CN/CSX: CN Acquires 224-Mile CSX Massena Package

CN Agrees To Purchase Syracuse NY - Valleyfield Qc Line Serving South Bank Of St. Lawrence River Up To Beauharnois Intermodal Terminal.

29 August, Montreal QC – When CSX announced its plan to dispose of six properties in June 2018, the Massena Line “package” included the 158.8-mile St. Lawrence Subdivision ( Syracuse-Massena ), the ~65-mile Montreal Subdivision (in service Massena-Beauharnois) 1 . The described package also included several spurs and the ~30-mile Fulton subdivision serving the Port of Oswego on Lake Ontario. The sale announcement does not specify the total track mileage.

Syracuse NY – Montreal QC

The Massena Line runs ~224 miles from Syracuse to Beauharnois QB. CSX has invested heavily to expand container traffic, but bet wrong {Google, annotated by ANRP; image (c)ANRP}.

Since 2012 CSX has invested more than $100 Million to turn the Massena Line into a major channel for container traffic. Terminating well east of the Port of Montreal with a single Class I interchange (CN, Valleyfield), the line is essentially a 220-mile spur off of the CSX Water Line Route. After trying unsuccessfully first to spin-off the line, and then to reduce service, CSX launched the Valleyfield Intermodal Yard in 2015, but never achieved the projected level of traffic. The line is additionally challenged by complex routing, a discrete customer population, and notorious winter weather.

Running south, the Massena Line runs over six roads and seven waterways, under 14 roadways, and through 14 grade crossings. It interchanges with the NYO (Norwood NY), the Balmat Industrial Track (Gouverneur), the MHWA (Carthage), the Fort Drum Lead (Philadelphia), and the Fulton Subdivision (Woodard) {Wikipedia}.

Unproductive route

On 8 August CN and CSX announced a deal for CN to partner on intermodal traffic. Scheduled to launch Oct. 7, the service “will directly connect the metropolitan markets of Toronto and Montreal to the ports of Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, and the New York City metropolitan area … and increase both railway’s offerings for consumer-focused shipments,” according to the announcement {, 08.Aug.2019}. The following week, CSX announced that the Valleyfield Intermodal facility would close once the new service began {Mario Pitre, Journal Saint Francois 15.Aug.2019 (via Google Translate)}.

 Natural fit for CN

In contrast to the Massena line’s loose-end status in the CSX network, the route adds valuable capacity, access, and facilities to CN’s core. A direct Montreal – Syracuse route, with a major “coastal” intermodal terminal on one end, and the (prospective) DeWitt Inland Port/CSX Main Line at the other is a major boost to CN’s intermodal capacity. Even if the deal — understandably — nixes a straight-haul (via NYSW) to the Binghamton/NS mainline 2 , access between the Canadian heartland and the major US North Atlantic ports is nonetheless dramatically improved. A reflection of CN’s confidence in the line is evident in a CN spokesman’s said the sale agreement included the operation of the Valleyfield facility {Mario Pitre, Journal Saint Francois 29.Aug.2019 (via Google Translate)}.

1 The Montreal Subdivision is out of service from Northeast Beauharnois (QC) Yard Limit/MP QM226.1 to CP  ADIRONDACK JUNCTION /MP QM238.4 {}.

 2 ” The deal will not allow CN to directly interchange with [NYSW] in Syracuse, according to people familiar with the matter ” {Bill Stephens, Trains 29.Aug.2019}.