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Folks, it's time to address the elephant in the room, and unfortunately, I don't have good news. The rumours have been flying for months (years actually) and the inevitable seems like it's now going to happen - the Southern Ontario Railway and the Goderich-Exeter Railway will not be the same once the leases end later this year.
For the last 20 or so years the employees of the GEXR and SOR have worked very hard to service their territories and substantially increased business through innovative ideas and service plans. CN gave up this business in 1997/1998 and if history is any indication, these Shortlines have greatly improved customer service as CN was sorely lacking in such at the time. It is the GEXR an SOR employees' hard work that made the railways successful and these are the folks that will be most affected by this - I give out a heartfelt apology to all of them and wish them well as this may not be an easy transition for everyone. Their livelihoods depend on this and, given this fact I'd like our members to refrain from wild speculation on what is to happen, trust me when I say this, even with this news we still don't know for sure other than dates.
Last week a letter was faxed/mailed to all affected customers, and area terminals in Ontario stating some very simple facts, and I'll quote it verbatim - shorting irrelevant portions out, noting that this is the first public mention of this plan since it was rumoured some years ago, and furthermore,  as of today, CN and GWRR have yet to issue any official press releases on the subject. As follows:

"CN is pleased to announce that we will be assuming control of operations for the following rail lines:
Southern Ontario Railway's Hagersville subdivision effective September 18 2018. This rail line includes the following stations: Caledonia, Hagersville and Nanticoke.
SOR's Hamilton subdivision effective December 13 2018. this rail line includes the Hamilton rail station"And in a separate page
"CN is pleased to announce that we will be assuming control of operations of the following stations on the Goderich-Exeter Railway (GEXR's) Guelph  Subdivision effective November 15 2018: London east, Thorndale, Kelly's, St. Marys, Stratford, Shakespeare, New Hamburg, Baden, Petersburg, Kitchener/Waterloo, Breslau, Acton, Elmira, St. Jacobs, Galt, and Cambridge"
Many of the employees of the SOR and GEXR browse this site and it is my personal opinion that CN is making a mistake - but it's not our decision is it. There may be forces at work far greater than local managements control that are effecting these decisions. I simply wish all the best to those affected and hope that everyone is treated fairly, and with respect. As you go out to photograph these operations, I ask the same of our RP.CA members, to remember the livelihoods on the line and to give the same respect and distance, over time we'll see what happens and what CN's plan is. It will be business as usual until then... and only then will we know what exactly is to happen - as anything in the railway, until it actually happens, there is always the 'subject to change' rule that rings true.

And for the youngins in the audience or those uncertain what this means: The Goderich-Exeter Railway will remain between Stratford and Goderich and Exeter as those stations are not mentioned in the notice above. The Southern Ontario Railway is expected to possibly survive in some capacity as the Esso switching contract at Nanticoke is separate to the lease, as is the Brantford Ingenia (Burford spur) contract, but we say possibly because this notice could greatly change circumstances for G&W. G&W will also retain Railcare Inc. in Hamilton as this was purchased in 2016. Everything else - get your shots.
Copyright Notice: This image ©Stephen C. Host all rights reserved.



Caption: Folks, it's time to address the elephant in the room, and unfortunately, I don't have good news. The rumours have been flying for months (years actually) and the inevitable seems like it's now going to happen - the Southern Ontario Railway and the Goderich-Exeter Railway will not be the same once the leases end later this year.

For the last 20 or so years the employees of the GEXR and SOR have worked very hard to service their territories and substantially increased business through innovative ideas and service plans. CN gave up this business in 1997/1998 and if history is any indication, these Shortlines have greatly improved customer service as CN was sorely lacking in such at the time. It is the GEXR an SOR employees' hard work that made the railways successful and these are the folks that will be most affected by this - I give out a heartfelt apology to all of them and wish them well as this may not be an easy transition for everyone. Their livelihoods depend on this and, given this fact I'd like our members to refrain from wild speculation on what is to happen, trust me when I say this, even with this news we still don't know for sure other than dates.

