Moving heavy machinery by rail sign of spring and renewal at Canadian Pacific Railway

by Canadian Shipper

When 118-year-old P&H Mining Equipment begins loading its next electric power shovel in April to be shipped to Canada, frost laws will be in effect to keep behemoths like it off the roads.

But Glenn Menge, traffic manager for the surface mining equipment maker, isn’t worried how he will get the major components of the shovel to Syncrude Canada’s oilsands operation at Fort McMurray, Alberta, at a time when highway departments impose load restrictions to prevent road damage during the spring thaw.

Canadian Pacific Railway will transport the parts, which weigh 1,131,000 lbs. (513,022 kg), in eight railcars from P&H Mining’s Milwaukee plant just as CPR has done for decades.

While shipping heavy machinery is an old business for CPR, “there’s a new focus on it. It’s a market with a large growth potential,” said Michael Dixon, CPR’s account manager for heavy machinery in Mississauga, Ont.

A year ago, CPR began reorganizing its sales force to capture more of the market. That effort is paying off. Last year, CPR generated more revenue from machinery than in any other year.

As a result of the new focus, two new e-mail addresses have been developed to make it easier for potential customers to contact CPR. (The addresses are to obtain a rate and to obtain dimensional clearance. There is also a toll-free number, 1-877-CALL CPR).

In addition to mining equipment, CPR transports Caterpillar construction equipment to Ziegler Inc., a dealer in Bloomington, Minn., via its short-line partner Progressive Rail, which has aggressively promoted the cost benefits of rail for heavy machinery moves. CPR also has moved combines for CNH Global of Racine, Wis., and transformers and generators for General Electric Power in Schenectady, N.Y., and General Electric Industrial Systems of Peterborough, Ont., with the help of short-line partner Kawartha Lakes Railway.

And just this spring, Canadian Pacific secured a brand new rail move for Komatsu America’s wheel loader plant in Candiac, Quebec, for delivery to General Equipment & Supplies, an equipment dealer in Fargo and Bismarck, N.D.

Wind generation equipment is another potential growth area for CPR, which traverses Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, where wind power is being harnessed.

More shippers are beginning to realize, like P&H Mining’s Glenn Menge, that rail moves can save them up to 40 percent from late March to early May when the frost laws are in effect. At other times of the year, the savings are as much as 20 percent.

Year-round, “we ship whatever we can by rail,” Mr. Menge said. All of P&H Mining’s parts that move by rail go by CPR, said Menge, who spoke highly of the personal service that CPR provides.

“It’s a two-way street. You show some concern for our business. At a lot of railroads, it seems they don’t want to handle dimensional loads. When you’ve got a dimensional shipment, it takes a lot more handling and a lot more planning,” he said.

To expedite shipments, Menge pre-clears heavy machinery for rail moves by sending measurements to CPR’s clearance bureau in Calgary. Once the machinery is loaded by crane onto railcars, P&H Mining’s product finishing supervisor secures the load to the cars and a CPR inspector measures for clearances.
While P&H Mining has a long and sustained history of moving equipment by rail, other customers such as Ziegler Inc. have returned to rail after a long absence.

Progressive Rail, CPR’s short-line partner in the Twin Cities, talked Ziegler into moving an excavator last May by rail from Caterpillar’s production facility in Aurora, Ill.

“A lot of people think that’s a very short-haul corridor. But we were able to do it, and it made economic sense for the customer,” said Tim Eklund, Progressive’s vice-president of corporate development.

The customer, who saved up to 40 percent in transportation costs, has become a rail convert.

Before last May, Ziegler hadn’t received equipment by rail in 20 years. Since then, Ziegler has received 76 railcars of equipment.

“We’re trying to find line-haul opportunities where we can directly bring equipment to CPR,” Mr. Eklund said.

His enthusiasm is obvious.

“There’s no reason why 90 percent of the heavy equipment that moves across country can’t be on rail,” he said.

CPR’s 14,000-mile network serves the principal centres of Canada, from Montreal to Vancouver, and the U.S. Northeast and Midwest regions. CPR feeds directly into the Chicago hub from the East and West coasts. Alliances with other carriers extend CPR’s market reach beyond its own network and into the major business centres of Mexico. For more information, visit CPR’s Web site at

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