Detour Efforts Struggle To Maintain Northeast Fluidity

Hoosac Collapse and Canadian First Nations Protest Blockades Force Major Scrambles Throughout the Region on NS, CN, CP, PAR, CMQ Routes. Some Detours Working Well, Others Not. Staged Traffic Building up.

22 February, U.S./Canada East —


NS/Pan Am Southern lanes have been dramatically affected by the complete shutdown of its main line due to the extensive failure of the west end of the Hoosac tunnel. NS has advised customers that the closure will be lifted at the end of February, but it seems possible that it will extend into March. These reports are based on available news and unofficial reporting.

NS Intermodal

Prior to the Hoosac tunnel closure, a long single stack intermodal train (symbol 22K eastbound /23K westbound) ran Chicago IL – Ayer MA. Most traffic was J.B. Hunt and HUB group. Detours using CSX Buffalo NY – Worcester MA were attempted but CSX only moved several trains between 12-20.February, citing crew shortages and capacity issues. NS has layed off Ayer intermodal terminal staff. No STB filing for adverse use has been recorded at this time.

The current plan is for NS 22K/23K to run Chicago – Mechanicville NY, and containers to be drayed to their final destination.

NS Automotive

Prior to the Hoosac tunnel closure, Ford autos were moving as part of the 22K/23K to ramps at Davisville RI (via P&W interchange in Gardner) and Ayer MA. This traffic has not moved since the 12.Feb tunnel closure. ( New England Ford dealers may have had an unhappy Presidents Day weekend. – Ed. ) Autoracks are ineligible for the VRS-Pan-Am re-route due to low clearance in Greenfield. Autoracks could conceivably move via CP to VRS (White Hall NY – Bellows Falls VT) to NECR (BF – Willimantic CT) to P&W (WMTC -to Davisville and Gardner). This route has not been used since 2015, and has not been employed so far since the Hoosac collapse.

NS – PAR Carload

Prior to closure, this lane comprised one daily round-trip (symbol 16R eastbound/11R westbound) from Binghamton NY to East Deerfield MA with interchange for Pan-Am. Since the tunnel closure, these trains have been consistently rerouting over Vermont Rail System instead, adding 8 hours or so of running time.

Exception: waste from Ayer had been moving in double-stacked 40’ Maersk containers that cannot fit in the Greenfield tunnel. This traffic has been accumulating in East Deerfield.

NS Haulage traffic

Some carload freight from NS had been moving via haulage rates for interchange between NS and New England shortlines such as P&W. This traffic has not been moving as detour rates are yet to be negotiated, though this is expected to be resolved shortly. Some cars have been staged at East Deerfield.

NS – CSX carload

A PAR East Deerfield – Rotterdam Junction train (EDRJ westbound and RJED eastbound) had been run daily or three times a week before the tunnel closure, heavy with garbage and scrap from Holyoke, and lots of propane. Following the closure, this traffic moved through Vermont via VRS but is now moving east from East Deerfield to Ayer and added to the regular CSX Q426/427 train between Portland and Selkirk yard via Worcester. Another possibility is for this traffic to move from East Deerfield to Springfield for CSX interchange but this has not happened.

Northwestern MA -Southern VT

Northern reroute for PAS trains :
1. PAR: East Deerfield MA – East Northfield;
2. NECR: EN – Bellows Falls VT;
3. GMRC: BF – Rutland;
4. VTR: RTL – Hoosick Jct. NY
{VRS System map; annotated by ANRP}

Schenectady NY – Ayer MA

Southern CSX reroute carried only five trains before being concluded : NS 22K left Chicago IL on Weds.12.Feb, and interchanged to CSX at CP-DRAW south of Buffalo NY, renamed CSX Z-016 via Worcester to Ayer. 23K (a/k/a CSX Z-017 en route Worcester – Buffalo) returned the following day. The next 22K departed Chicago 16.Feb., arriving Ayer 19.Feb.; departing Ayer westbound on 20.Feb as 23K. The fifth and last detour train departed Chicago also 20.Feb., and power remains in the eastern region. {OpenRailwayMap; annotated by ANRP}