Last week a letter was faxed/mailed to all affected customers, and area terminals in Ontario stating some very simple facts, and I'll quote it verbatim - shorting irrelevant portions out, noting that this is the first public mention of this plan since it was rumoured some years ago, and furthermore, as of today, CN and GWRR have yet to issue any official press releases on the subject. As follows:

"CN is pleased to announce that we will be assuming control of operations for the following rail lines:

Southern Ontario Railway's Hagersville subdivision effective September 18 2018. This rail line includes the following stations: Caledonia, Hagersville and Nanticoke.
SOR's Hamilton subdivision effective December 13 2018. this rail line includes the Hamilton rail station"

And in a separate page"CN is pleased to announce that we will be assuming control of operations of the following stations on the Goderich-Exeter Railway (GEXR's) Guelph Subdivision effective November 15 2018: London east, Thorndale, Kelly's, St. Marys, Stratford, Shakespeare, New Hamburg, Baden, Petersburg, Kitchener/Waterloo, Breslau, Acton, Elmira, St. Jacobs, Galt, and Cambridge"

Many of the employees of the SOR and GEXR browse this site and it is my personal opinion that CN is making a mistake - but it's not our decision is it. There may be forces at work far greater than local managements control that are effecting these decisions. I simply wish all the best to those affected and hope that everyone is treated fairly, and with respect. As you go out to photograph these operations, I ask the same of our RP.CA members, to remember the livelihoods on the line and to give the same respect and distance, over time we'll see what happens and what CN's plan is. It will be business as usual until then... and only then will we know what exactly is to happen - as anything in the railway, until it actually happens, there is always the 'subject to change' rule that rings true.

And for the youngins in the audience or those uncertain what this means: The Goderich-Exeter Railway will remain between Stratford and Goderich and Exeter as those stations are not mentioned in the notice above. The Southern Ontario Railway is expected to possibly survive in some capacity as the Esso switching contract at Nanticoke is separate to the lease, as is the Brantford Ingenia (Burford spur), but we say possibly because this notice could greatly change circumstances for G&W. G&W will also retain Railcare Inc. in Hamilton as this was purchased in 2016. Everything else - get your shots.

Photographer:
Stephen C. Host [809] (more) (contact)
Date: 03/13/2018 (search)
Railway: Southern Ontario Railway (search)
Reporting Marks: RLHH 3403 (search)
Train Symbol: GEXR 431-18 (search)
Subdivision/SNS: Guelph (search)
City/Town: Guelph (search)
Province: Ontario (search)
Share Link: http://www.railpictures.ca/?attachment_id=33030
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34 Comments
  1. As I see it, a locomotive or car mover, trained employees with the correct certifications and licenses, agreements with CN to operate over their track, if needed. Sufficient liability insurance (this is the real killer, large railways including conglomerate shortlines have blanket policies that cover all their operations hence spreading the cost) and insurance requirements have only skyrocketed since Megantic..

    Any operator (SOR, CN, etc) also have to pay these costs and also have a price for Ingenia to pay for all of this..

    Ingenia’s already on the hook for track, crossing and signal maintenance – it can’t be cheap, there’s a boatload of crossings to deal with.

    I really don’t know where it will go – if Ingenia was really cheap they’d have switched to trucks in 2015, but they didn’t, so we’ll just have to see what happens. They clearly value their rail service. Anything is possible, we’ll just have to wait and see.

  2. So if Ingenia operated the Burford themselves then what would that require possibly? Wouldn’t they need something to move the cars. I wonder if there are any operators that could service them or if it’s more likely that they will switch to trucks? I wonder what’s cheaper/most likely to happpen. At the end of the day i will have to wait and see but it’s been stuck in my head for days now..

  3. Aaron, Brad, these are all good questions, but remember, the Burford and Elmira are on privately owned spurs (Not CN owned) and it’s up to the owners to enter into a contract for service with an operator. They could also operate it themselves and hire the people to do it..

    But you know, this costs money, so it’s anyone’s guess what happens. Just wait and see what unfolds, it’ll be interesting to say the least.

    This is why “get your shots” rings true now.

  4. And do you think CN will bother with servicing the industry at Elmira?

  5. Aaron..or a firm like ‘Railserve’ that works the Suncor plant and interchange yard with CN here in Clarkson, Mississauga and typically does switching assignments.

  6. I am somewhat concerned about the Burford Spur, if SOR is done for then the only chances for rail service seem to be CN (again) or ingenia buying a switcher of their own, but i wonder what is the most likely outcome. Will the Burford spur be overgrown by this time next year? hopefully not..

