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UP and Canadian Pacific have referred to it as the Can-Am Corridor, a vital outlet for unit train and carload business that includes Canadian exports into the U.S., Canadian exports overseas via U.S. ports, and U.S. grain from the Midwest that travels across southern Canada before re-entering the U.S. at Eastport. The increase in traffic over the Can-Am has prompted 20-plus years of incremental investment in capacity improvements, on both sides of the border.
Up until the early 1990s, UP’s interchange with CP at Eastport averaged just one manifest train each way per day, plus occasional unit trains of grain or potash moving south. But by the early 2000s, traffic through Eastport had quadrupled. South of Spokane, that traffic is joined by two more manifests, as well as three or four coal trains per week coming off BNSF at Spokane for delivery by UP to a powerplant in northeast Oregon.
The Can-Am’s growth got its start in 1997 when potash transport consortium Canpotex opened its export terminal near Portland, Ore. The following year, one-third of Canada’s potash exports began heading that way. UP responded to the surge in potash and other Can-Am traffic by replacing jointed rail with continuous welded rail between Spokane and Eastport, and by replacing wood ties with concrete ties on some of the steeper and more heavily curved sections of that route.
UP and CP extended the length of some sidings to handle longer trains, while Canpotex ordered a fleet of new high-capacity hoppers from National Steel Car. Precursors to the grain hoppers which CP ordered from NSC in 2018, the cars that Canpotex began using in 1999 allowed potash trains on the Can-Am to grow from 104 cars hauling 12,000 tons to 124 cars hauling 17,000 tons. In 2011, potash trains on the Can-Am began averaging 135 cars, prompting both railroads to lengthen a handful of sidings even more.
This article first appeared on www.railwayage.com
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