The Central Manitoba Railway assumed operation of the former CN Pine Falls subdivision on May 2, 1999. I wasn't in Manitoba at the time but I understand the major customers on the line were:
- Imperial Oil just outside Winnipeg
A Cargill grain elevator at Birds Hill
- Coal for the East Selkirk power generation plant
- A grain elevator in Libau
- The Pine Falls paper mill
Unfortunately for CEMR and the line, the customers have been dropping off since then. The East Selkirk plant switched to natural gas by 2002. The grain elevator in Libau seems defunct. The biggest blow, however, was the loss of the Pine Falls paper mill.
I understand the Pine Falls mill was founded in 1917 and was owned by Abitibi from 1928 to 1994, then eventually by Tembec. In 2009 Tembec sought concessions from its workers to keep the mill open, and after a dispute, they were locked out on September 1 and despite their determination the mill was permanently closed in September 2010 and sold to Pine Falls Development, a subsidiary of NRI Global, in 2011.
Anyway, on to my trip.
On my way north on highway 59, I saw a grain elevator, so I ducked into Libau to photograph it. The line appears disused but it is intact.
The line crosses highway 59 just before the junction with highway 304 at mile 49 of the subdivision. I noticed that the rails were missing and the crossing signals were dismantled.
The line crosses highway 304 at mile 55.7 and again, the rails are missing.
In Pine Falls, the mill is pretty much gone now. There are materials stacked up for salvage to the side.
When the mill was still in operation, it was using ex-CN SW8 7158 . It is still on the property, very isolated from any rail network.
Want to buy it? A mere $101,860.68 and it's yours! I find it interesting that the item location is listed as Buffalo, NY and they "may not ship to Canada"...
I understand that the Pine Falls subdivision has been used for rail car storage up to Selkirk, although I did see a CEMR train shunting the CN hoppers in Selkirk. Maybe they were doing training.
On my way back to Winnipeg, I found the end of rail, just past mile 41. This is near the South Beach Casino.