Congestion along rail line poses significant challenge for Kamloops Heritage Railway

KHR train runs 'in jeopardy'

An increase in the number of coal trains running on CN Rail lines is presenting a challenge for the Kamloops Heritage Railway as the non-profit organization looks to bring back its historic steam locomotive tours.

Cory Clark, executive director for Kamloops Heritage Railway, said rail traffic started to increase on the 2141's operating line over the past year, and if the heritage railway is unable to use the section of track due to congestion, the impact would be “extensive.”

“We are currently working quite hard to resolve this issue,” Clark told Castanet Kamloops.

“We have an excellent relationship with CN and the City of Kamloops and we are exploring what options are available that will allow us to avoid the congestion caused by the increase in rail traffic and still offer a world-class experience.”

Clark said CN had obtained a contract to run the coal trains, and the heritage railway started to notice the impact on the rail lines early last year.

“That’s when it really started, when we thought something might be coming down here that we're not too happy about. But we weren’t exactly sure at that point how many extra coal trains were going to be on the line, and how congested the line was going to be,” Clark said.

He said KHR stayed in contact with CN throughout this time to try to understand the extent of the issue, and it became clear that the heritage railway runs are “definitely in jeopardy."

Rail congestion is only expected to increase as coal trains start to hit full capacity.

Clark said if KHR is no longer able to use its typical section of track, it will need to find and organize a new tour in a short amount of time. This would mean an adjustment in volunteer recruitment, staffing and insurance costs, among other factors.

"If our destination changes then so too does the experience. We not only have to work out all new logistics, but need to produce a visitor experience that is in keeping with that new destination,” Clark said.

“With a new experience comes an adjustment in our insurance costs, and as they were already approaching a critical point, any additional insurance costs based on a new experience might prevent us from operating to a specific destination. These are just a few of the impacts we face.”

Clark said he is confident that a solution can be worked out, based on the “amazing relationship” the heritage railway has with CN and the City of Kamloops.

He said KHR is looking at one option in particular it could operate by September, but he couldn’t announce anything specific until they are further along in the approval process.

“CN has been absolutely fantastic through all this. As soon as they’ve had information, they’ve given it to us. They’re really on our side, and they’re really trying to work to make this happen,” he said.

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