Posts Tagged ‘railroad tunnels’

Where a Movie Was Once Made

June 20, 2021

In writing my posts last week about the New York & Lake Erie Railroad excursion train that Marty Surdyk and I chased on June 13, I was reminded of how some of the train scenes in the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles were made on that railroad.

The film, starring John Candy as Del Griffith and Steve Martin as Neal Page, included a scene where the two of them boarded a train at Stubbville, Kansas.

That was actually South Dayton, New York, and it is the first trackside sequence shown in the movie, which also featured scenes of the the train rounding a curve popping into and out of a short tunnel.

During an Akron Railroad Club/Railroad Enthusiasts photo charter on the NY&LE on April 26, 1987, club members had the opportunity for cab rides on locomotive 1013.

I was fortunate that my cab ride included a trip through the tunnel, which is the remnants of a former Erie Railroad branch from Dunkirk, New York, that passed over the ex-Erie line from Buffalo.

The top photo shows a runby at a tunnel at Dayton, New York, earlier in the day of April 26, 1987.

The middle image is my cab ride through tunnel while the last image is a runby through the tunnel similar to what is seen in the movie.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Pandemic Gave CP Opening to Buy Detroit River Tunnel

October 21, 2020

In a twist of fate, the COVID-19 pandemic gave Canadian Pacific an opening to take complete control of the Detroit River Rail Tunnel in a $312 million transaction that is awaiting regulatory approval.

CP executives said during an earnings call this week to announce third quarter financial numbers that gaining control of the tunnel is key to the railroad having more control over its destiny in competing for traffic in the corridor between Chicago and Eastern Canada, including the cities of Toronto and Montreal.

However, until the tunnel can be enlarged to accommodate all double-stacked container trains, CP will continue to rely on CSX to move that traffic between Chicago and Buffalo, New York.

CP also must continue to use Norfolk Southern to move traffic between Chicago and Detroit because it does not have its own tracks between those cities as does Canadian National.

The tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, was built by the Michigan Central in the early 20th century.

A strong financial position during an economic downturn prompted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic enabled CP to acquire the tunnel, CP CEO Keith Creek said during the earnings call.

He noted that CP during the 2008 Great Recession reduced its ownership stake in the tunnel from 50 percent to 16.5 percent in an effort to raise $110 million in cash.

But this around during an economic downturn CP was in a much stronger financial position.

The advantage of tunnel ownership, Creel said, will be avoiding the toll charges the railroad now pays to use the tunnel.

Those amount to more than $14 million annually Trains magazine reported this week.

The tolls are paid to majority tunnel owner Borealis Transportation Infrastructure Trust.

Borealis is a subsidiary of the Ontario public employee pension fund and decided to sell its stake in the tunnel earlier this year.

As a part owner of the tunnel, CP had a right of first refusal, which it is exercising.

 “It made compelling sense to buy this asset back,” Creel said, adding that owning the tunnel will reduce CP’s operating costs and therefore boost profit margins on the route.

CP and Canadian National at one time jointly owned the twin-bore tunnel after buying Conrail’s interest in the Canada Southern Railway in 1984.  CN sold its half of tunnel ownership to Borealis in 2001.

One of the tunnel tubes was enlarged in 1993 to handle auto racks and international double-stack containers but the clearance is not enough for double-stacked domestic containers.

CP now uses the tunnel for merchandise and automotive traffic.

CP to Fully Own Detroit River Tunnel

October 17, 2020

Canadian Pacific said this week it will acquire full ownership of the Detroit River Rail Tunnel for $312 million under an agreement with Ontario benefit pension plan.

The two have an ownership partnership in which CP has a 16.5 percent share. The 1.6-mile tunnel links Detroit with Windsor, Ontario.

In a news release, CP said full ownership will reduce its operating costs related to movements through the tunnel.

OMERS initially invested in the tunnel partnership in 2001.

The sale, which is subject to regulatory and customary closing conditions, is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

The Rio Grande of the East

March 28, 2020

The Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad is considered the “Rio Grande of the East.” It gets this moniker for several reasons.

CEO Larry Parsons worked for the Rio Grande and when he came to the Wheeling he adopted a paint scheme similar to that of the Rio Grande.

Also the territory, especially the east end of the railroad, is very rugged with many tunnels and high steel bridges.

Last Saturday I caught Wheeling train 218 as it exited State Line tunnel on the border of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Engine 301 is a GP40 that is a former Rio Grande engine acquired secondhand by the Wheeling.

Article and Photograph by Todd Dillon