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Canadian National (DW&P and WC)

[G2:1527 n=0 frame=none size=640]Units from Wisconsin Central and DM&IR mingle with a former GCFX SD40-3 at CN's Pokegama engine facility during the early morning.

On January 1, 1996, Canadian National officially became a name player in Twin Ports railroading. On that day CN absorbed the railroad operations of its U.S. subsidiary Grand Trunk Corporation. GTC included the Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific Railway and its line from the Twin Ports to Ranier on the Canadian-Minnesota border. The DW&P gained access to Duluth in 1912 when it extended an existing line south from Virginia, Minnesota. In 1984 the "Peg" abandoned its West Duluth line in favor of a new facility located on Missabe's Interstate Branch in Wisconsin. This move was made necessary by the extension of Interstate 35 through downtown Duluth. The I-35 project forced the removal of the BN/C&NW Bridge Yard located in downtown Duluth. This yard had been the DW&P's primary interchange location. Former DW&P track begins at Nopeming Junction, just west of Duluth (where the original line into Duluth bridged the DM&IR's Spirit Lake Branch).

Facilities/Operations

Today CN's primary operating base for general freight (non-iron ore) is Pokegama Yard in rural Superior (built in 1984 as a result of the move out of West Duluth). This facility includes a diesel house and car shop for light repairs as well as an office for local operations. Dispatching of the former DW&P north from Duluth on the Rainy Subdivision is handled from Stevens Point, Wisconsin (up until February of 2005 the dispatchers for the former DW&P were housed at Pokegama). Typically a pair of locomotives handle numerous transfer runs from Pokegama to BNSF's 28th Street Yard, CP's Stinson Yard, and UP's Itasca Yard. In 2005 it was not uncommon to find a DM&IR SD38 coupled to a Wisconsin Central or Illinois Central engine on these moves. Generally there is a 08:00 transfer/yard job. Some trains that arrive from Canada and do not need switching head straight through Pokegama to various yards in Superior or towards Chicago over the former Wisconsin Central (Superior Sub).

OPERATIONAL NOTE: The former DW&P line (Rainy Subdivision) between Nopeming Junction and Virginia, Minnesota is used primarily for northbound trains while southbound trains use the former DM&IR (Missabe Subdivision) between those two locations.

Wisconsin Central gained access to the Twin Ports in 1987 when the Soo Line sold a number of its lines in Wisconsin. As part of that deal, Soo Line granted WC trackage rights over their Ladysmith-Superior mainline with the stipulation that WC could not handle CN (DW&P) overhead traffic to Chicago. During 1992, in an effort to gain a portion of that lucrative Canadian business, WC agreed to purchase C&NW's line into Superior, thus allowing WC to handle CN overhead business to Chicago. Shortly after that announcement was made, Soo agreed to sell its Superior-Ladysmith line to WC. Then, with two lines out of Superior, WC was able to abandon a portion of the original Soo mainline south of Superior and instead use its former C&NW line to reach Gordon, Wisconsin and a connection with the ex-Soo mainline to Ladysmith. WC chose to use the C&NW line from Superior due to its slightly lesser grade when compared to the Soo mainline.

CN, in an effort to control its traffic to Chicago, on October 9, 2001 completed its acquisition of the Wisconsin Central. Superior was a major interchange point between the two railroads and as such become a very busy location on the merged system. With this purchase, all local operations of the former WC were shifted to Pokegama Yard. Then on January 1, 2002 operations on former DW&P territory were officially absorbed by the new WC Division of CN (itself later renamed as CN's Wisconsin Division).

WC owned very little yard trackage in the Twin Ports. A small office building, long storage track, and pulpwood loading spur were all that constituted WC's Parkland operations base. After the CN purchase the small office building was relocated to Sauntry (south of Superior) for track maintenance workers. At Ambridge WC did retain a small former Soo Line interchange yard with the DM&IR's Interstate Branch, but this yard, and the diamond that crossed the Missabe, were removed after CN's purchase. Through its purchase of WC, CN did gain ownership of the line between Ambridge and CP's Stinson Yard, today known as CN's Stinson Subdivision. Former WC crews run south out of Pokegama/Steelton while former DW&P crews run north and DM&IR crews continue to handle former Missabe traffic.