Canadian Pacific Railway is installing more than 530,000 feet of heavy premium rail, 137,000 crossties, and 300,000 tons of rock ballast as it carries out a $160-million program to expand freight capacity this year between the Canadian Prairies and the Vancouver Gateway.
The track materials are required for expansion work in 25 critical locations to meet growing demand for rail service. When the work is completed in the fourth quarter of 2005, CPR will have enough capacity to run 38 trains a day between the Prairies and the Vancouver Gateway, an increase of four trains a day, or more than 400 freight cars, over current capacity.
CPR is installing premium chrome-alloy rail to support the long, heavy trains that increase productivity in rail operations. CPR is also installing on mountain grades a new generation of premium rail that is highly resistant to wear and fatigue under heavy loads and demanding operating conditions. The new rail has high chromium content and the steel in the railhead is hardened to a greater degree and depth than in standard rail. The new rail's longer service life reduces maintenance and replacement costs.
Laid end to end, the 530,000 feet of rail would stretch from Calgary to Lethbridge. Rail is handled in quarter-mile lengths weighing almost 60,000 lbs. When installed, the joints are welded to produce a continuous, seamless and smooth rail that reduces wear on freight car wheels.
CPR is using hardwood and concrete crossties in its expansion program. About 25 per cent of the 137,000 crossties being installed are a recently developed concrete tie that is cast with an imbedded steel plate to reduce abrasion, extending its life. It is being installed in high curvature track to support long, heavy trains. CPR expects the concrete tie to last up to 40 years, compared with a hardwood tie lifespan of 20 to 25 years.
Rock ballast provides a safe, solid bed for the rail and crossties. CPR is using more than 300,000 tons of mostly granite in this year's capacity expansion – enough to fill 14,000 dump trucks. The crushed rock must meet hardness and durability specifications, be no larger than two and a half inches and have sufficient fractured faces and angularity that they virtually interlock when tamped in place. These characteristics produce a ballast that distributes the load from passing trains, allows water to drain and resists plant growth that can destabilize the track.
The Prairies-to-Vancouver track, which crosses the rugged Rocky Mountains, is CPR's busiest corridor and volumes continue to grow with heavy demand in Asia for Canadian commodities and resources and increasing imports of consumer goods made in Asia and destined for store shelves.
CPR's $160-million expansion program this year is in addition to planned capital investment of approximately $760 million.