Rail traffic faces boost with pulp mill re-opening

Tyler Clarke
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The casual observer may have noticed fewer trains on Prince Albert area tracks in recent years -- a conjecture that comes with some merit.


A rail line is seen in Prince Albert -- one of a handful in the area that see about 2,000 carloads travel down per year. 

After the Prince Albert Pulp Mill closed in 2006, the frequency of trains passing through Prince Albert dropped from almost daily to twice per week, Omnitrax president Darcy Brede wrote in email correspondence with the Herald.

“We currently have a yard service schedule that runs through Prince Albert and across the river to switch the Viterra White Star Elevator two times per week,” he wrote.

“When Paper Excellence starts to ship by rail we expect the train frequency through Prince Albert to improve from two days a week to six days per week.”

Omnitrax, a Denver-based company, owns the Carlton Trail Railway Company -- about a 165-kilometre stretch of rail lines that stretch from Saskatoon to Prince Albert, with additional arms out to White Star, Birch Hills and the Prince Albert Pulp Mill.

The rail line transports mainly lumber and agricultural goods for not only Viterra but also McDonald Metals, Carrier Lumber and other companies.

The Carlton Trail Railway Company also stores railcars.

Currently transporting about 2,000 carloads per year, Brede anticipates an annual load of 3,000 as soon as Paper Excellence re-opens the pulp mill.

“These volumes are similar to previous mill operation,” he notes.

When Paper Excellence starts to ship by rail we expect the train frequency through Prince Albert to improve from two days a week to six days per week. Darcy Brede, Omnitrax president

“For the railway, we would see a positive economic impact with the recall of up to six to 10 additional employees once we hit the 3,000 carload volumes … This would include train service, maintenance of track and mechanical repair service associates and would be based on the services that the mill operator would require.

“In the past, we handled all car cleaning and track maintenance for the mill in addition to the transportation of the carloads.”

At last update in March, Paper Excellence vice president of operations Dale Paterson told a packed chamber of commerce luncheon crowd that the mill was at least a year away from fully opening.

As of Tuesday, Mayor Greg Dionne said that the city hasn’t received any updates since Paterson’s presentation.

In March, one barrier to the Prince Albert’s Pulp Mill re-opening was a non-competing agreement with a “competitor,” Paterson said -- a company later deduced to be Domtar Corp., which owned the mill prior to Paper Excellence.

Another delay was a wait time on equipment Paper Excellence requires to produce dissolved pulp products.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Railway Company, Domtar Corp.

Geographic location: Saskatoon, White Star, Birch Hills

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