CP: Gathers CMQ Assets And Operations

CP Takes the Cab at CMQ, Topping 13,000 Route Miles and Getting First-Ever Glimpse of Sunrise Over the Atlantic.

Thirteen New Trains Assigned (But What About a Searsport Local?).
Most CMQ Hourly Workers Retained; Management Given a One-Way Ticket.
Searsport Branch to be Upgraded for Unit Trains.

04 June, Bangor ME – Canadian Pacific completed its acquisition of the Central Maine & Quebec Railway US Inc. (CMQ US), 30 days after the Surface Transportation Board’s 04.May approval of CP’s Exemption for control of CMQUS’s rail lines in Maine and Vermont.

Taking ownership of the CMQ’s 481 owned route-miles (Canada and U.S., combined) makes CP a 13,000-mile rail network, connecting the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts across six Canadian provinces and 11 U.S. states. CMQ’s enlarged network links CP to Port Saint John (PSJ) NB via EMR and NBSR connections, and directly to the Atlantic Ocean port of Searsport ME. CP plans to invest as much as CA $90 million over the next three years to bring CMQ’s rail infrastructure up to Federal Railroad Administration Class 3 standards.

CP now controls the entire 481-mile CMQ network from St. Jean QC to Searsport ME, as CMQUS’s 244.2 miles of track rejoins CMQCA’s 236.81 route-miles, which had been integrated with CP soon after the transaction was completed. In addition, CP assumes the lease on the 57.3-mile Rockland Branch, owned by the State of Maine. CMQ US and CMQ Canada will continue to operate in the U.S. and Canada, respectively, as subsidiaries of CP ( CMQUS is also considered subsidiary to CP’s U.S. Soo Line subsidiary – Ed. ). The acquisition agreement was struck in November.2019, for a reported US $130 million.

CMQ Jobs 1, 2, 400 pull out for good; CP 250 arrives

CMQ dispatched the last pair of road trains on its US trackage on Tuesday, 02.June, and a final Job 400 train round trip from Brownville Jct. to Millinocket, ME on 03.June. The return to Brownville Yard concluded the 28-year era of independent railroads operating on a line that CP relinquished in 1992.

Last CMQ-dispatched trains were all business , with diverse, heavy loads.

Westbound CMQ Job 1 train at Harford Point ME, 02.June.2020. The two CMQ SD40-2Fs, 9022 and 9023, made that last westbound trip and were shut down at Farnham QC. The pair of CP GE AC44CWs trailing the CMQ power will be around for years to come. {Steel Wheels Photography}


Last eastbound CMQ Job 2 train at Long Pond, ME en route from Farnham to Brownville Jct. ME, 02.June.2020. Two leased CEFX AC44CWs 1006 and 1002 wearing CMQ paint lead, backed up by CMQ SD40-2F 9010, and leased CEFX GP38-3 3803. {Steel Wheels Photography}


The last train running on CMQ was Job 400 on 03.June.2020, here at Twin Lakes, Millinocket ME, returning to Brownville Jct. on the backhaul of a round-trip run.
{Steel Wheels Photography}

Orderly transition

At 0001 hrs on Thursday, 04.June, CP employed a six-hour transitional stand-down for inventory and dispatcher cutover, the latter planned to shift from the RailTerm offices in Rutland, VT to CP’s Minneapolis, MN offices under Soo Line oversight. However, civil disturbances in Minneapolis had temporarily closed the dispatch location, and CMQ instead would be dispatched from CP’s Battle Creek Yard (Saint Paul MN) backup dispatch “bunker,” until further notice.

At 0601 hrs, Canada-U.S. integrated operations resumed as a Soo Line/CP subsidiary. A new CP 250 train departed at Montreal QC to Brownville Jct. ME, and the counterpart CP 251 train returned (05.June), reasserting CP ownership and operation of its prodigal Atlantic region property, augmented by the thing CP has never had before — direct Atlantic Ocean access at Searsport, ME.

First CP 250-03 rolls over the East Outlet of the Kennebec River as fly fisherman work the water below {Steel Wheels Photography}.

New CP/Soo/CMQ train schedule

Sunrise in Searsport

While CP is eyeing PSJ as a key terminal for autos, intermodal, and certain bulk commodities, Searsport will be developed to specialize in potash exports. PSJ has a potash terminal that is contracted exclusively to CN. Searsport will require additional upgrades to bring the plan to fruition. CMQ had tried for several years to maximize potash movement at Searsport, but had only minimal success.

In anticipation of carrying regular, longer trains, the Searsport Subdivision is being reinforced by a rail anchor program to manage the additional pressures of six-axle locomotives, which CP plans on using on any unit train operations to Searsport.

Searsport ME

Searsport puts CP right on the Atlantic for the first time. The Penobscot Bay commercial port has been a vital conduit for fuel and commodities to Central and Northern Maine and Eastern Quebec. Penobscot Bay Pilots and Fournier Brothers Towing have upgraded waterside capacity with highly capable vessels.

Most hourly employees retained; new management structure

CP will retain all of the CMQ US and Canada engineering and transportation hourly employees, as well as eight mechanical workers. CP will place the CMQ property workers under the CMQ US or CMQ Canada employee umbrellas. However the CMQ management structure and executive staff will not be joining CP.

Corporate-wise, an Assistant Superintendent will oversee the CMQ, reporting to the same Montreal office as the Delaware & Hudson. Reporting to the Asst. Supt. will be a General Manager, and train masters for US and Canada.

New opportunities already emerging

“This transaction is a generational business opportunity for CP,” reiterated CP President and CEO Keith Creel. “It enables us to serve customers through a larger coast-to-coast network across Canada and brings a direct Class 1 freight-rail service to the State of Maine for the first time in decades. It is with great pride that I formally welcome CMQ’s U.S. employees and customers to the CP family” {CP press release, 04.June.2020}.

Some new customers have already been won in anticipation of CP’s Atlantic reach. Creel mentioned to investors that they had been fulfilling new LPG business that originates and terminates in Maine on the CMQ. CMQ and CP had also won new Hyundai automotive business, though commencement has been delayed by the pandemic. Creel has also strongly implied that CP is hot on the trail of multiple other lucrative traffic opportunities {CP Investor Call}.

Word all around northern Maine is that CP is planning to extend its 2020 US Holiday train to Bangor, ME, passing through other Maine locations on the CMQUS, including Jackman, Greenville, and Brownville Jct. While there is no definitive plan for that, it would be a great opportunity for CP to make its new the territory feel like part of the family {Steel Wheels Photography} .