  7. I have to wonder CN’s modus operandi… I thought they wanted contracts to handle local traffic ie, as Steven pointed out at Clarkson Railserve for Suncor, and that they wanted to handle the port to port intermodal freight…a lot of which you see isn’t destined for Canada, but a shortcut (much like CASO [RIP] sub promoted) from port to port..to port… But essentially the big stuff. what is their interest in serving local industries? Maybe because of Metrolinx..like on the Oakville sub, understandable that CN crews have more knowledge/protocol…And GEXR but what’s the idea without speculation?

  8. You sure get around young man – how do you get there? I didn’t think you were driving age.

    Only about 8 or 9 more of those LRT’s to be delivered :) So that many more moves will occur. Enjoy it if you go see another :)

  9. Phil and Steve, I’m not sure if any of you will find this interesting but last night actually I went to Kitchener and caught GEXR 584 delivering ION 506 to the Waterloo Region. They set it off in Commonwealth Plywood’s siding for the night and I think today the region will unload it. Though I should share that with you in case you were interested. It was night time so I couldn’t get any good photos well photos good enough for this site I should say but it was still a great experience!

  10. Did Graydon say change routine? Buddy this is exactly what’s going to happen, we just won’t know what until a few months for now. Commonwealth and Home Hardware are very infrequent shippers, and don’t forget the height and width restrictions that are now in effect limiting what these lumber dealers can take.

    A third track? HA! You know what, it would be cheaper to re-lay the CPR Goderich sub from Guelph then put in a third track, heck It was probably a cheaper alternative all along to the modifications installed to allow freight to use the LRT, but alas, it’s built, it’s done, and it’s not going to change. A third track would be impossible now, the right of way has no allowance for such. Funny enough, if you look at the right of way near Ottawa St – it’s exactly this – two main tracks and a third (freight) main right beside for a mile. CN said no – you can’t use our track, and the allowance for a third main track was made. It crosses at grade at hayward Ave and Ottawa St – have a look on google street maps, it’s quite the set-up. http://www.railpictures.ca/?attachment_id=29489

  11. @Stephen and Railfan99. Thanks for the LRT info Stephen. I knew they were working on it but did not know how it affects freight trains.
    Railfan99, that was my thoughts exactly after the info Stephen shared. I was wondering if they could not add another track at this location that would not interfere with the LRT. Is it also possible that they could have 584 move all traffic for lifts to Stratford?

  12. Well I see your point Steve although from all the years I’ve been chasing GEXR to Elmira and back I always found that considering the fact that they have to work Kitchener yard beforehand and depending how long their train was there was never an exact time they went up. It always varied from as early as 1900 to as late as after midnight. So my question is, once the 2300-2400hr window starts I don’t see how exactly CN will manage to always make that window unless they totally change up 584s routine so someone else dose the switching in the yard therefore 584s cars will always be set up and ready to go for 2300. And if that manages to go well still their time in Elmira has always varied too due to the size of their load and if they needed to stop at Commenwealth or Fairway lumber than that’ll eat up more time too therefore it also may be a challenge to make them southbound window. I honestly think it’ll be smart to install a 3rd track for freight only.

  13. Phil, Elmira and St Jacobs are part of the announcement and this is the Waterloo “spur” of the Guelph sub announcement. Graydon is hopeful another Daylight freight will operate and possibly CN. He’s wrong, and sorry, after this, I hope you are convinced too, as follows:

    The only way to get to St Jacobs/Elmira is over the 3 mile shared segment of Waterloo’s double main track LRT, which will run every 10 to 15 minutes *PER DIRECTION* from 0500 to 0100 daily (that’s 20 hours a day of operations, seven days a week). Standing at a station, you’ll have a train each way every 15 minutes at all times of the day (So two trains will pass you in 15 minutes), during rush hour, it’ll be every 8 minutes (Two trains passing in 8 minutes, one north, one south). It’s no different than Streetcar frequencies.

    To run freight one of the two tracks is shut down by ION’s Control Centre to allow a freight to run north, and south, in a four hour window. If the train does not pass south in the window, already, the train will be forced to park for the day until the next window of opportunity. Right now the window of opportunity scheduled for freight is 2300-0400 as set by ION control centre.

