At least one railway, Canadian National, makes much of its short line connections, terming them partners, as well as extensions to its far-flung network.
And by selling its unprofitable tracks to short line operators over the past few years, CN has undoubtedly emerged leaner, meaner and stronger.
But sometimes these unprofitable lines seem to fare worse under new ownership than they might have if they’d remained in the CN stable.
Consider the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, which took over CN’s line between Truro and Sydney, N.S. in 1993. At last report, the CBNS was trying to unload its right of way from Sydney to Port Hawkesbury on the Strait of Canso. The section reportedly needs a lot of work to bring it up to par. And the rest of the line, if this photo is any indication, may need upgrading too.
Worn out rail on CBNS line near New Glasgow, N.S.
Then, there’s the Huron Central Railway, a 280-kilometre stretch between Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie, Ont., which was formerly operated by Canadian Pacific.
Although a vital transportation link for several industries in the area, the line is likely to be shut down by the end of 2018 unless the Ontario government coughs up some money
But the short line that’s likely in the worst state is the Hudson Bay Railway, which runs from The Pas in northern Manitoba several hundred kilometres to the port of Churchill, Man. on Hudson Bay.
Because of flooding in the spring of 2017, that portion of the railway between Amery, Man. and Churchill has been shut down, cutting the latter’s only ground link to the outside world. And although it appeared as if another company was recently ready to step in and buy the HBR, that plan has now fallen through.