Rail roundhouse to be renovated

Heritage structure to remain intact as CP Rail draws down operations in Cranbrook.

You can put the rumours to rest—the old roundhouse in the Cranbrook rail yard is not going to be torn down.

Mark Jackson, a superintendent with CP Rail, addressed the rumour, among other topics at a recent Chamber of Commerce business luncheon at the St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino on Wednesday.

The Cranbrook rail yard is not fully closing—there will still be a CP Rail presence—as switching operations are being moved out to Fort Steele.

“The yard still operates, it still has engineering services here and mechanical people here, it’s just the work done in the yard is now spread out over a greater area,” said Jackson.

The roundhouse, which is considered a heritage structure, will remain intact and will likely undergo some renovations.

“There’s no specific details really, it’s just a renovation,” Jackson continued. “The footprint inside that, which has been obviously designed for locomotives, is now being changed over so we can have it used as offices for our staff.”

“The building that’s on 6th St., by the tracks, it’s going, so they’re being relocated and need a home.”

CP Rail is interested in preserving the heritage aspect of the roundhouse.

“We need the structure, we need a home base still in Cranbrook for our operations, maintaining the track and whatnot, no issue there and it’s the logical place to keep that home base,” Jackson continued.

The Roundhouse, which has 16 bays, was first constructed in 1907 with six walls. In 1920, 10 more stalls were added.

It is the only historic roundhouse left in British Columbia except for one in Victoria, which was built in 1913.

In 1989, a study was prepared and distributed to the [formerly] Canadian Museum of Rail Travel, which concluded that it would be ‘impossible’ to have car restoration work in the roundhouse, which—at that time—was still in operational use by CP Rail.

In addition to talking about the Cranbrook roundhouse, Jackson also touched on CP Rail operations both internationally, nationally and locally.

The Cranbrook rail yard will be closing as switching operations have moved out to Fort Steele. Jackson stressed that CP Railway is not abandoning Cranbrook or cutting jobs from the area.

He noted the company went through cost-cutting measures a few years ago and have become much more financially viable. Jackson cites aspects such as a lack of investment in the rail network, too many rail cars and too many managerial employees that bogged the company down.

Operating a railway is also a capital-intensive business, he continued, as a band-new locomotive costs $3 million. One train shipping coal to the coast will have four locomotives and $12 million in company assets.

Over 10 per cent of company revenue comes from shipping coal from Teck Resources operations in the Elk Valley. Shipping potash and grain to West Coast ports also makes up a large percentage of CP Rail operations, he continued.

Jackson said that the company is seeing an increase in the shipping of dangerous goods, but noted that the number of adverse incidents are going down.

“It should be a comfort to everybody in this room, that despite the fact that there are incidents on the property, Canadian Pacific still operates as the safest railway in North America and actually has the fewest incidents of any railway in North America,” he said.

The company owns the rail tracks throughout their national network and also into the eastern United States. Plans are in the works to spend $300 million to upgrade the tracks with specialized technology for Centralized Traffic Control.

That will allow the company to monitor the tracks and see trains in real-time rather than just through radio communication.

However, it’s expensive at about $1 million for a mile of track. CP Railway is hoping to get CTC track through the Elk Valley and Columbia Valley within the next few years.