    Make sense? CN has no say in this anymore – neither does GEXR, Region owns this line – and has set the window already. They won’t grant exceptions: it might be a train that gets stuck/disabled/hits something and closes or single tracks the line until it’s rescued. Or it might be given an extra hour because of an unforseen delay after it enters the ION LRT at 0300 and needs until 0430 or 0530 to get home, which is still darkness.

    A daylight run will be expressly forbidden and it will take something incredibly exceptional to have a train remain there in daylight. It most certainly won’t be planned, Waterloo region is planning this to never happen.

    ION LRT Trains are testing right now and multiple trainsets are about to enter the picture, service is set to begin by December this year. By the time CN comes in the picture ION LRT will be in full service testing mode – trains rolling by every few minutes.

    So there is a chance……….. but given the odds I stand by what I said :)

  14. @ Stephen. Sorry my friend i will have to disagree with you. When it comes to railroads “never say never”
    I am not familiar with this LRT subject and what it has to do with the Guelph Sub? Perhaps you can enlighten me about this subject.
    When it comes to running in daylight, I suspect that the freights most certainly run in the daytime.
    The reason i say this is when CN train 409 ran from Mac Yrd to Stratford and back all we had to contend with was the morning passenger train out of Stratford that used to chase us all the way to Kitchener (thank God for ref fusees) where it went by us and we continued on to Guelph and Mac Yrd.
    If CN only runs through freights it may well be in the time block that you are talking about, but if they run a way freight (thats the rumour) they will indeed run it in the daytime when the last eastbound GO train comes off the Guelph Sub. They would however have to be off the Guelph Sub before the westbound GO trains to Kitchener start back or be in a position to meet the GO trains.
    When it comes to railroading Never say Never :-)

  15. Graydon I’ll say never. No, CN won’t run in daylight. Not until the LRT is abandoned and by some miracle Chemtura in Elmira is still in business.

    It won’t happen. It’s done. It’s over. It’s finished. Trains will run between 2300 and 0400 and that’s final. There won’t be another daylight freight run ever again through the LRT section. If you are lucky, the best you’ll ever get is a train parked at Northfield for the day because they are stuck due to missing the window to get through the LRT section before opening.

    As it stands now it requires special permission to run during the day and that window of opportunity has nearly closed, they are ramping up testing and multiple vehicle testing will spell the end of this.

    There’s only been two or three daylight runs in the last three years… that’s it. Your never say never has already happened :)

    Of course, 20 or 30 or 40 years when we all ride flying ubers and the LRT is abandoned it might happen again, if Chemtura is still in business and freight by rail is still a thing :)

  16. Wow Steve this is a lot to take in. I can totally see why you highly encourage me to check out GEXR on all lines. I’m relieved though to see I got all summer to get my shots. Guess it’s time to start writing up my checklist!
    I’m gonna miss the different colored units for sure.

    Wonder if CN will ever do daylight runs to Elmira? I was told back in the day CN owned the line they went up there almost always in daylight. I understand it’s different now with the LRT but never say never.

  17. Thanks for the info Joseph. :-)
    It is a sweet and sour. I like seeing the SOR orange paint scheme posted here but I really like the loco stable at the OSR. They have some very interesting power there and glad they are not a part of this.

  18. @Lance.

    You are correct, the OSR (Ontario Southland Railway) is not effected by this move by CN. If anything they may benefit on the Guelph end of things. There could be potential for them to get more business switching local Guelph industries on the Guelph Junction Railway.

    The railway in question is the SOR (Southern Ontario Railway) otherwise known as the RLHH. They’re all G&W cookie cutter orange these days aside from two RLK GP9′s.

  19. This news on the month in the issue of ‘Trains’of a nice map of all of G&W’s short lines across North America.. and if you connect the lines they could be a class 1! I guess there will be omissions not additions.

  20. oops..I re-read the announcment & saw Elmira..”my bad”

  21. I wonder what this means for Elmira? The track runsout of Kitchener but is owned by the region of Waterloo. Currently G&W serves it & CN maintains signals (not sure about track) under contract.

  22. This follows a pattern CN has used before. They got off the Chatham Sub between Chatham & Windsor(used the CASO for a few years)& offloaded the line. They let taxpayers pay for track & signal upgrades & when these were complete, they came back as a tenant.
    The line through Kitchener has been partially sold off & upgraded & now they’re back. I suspect that some through freight will be diverted using this line in “off” hours to free up CN main line for things like night track work & if really busy.

