End of an era  CP rails being pulled up 

Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury

It’s the end of an era. Railway travel has been part of Renfrew and surrounding communities since 1872, but that chapter ends this year. Ed Greenberg, a Calgary-based spokesman with Canadian Pacific Rail, says the process to salvage its railway ties, rails and related equipment will start this month.He wouldn’t disclose the name of the companies that are responsible for overseeing the salvage process, but workers accompanying salvage rail cars through the Town of Renfrew Tuesday indicated the salvage company is from Kansas.

When Renfrew resident Wayne Nute heard the train whistle about 3 p.m. Tuesday, he dashed out of his house and drove down the road to see the rail cars. Nute’s grandfather (Robert Burton) was a railway worker out of Sand Point, in southeastern Renfrew County, about 1895, and later a station agent in Renfrew.

Seeing the salvage cars, Nute calls the demise of the line the “end of an era. No doubt, the railway (locally) is essentially done.” He calls the death of the local railway sad. Greenberg said Canadian Pacific will pull up about 25 miles of track, between Renfrew and Pembroke, starting this month and finishing later this year.

“That’s all that’s planned for 2011,” he said.The remaining 160 of the 185 miles of CP track between Smiths Falls and Mattawa will be salvaged in subsequent years, he added.“Track materials will be utilized in other key areas of the CP network,” added Greenberg.

Railway travel has been a fixture in Renfrew County for more than a century. The Canadian Central line arrived in the Town of Renfrew in 1872, while the final route of the Old K&P Rail was opened in Renfrew County, between Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound, in 1893, as a pivotal part of a booming timber industry.

“I’m not in position to provide statements on the (railway’s) state of the nation,” said Greenberg politely, before emphasizing that CP’s focus remains on freight operations in Canada and the United States.The confirmed salvage of the railway’s equipment could lead to interesting conversation in the Aug. 9 meeting of Renfrew County’s property and development committee.

Paul Moreau, the county’s property and development director, had heard that track might be pulled up between Pembroke and Cobden.“I think it will be an interesting debate in terms of where the county goes from here,” said Moreau. CP’s decision to salvage the tracks doesn’t help the county’s economic future.“It closes the doors to a mode of transportation that may have helped our local economy … and to attract new industries. Now the transportation corridor (of rail) can’t be offered.”

CP spokesman Greenberg suggested the end of railway service in the county began when Rail America ended its lease agreement with CP over a year ago. CP has long been sensitive to the importance of the railway to communities in the area, said Greenberg. In fact, CP had committed to entertaining business discussions after filing its notice of discontinuance with the Canadian Transport Agency on May 30, 2011. Moreau says CP made that commitment to local MP Cheryl Gallant.

The notice of discontinuance covered the CP railway between Smiths Falls and Mattawa. The decision to salvage the railway tracks, and related equipment, is strictly a business decision, said Greenberg. “It’s well documented Rail America terminated its lease agreement on these rail lines in 2009 and 2010, and then combined with the fact our company is efficiently using our core network, these lines are no longer required for operations.”

 As part of the salvage process, Greenberg says contractors “will be responsible to leave the right of way in a clean orderly fashion, free from railway debris. Road crossings will be restored to their (original) condition.”Meanwhile, Greenberg indicated Canadian Pacific is “continuously responding to the increasing needs of our customers and ensuring our operations are prepared for any shifts in shipping patterns … We had to make a decision that is strictly a business decision,” said Greenberg.

With the salvage process starting this month, Moreau says it’s the county’s time to “make the best of what’s left … The question is ‘where to from here’ with respect to the county’s possible role of purchasing the abandoned line.’Renfrew County, Lanark County and the Township of Papineau-Cameron have each claimed first right of refusal for the abandoned rail beds for their respective section of the line between Smiths Falls and Mattawa. Jan. 6, 2010 at the Petawawa Civic Centre, during a major meeting of county politicians and railway officials, efforts were made to avoid a possible closing of the rail line. At the time, Renfrew County Warden Don Rathwell said the county had “to look at every avenue we can” to keep the line open.

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