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Long, slow trains halt Thunder Bay traffic as grain shipping peaks

Thunder Bay drivers, fuming about long waits at local railway crossings, will have to stay patient.

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Thunder Bay motorists are encountering longer trains, and slower trains, as they approach local railway crossings this fall. CN Rail says it's the peak period for moving grain before freeze-up. (Mary-Jean Cormier/CBC)

Thunder Bay drivers, fuming about long waits at local railway crossings, will have to stay patient.

Grain trains are longer, more frequent, and moving more slowly this fall.

“The trains that we're moving through Thunder Bay right now will vary from 6,000 feet to 12,000 feet in length,” said Jim Feeney, director of public and government affairs for CN.

“The majority will be longer.  They'll be 10,000 feet, in that area.”

It means lengthy traffic holdups several times a day, as the effort to move grain into port before the Seaway shuts down for the winter is at its peak.

Feeney added the trains travel more slowly —16 kilometres an hour or less — because they are longer and for safety purposes.

“And pulling into the port, they're going about 10 miles per hour or less, and that's just a function of the amount of cars that are heading in, it's a function of the design of the yards themselves.  It is having an effect, no question.”

Normally, there is one train in and one out each day, he said, but right now there are four daily, each way.

"We've had to use every available outlet for that grain to move, and that's been good for Thunder Bay, for the port, good for CN, good for farmers, and for the grain companies who operate the terminals,” Feeney said.

“That being said, we understand that there is an effect on the community itself.”

The delays could last well into December, he added.


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