February 21, 1955 Railway Age Vol. 138 No. 6

From mine to dock iron ore moves faster

. . . because Canadian National bought more ore cars, extended dock, laid new rail, lengthened sidings, and installed centralized traffic control.

Iron ore is taken from this open pit mine near Atikokan and loaded into . . .

these seventy-ton ore cars which are then assembled in eastbound . . .

heavy tonnage trains which move by signal indication controlled by the dispatcher to . . .

Port Arthur docks where the ore is dumped into lake boats.

To handle more traffic at higher average speed on a single track line, the Canadian National has laid new rail, extended sidings and installed new signalling on 141 miles of line from ore docks on Lake Superior, at Port Arthur, west to an ore mine at Atikokan, Ont. Two hundred new 70-ton ore cars were added to this operation in 1954, and the 600-ft four-track ore dock at Port Arthur is being extended 600 ft so more boats can be loaded at one time.

From Port Arthur double track extends 35.7 miles through Fort William to Conmee, then the road is single track 105 miles to Atikokan and on west to Winnipeg, 438 miles from Port Arthur. Transcontinental traffic is not routed on this line, but takes another Canadian National route about 250 miles north of Port Arthur.

Port Arthur and Fort William are the principal Canadian lakehead points at the west end of Lake Superior. Large quantities of grain, grown in the western prairie provinces, move eastbound through Winnipeg, and then over the line through Atikokan to Port Arthur. There the grain is placed in large terminal elevators to be loaded on lake vessels for movement east. This grain movement is at a peak from harvest time until the close of navigation. As soon as navigation opens in the spring, grain again is moved in large quantities eastbound through Port Arthur.

This line serves a large open-pit iron ore mine at Atikokan, 141 miles west of Port Arthur. Shipments from this mine move in ore cars to Port Arthur, where these cars are moved out onto a large ore dock, to be dumped into ships for movement eastward on the Great Lakes. Starting in the 1953 season of navigation, 1,301,364 long tons of this ore were handled from the Atikokan mine to the docks, and plans were made to handle increases to about 5,000,000 tons annually.

Up to 30 trains daily on single track

Farming country extends from Port Arthur about 35 miles, beyond which the terrain is so rough and rocky that there is no agriculture or industry except mining and cutting of pulp wood for paper mills. Port Arthur and Fort William have a combined population of 87,000. One time freight, on fast schedule, is operated each way daily between Winnipeg and Port Arthur, to handle meats, foods, manufactured products and merchandise. One passenger train, which makes stops at all towns, is operated each way daily, except Sunday. A local freight operates westbound two days each week, and eastbound two days. Extra trains are operated as required to handle grain and ore. As many as 30 trains are operated some days.

At Port Arthur the lake level is 603 ft above sea level and the tracks are at 608 ft elevation. From Port Arthur to Shabaqua the railroad, in general, follows up the valley of the Kaministiquia river, the maximum grade being about 1.08 per cent. From Shabaqua the ascending grade is about 1.18 per cent for 4 miles to MP 57.1 from which the grade continues to ascend at a maximum of 0.96 per cent for 2 miles to Annex, with practically level grade 37 miles on to Huronian, .whence the grade descends to Atikokan. Thus, for the eastward movement of grain and ore, the grade is ascending at 0.70 per cent compensated for 45 miles from Atikokan to Huronian; level for 39 miles to Annex, and then down grade 60 miles to Port Arthur.

Much of this section of railroad is on curves, there being 300 curves in the 105 miles; many range over 5 or 6 degrees, some are 8-degree and one 9-degree. At 13 locations the speed is restricted to 30 mph for freight trains. Maximum authorized speed is 45 mph for passenger trains and 35 for freights, except for 27 miles between Conmee and Neebing yard where the limits are 55 and 45 respectively. Trains handling ore are limited to 25 mph all the way between Atikokan and Port Arthur.

Ordinarily, westbound freights are handled by diesel locomotives rated 3,300 tons as far as Annex, and 5,800 tons on to Atikokan; or 6,400 tons eastward from Atikokan to Huronian, and 9,620 tons from Huronian to Port Arthur. The two time freight merchandise trains, one each way daily, are handled by diesel locomotives, and make the run, either way between Neebing yard and Atikokan in about 4½ hours.

Loaded cars of ore are usually moved in solid trains or with cars of grain. Previous to the use of diesel locomotives, a crew would take enough loaded cars to fill the locomotive tonnage rating from Atikokan up the grade 45 miles to Huronian, where these cars were set out, while the crew went back to Atikokan to get more loaded cars, and take these, with those set out at Huronian, to Port Arthur. That would be about 9,500 tons which the locomotive can easily handle on the descending grade, all the way. Since diesel locomotives have been placed in service these turnarounds have been eliminated. Empties are hauled from Neebing yard to Annex and these are used as fill outs for trains to Atikokan.

Because of the speed restrictions, due to curves, grades and the 25-mph limit for ore trains, the average speed of trains in motion is relatively low. Another handicap is that when traffic is at normal summer volume, as many as 19 meets are made on the single track in an 8-hour shift. Previously when operating by timetable and train orders, with hand-thrown siding switches, much time was lost in getting in and out of sidings and waiting for meets. Now with CTC, the siding switches are operated by machines, and these machines with signals for authorizing train movements are under the control of the dispatcher. Meets are so close that in some instances neither train stops. Thus the average speed has been increased close to that governed by the curves, grades and other factors. In short, the capacity of the line has been increased to meet the requirements imposed by increased traffic.

Some sidings extended, others removed

As part of the improvement program, 15 sidings were lengthened to accommodate 114 to 120 cars, with a 127- car siding at Kawene, and a 150-car siding at Annex. These numbers are in terms of 45-ft cars, whereas the ore cars are only 24 ft long. Thus, a 115-car siding will hold 240 ore cars. When lengthening the sidings and laying new 115-lb rail on the main track, new No. 12 turnouts were installed at the ends of the 17 long sidings at which power switches and signals were installed as part of the CTC.

Some of the previous short sidings, such as the one at Owakonze, MP 101, were removed. Other short sidings, such as the one at Shebandowan, were left in place for use of work equipment cars. These switches, as well as other main track switches leading to spurs, were equipped with electric locks as part of the CTC.

The 35 miles of double track from Port Arthur west ends at Conmee, where the Graham line branches off to the north, extending 160 miles to connect at Sioux Lookout with the direct transcontinental line of the Canadian National. The layout at the end of double track at Conmee includes two crossovers, operated by three power switches and one spring switch, all of which, including signals, are in the CTC system.

About 1 mile west of the station at Port Arthur, the Canadian National main track is crossed by the main tracks of the Canadian Pacific, this crossing previously having been protected by a 34-lever mechanical interlocking. As part of the improvement program, this interlocker was replaced by power switches and signals, all of which are included in the CTC system. This crossing layout includes, on the Canadian National, two switches leading to a yard, and a switch at the end of double track; and, on the Canadian Pacific, a crossover between main tracks, and a switch leading to a yard. Thus, a total of six power switches and home signals are included. The new automatic block signaling on the double track between Port Arthur and Conmee, 34.2 miles, is for single-direction, right-hand running.

This new signaling was planned and installed by Canadian National forces. The major items of signal equipment were furnished by the General Railway Signal Company.

Ref: Kashabowie Subdivision.