  23. H’mmmm. Being a western type person, the initials OSR and SOR and the operations of your many short lines can be a little confounding from a distance. Those F units that I’m seeing posted here and are to this day still providing service, they are OSR, correct? They have nothing to do with this and should keep going about their business as per usual? I really enjoy seeing F units being photographed still out doing a days work and being posted on this site.

  24. I know all of these operations should be back in CN hands before the end of 2018 including all operations in Hamilton. The sad part is the G&W provides way better service that CN can or will. 36 years of railroading and I have watched companies that used to use rail switch to trucks because CN was not providing rail cars for them to use. E Hunter Harrison basically wanted what thry call “hook and haul” operations and if the company did not produce a certain amount of traffic, the operations were suspended or made so unreliable that the customer had no choice but to switch to trucks. Customers in the 80′s and 90′s fell like dominoes. I have old car control maps of CN customers in the GTA and there are hardly any left of what once was thriving traffic.
    I have no idea of what things will look like after CN gets the tracks back, but we can almost be certain it will not be as good as G&W operations.
    I agree with Stephen and Joseph. Get your shots while you can.

  25. Ha – Joe and I commented at same time. He’s on point too – just have to wait and see :)

  26. As I answered Benjamin, the answer is Yes, if the takeover occurs, CN trains, CN power.

    Look at the way things operate now – the Hagersville sub in Brantford actually has two customers, but they have been serviced by CN since 2000 as yard limits were handed from the SOR to CN, in return SOR added the Steel Train to their operations which lasted for 10 years. But CN has switched Brantford yard limits ever since. They are already sharing, but it’s only the two miles or so in Brantford, if it happens, it’ll be the same in Hagersville, within yard limits only.

    To be clear think of this as no different than a plant switcher at any large industry – locomotive(s) assigned to the plant sometimes have to leave the plant to get cars… but they won’t go too far. Look at Railserve in Clarkson for example, heck or CANDO at Formet in St. Thomas – Cando has a single locomotive assigned there and sometime it has to leave the plant.

    No one is going bankrupt, and the Burford spur is owned by Ingenia, a private company and customer/user of the railway. Ingenia could contract to anyone qualified to run the spur but the cars ultimately still come from CN. It’s still a tripartite agreement to keep that going, CN is still involved for car supply, but I wouldn’t hold your breath, get your shots if you need to, asap.

    G&W is a very large shortline holding company and has deep pockets and a deep bench of experience. They’ll find opportunities wherever they may be and re-organise as needed. I hope this helps explain things.

  27. Aaron,

    CN will run the line with their own locomotives and crews when they take back the line. If the SOR does in fact hold on to the switching contract at ESSO there will be SOR units of some description at the plant…probably a couple of GP38′s. Lots of things would have to happen logistically also, trackage rights to Garnet to pick up tank cars or some sort of service agreement to get the cars to the plant. Another interchange point could be Franklin Yard in Nanticoke.

    The SOR won’t go bankrupt as they are part of the G&W family, the railroad name could potentially just not exist anymore as they would not have any trackage. I can almost guarantee the units will get dispersed and RLHH reporting marks will live on.

    The Burford Spur is owned by Ingenia, so the SOR leaving doesn’t mean the end of the line…end of SOR service? Possible, but we will have to see what happens. Ingenia may have to contract someone else to work the line or purchase something to move cars. If it becomes too expensive I could see them trucking the pellets in.

  28. Forgive me for my lack of knowledge as i am 16 and not quite as experienced, but is CN gonna actually start running the Hagersville sub using it’s own equipment? But if SOR has a switching contract does that mean there will still be SOR trains or will it totally be CN? Or a mix of both? And could this potentially mean SOR will totally go bankrupt and lead to the demise of the Burford spur?

  29. I had know in advance but was not allowed to say anything about this news. Hopefully, this will mean more traffic on the Guelph Sub. CN had a daily Mac Yrd to Stratford and return train 409 with work at Kitchener and Guelph.

  30. Noted and changed.

  31. G&W doesn’t have a contract with Ingenia.

  32. Yes.

  33. Question, so would this mean that CN would start running there own train with CN power once the lease runs out?

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