Scotford, Alberta - Twelve years of studies, planning, and negotiations came to fruition on 10 Dec 1982 when CP Rail's new Scotford Spur went into operation. The new line, serving the County of Strathcona's Northeast Industrial Sector about 20 miles (32 kilometres) northeast of Edmonton, is a key element in the county's industrial development strategy.
It runs virtually through the centre of some 10,000 acres of land that is zoned industrial, and currently serves the existing Diamond Shamrock Alberta Gas PVC plant as well as the Shell Canada Scotford Refinery and Styrene plants which are under construction.
While the current economic downturn has altered the timing of some of the projects planned for the area, the future remains positive. The county is giving top priority to industrial development and Reeve Warren Thomas says the new rail service is key to this objective.
There were many CP Rail people involved in the work leading up to the building of the spur, but none derived more satisfaction from seeing it in operation than Marketing Manager L.M. Allen of Vancouver.
Mr. Allen first became involved in CP Rail's planning when working in Edmonton in 1970. Mr. Allen's involvement continued through subsequent postings, although the appointments took him away from the project. When he became marketing manager in Vancouver, what was then referred to as the "Fort Saskatchewan Access" project became a top priority.
The planning goes back to 1970 when a study showed it would be too costly to cross the North Saskatchewan River to provide access to a fertilizer plant at Beamer, but access to the Dow Chemical and Sherritt Gordon plants in the town of Fort Saskatchewan was worth investigating. This was done but at the time the potential traffic did not justify proceeding any further.
By the mid-1970's, however, with expansion planned at Dow and Sherritt Gordon, a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plant being developed by Diamond Shamrock and with the petrochemical market booming, it was time to take another look.
Negotiations which took place at that time included unsuccessful talks with CN for running rights as opposed to building a separate spur.
Then, in 1979-1980 new projects planned in, and adjacent to, the County of Strathcona Industrial area provided a new economic base for the long-studied project.
At this point another unsuccessful attempt was made to negotiate running rights with CN. However, CP Rail was prepared to risk an investment of some $19 million, based on the future potential of the petrochemical industry in Alberta.
The initial route provided for access to Dow and Sherritt Gordon in Fort Saskatchewan as well as the County of Strathcona industrial land, but it was abandoned when difficulties arose in acquiring the necessary right-of-way.
A new route, which did not include direct access to Dow and Sherritt Gordon, was then selected and is now in operation. It has received strong support from the County, as it runs through the centre of its industrial area, and also by potential customers in the area and the province.
In order to inform the general public of CP Rail's plans, public meetings were held in the area in November and December of 1981. And, on 25 Jan 1982, application was made to the Canadian Transport Commission (CTC) to build the line and public hearings were held in Edmonton 11, 12 and 13 May 1982.
On 14 Jul 1982 the CTC granted authority for construction of the line, and Mr. Allen, and those who had worked with him over the years, began counting the weeks rather than years to the day it would be in service.
Among them was Dino Piovesan, project superintendent, engineering, with Special Projects. Heavily involved for some time in route selection, surveying, and land acquisition, he now was in a position to visualize results in the form of a railway.
By 20 Aug 1982 the grading contract had been awarded to W.A. Cook & Sons of Pincher Creek, Alberta, and work began three days later.
By mid-November the rail contractor, A&B Rail of Nisku, Alberta, was ready to move the first work train over the new line, and on 10 Dec 1982, just 16 weeks after the grade construction began, the first revenue train was scheduled.
It carried a giant 394,000-pound (178,718-kilogram) reactor, built in Houston, Texas, for use in construction of the new Scotford refinery by Shell Canada, who are also building a Styrene facility at Scotford.
After setting off the three flatcars that had carried the reactor some 2,800 miles (4,500 kilometres) over five different railways from Houston to Scotford, the train went to the Diamond Shamrock Alberta Gas plant to pick up a shipment of PVC.
The new section of track, which provides the area with a direct, competitive service for the first time, is the first phase of an 11.4 mile (18.4 kilometre) line planned for the area. The overall project will include upgrading of the Willingdon subdivision, and will cost about $19 million.