PRR line.

Norfolk Southern got the two Conrail routes in 1999 and sold the ex-PRR line to the Grand Elk in 2009. The ex-MC east of Kalamazoo was sold to the Michigan Department of Transportation in 2013 with NS retaining freight rights.

Amtrak and the state of Michigan are rebuilding the Kalamazoo-Dearborn corridor for 110 mph speeds, which includes major track upgrades along with a complete replacement of the signal system to modern hardware that provides positive train control.

The route is used by the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service and the Chicago-Port Huron, Mich., Blue Water.



Grand Elk Railroad Gets New GM

March 12, 2014

Watco Transportation Services has named Larry McCloud as general manager of the Grand Elk Railroad.

McCloud most recently served as vice president of operations for Industrial Railway. His 39 years of rail industry experience include stints as president of the Tuscola Saginaw Bay Railroad and vice president for RailAmerica Inc. He also served the C&O Railway in such capacities as brakeman, conductor, fireman, engineer, yardmaster and trainmaster.

Launched in 2009, the Grand Elk Railroad was Watco’s first railroad to operate in Indiana and Michigan and has 151 miles of track between Grand Rapids, Mich., and Elkhart, Ind