Numerous blockades of rail lines have been erected across Canada by First Nations activists and sympathizers, protesting Royal Canadian Mounted Police action in British Columbia to enforce a court injunction for work to continue on the Coastal GasLInk pipeline. The blocakde in Bellevue ON has severed cross-country CN and VIA traffic, leading CN to shut down its eastern operations. Montreal-area blockades at Ste.-Lambert QC (CN) and Kahnawake (CP)

New York and New England have restricted traffic to the Maritimes, New England, and New York.

CN via CSX in New York

CN detour trains have been running on CSX Buffalo – Syracuse – Montreal. This may have used crews that might otherwise have handled NS Buffalo – Ayer detour trains bypassing Hoosac Tunnel.

CP (D&H) in New York

CP line south of Montreal blocked at HAK and Montreal – Albany through freight not running. CP local from Whitehall has continued to run, serving International Paper in Ticondaroga NY on Tuesday and Thursday and Glens Falls 3 days a week, the normal schedule. Gasoline and fuel oil from Albany to Burlington VT continues to move. Approximately 100 cars have backed up at the Fort Edward yard.

A Toronto-bound train assembled south of Saratoga Springs NY is expected run via Schenectady and Buffalo via CSXT to reestablish CP access. Another train has been assembled at Whitehall destined for CMQ as a VRS detour extra (Bellows Falls VT – White River Junction – Newport). This move had been pending and now has an approved rate with G&W’s New England Central Railroad.


CN has been blockaded until Fri.21.Feb at St-Lambert and no connecting traffic is reaching NECR which is discontinuing its through train from Saint Albans to Palmer.


CN traffic not reaching SLA. Through trains have been short or not running at all.


CP is blocked south/east of Montreal and traffic is not reaching CMQ. Some through trains have not run and some have been very short. Some St.John traffic has moved via Pan-Am instead of CMQ and been further detoured through Vermont to avoid Hoosac Tunnel. It is possible that traffic may detour through Vermont via VRS to reach CP in Whitehall NY.

Ontario & Quebec

North detour route with greatest capacity runs far north over secondary lines with multiple interchange points.
1. Toronto ON – North Bay, 364 km (226 mi) via CN Newmarket Subdivision
2. NB – Englehart, 222 km (138 mi) via Ontario Northland Railway (ONT) Temagami Subd’n
3. Englehart – Swastika, 42 km (26 mi) via ONT Ramore Subdivision
4. Swastika ON – Rouyn-Noranda QC, 96 km (60 mi) via ONT’s Kirkland Lake Subdivision
5. Rouyn-Noranda – Senneterre, 163 km (101 mi) via CN Val D’Or Subdivision
6. Senneterre – Fitzpatrick, 414 km (267 mi) via CN St-Maurice Subdivision
7. Fitzpatrick- Ste-Foy (Quebec City), 201 km (125 mi) cia CN La Tuque Subdivision
8. Ste-Foy – Charney, 10 km (6 mi) via CN Bridge Subdivision
9. Charney – Ste-Hyacinthe, 193 km (120 mi) via CN Drummondville Subdivision
10. St. Hyacinthe – Montreal, 121 km (75 mi) via CN Ste. Hyacinthe Subdivision
This route suffered at least one derailment. On 18.Feb 11 double-stacked wells oveturned.
{OpenRailwayMap, annotated by ANRP}

Montreal QC vicinity

Additional blockades severely constricted Montreal traffic east and south. Ste-Lambert blockade was voluntarily abandoned only on Sat.22.Feb., following a tense stand-off between Mohawk locals plus supporters, and police equipped with riot gear. Kahnawake blockade still in effect. {Montreal Gazette }