Saturday, February 25, 2012

CN's Oakland Subdivision

Running north from Delta Junction off CN's Gladstone Sub at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, CN's Oakland Subdivision ran north, west, then north again 53 miles to Amaranth.  GMD-1's gingerly trod on 60-pound rail to serve online elevators.  At Oakland Mi 9.1 the line veered west (above - in grove of trees) to avoid Lake Manitoba.  Originally the site of two Manitoba Pool elevators, I photographed the remaining 2,520-tonne capacity elevator on track DA10 in 1986:
The angular routing of the Oakland Sub at Oakland is visible at top right of the following topographic map.  I also visited Macdonald, and the Hutterite hog farm located in the former British Commonwealth Air Training Plan airfield there, with control tower still visible.
This 1984 grain lines map shows the jog at Oakland, with the dashes denoting the line as subject to CTC review.  Each of the four elevators on the Oakland Sub were shipping between 7,500 and 15,000 tonnes per year, or between 125 and 250 60-tonne boxcar loads.  It's likely that some of the boxcar-hauling grain trains that I observed at Portage la Prairie pulled by GMD-1's were serving the Oakland Sub.
Six miles to the north at Longburn, the remaining 1,350-tonne capacity Pool C elevator was loading boxcars in June, 1984.  The larger, 1955-built Longburn elevator had been moved to Macdonald in 1965, and it closed December 31, 1988 and was moved again to the Fourschau farm at Bloom, Manitoba west of Portage on the Trans-Canada Highway, and topped with a grain dryer and two former covered hopper cars to boot (see photo below).
In the November 1985 Trains magazine Canada issue, this elevator was being switched when photographed by Greg McDonnell.  He wrote, "CN Work Extra 1071 spots empty grain boxes at the Longburn Pool Co. (sic - he thought the annex pipe blocked lettering) elevator."
Interestingly, the larger Longburn elevator survives into 2017, still visible to passengers on VIA's Canadian (Nelson Braun photo):
The station signboard is visible in foreground:
The shed doors were open, but no-one was around as I photographed the elevator from the sunny side, showing some of the previous elevator company lettering under the peeling paint:
Spilled grain on the annex roof, the spindly pipe support arrangement, dangling hydro wires, weatherbeaten boards and 6-foot Superior door boxcar:
At Mi 39 of the Oakland Sub, Langruth's 3,430-tonne capacity elevator was moved to the new installation at Westroc on CP's Minnedosa Sub, 26 km south on Highway 16 in late 1983.  Amaranth once hosted a 2,210-tonne capacity elevator at Mi 53.4  Gypsum deposits were still thought to hold promise for the line's continued existence, though abandonment had been proposed since 1981.  CN claimed that expenditures of $16,882,000 would be needed to upgrade the line to 263,000-pound car capacity.  The Hall Commission on Grain Transportation recommended linking the Oakland Sub to CP's Minnedosa Sub.  Instead, CN was given permission by the Canadian Transport Commission to abandon trackage between Mi. 1.0 and Mi 10.0  on August 31, 1984.  It was reopened briefly in October 1984 for overflow shipments to the Oakland elevator after MPE's disastrous Portage 'B' elevator fire, Portage's second.  The elevators on the line were considered to be in poor condition by MPE, with a new concrete elevator about to open at Tucker.  The last boxcar loads left in April 1986 shortly before my visit, with operating authority finally suspended on April 30, 1986.
Purchased from MPE in 1988 by nine local farmers, the Oakland elevator went up in flames on September 24, 1988.  Smoke was visible skyward as far away as Portage.
Running extra...Manitoba Pool Elevators calendar sale:
Manitoba Pool Elevators issued calendars with each month's page featuring an full-colour aerial photo of an MPE shipping point: elevator(s), town and occasionally a train!  I have a few calendars for sale - contact me by email if you're interested in fine views of these elevators, many of which are no longer in existence.  Years still available from photo above: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1995, 1996.


Adam Walker said...

Great post, Eric. The photos of the abandoned line and the elevators are some sad and compelling stuff. Its always disappointing when CN gives up on their subdivisions, like the Caso and the Kinghorn subs here in Ontario.


Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Adam. The decline of the country elevator was precipitous once the abandonments and demolitions began. The little elevators just couldn't compete with centralized shipping points and US-style loaded unit trains.

Lots of railroads in the US have been busy reactivating banked rail lines with the economic upturn. In Canada it's usually a one-way process. But then I'm a railfan, not a transportation analyst or agronomist.

I'll be doing a future post on simple country elevators - I was able to photograph quite a few that didn't even have annexes like the one at Longburn.


Anonymous said...

Great post. It`s very interesting to read about the branch lines around here... it`s amazing how many of them have disappeared with barely a trace remaining.

Anonymous said...

I'm American, not Canadian - but do love those light-railed branchlines. The county I live in has lost 100% of branchlines that served local truck farming for about 130 years.
Too bad.

Zartok-35 said...

Greg McDonnell put a colorized version of that shot in his "Wheat Kings" book, which is the first place I heard about Amaranth. It's good to know more about this line; it seems to be the place to go for thoes 6-foot Superior door boxcars.
I don't think I've ever seen such flakey peeling elevators as these! MPE was right to judge them 'poor quality'.

Eric said...

Thanks for your comments. I'll be doing more posts on elevators on the CP Carberry Sub east and west of Portage.

Anonymous said...

Great read, I'll say...........more more more


Jason said...

Very interesting, thanks for the post. Do you have any photos or information about CN's Rossburn Sub?

Eric said...

Mark and Jason, great to hear from you. More will indeed be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, I didn't make it to CN's Rossburn Sub, though I have seen photos of CN trains at Neepawa.

Zartok-35 said...

Thoes certanly are some ratty peeled elevators! Of course, the eleveators I'm used to are metal plated.
Good to find out more about this Oakland sub. It's not in any of my timetables!

Eric said...

Good to hear from you, Elijah.

Definitely weather-beaten.

I do have a piece of MPE elevator aluminum from the Westroc elevator on CP. That's another post for another day.

As I mentioned, the Oakland Sub was going to be a resource-based line, but the gypsum never materialized, as abandonment was first proposed in 1981. The amount of grain coming off the Oakland Sub wasn't enough to save it.


Unknown said...

Do you still have those calendars for sale?

Eric said...

Yes I do, Brendan. Please email me at mile179kingstonATyahooDOTca.