Railways, oats, and politics: Guse's first trip on a train

What’s said in the dome car, stays in the dome car.

Alright, that might be an inside joke, but in all honesty the dome car (see photo below) was a very different atmosphere to discuss agriculture. On Tuesday, I had the chance to be part of a small group of agriculture influencers and industry stakeholders to take part in CN Railways’ tour of the prairies.

Follow Jessika’s train tour via Twitter: @JessikaGuse

The train itself is quite eye catching with its vintage-esque vibe and the panel of glass at the tail end of the last car. Conversations on the trip covered not just moving grain and logistics, but also trade, GMOs, logistics, and more.

Departing from Saskatoon, Sask. the train headed to Edmonton, Alta. for the night, then back to Saskatchewan the following day. The train has two locomotives, and four cars — one power car, one lounge car, one theatre car, and one dome car.

During presentations, what stuck out to me — other than the beautiful backdrop of the theatre car — was CN’s national account manager Gary Bond to come out and say, “We like to move grain!”

According to Bond, 500,000 MMT of grain is moved in a year within Canada and the U.S. He added Canadian grain shipments account for roughly 69 per cent of the overall total.

Secondly, loop tracks. It was fascinating to hear about the loading system which has been around for roughly 10 years. Although ladder tracks still work well, Bond says the loops are the most efficient.

The month of February was also brought up, in that there were 16 evenings where the railways in parts of Canada couldn’t operate as temperatures hit below minus 40. Tier four, as CN calls it was the first the company had dealt with in a while.

We also heard about the oat industry and the various markets they’re trying reach and how the Canada and China canola spat is having an effect on their relations with China.

Lastly, with both a provincial election in Alberta less than a month away, and a federal election on the horizon, no matter what, politics are likely to be brought up. With this group though, you might be shocked to hear we all had different views on certain topics, very rarely was there not a voiced raised — but then again, “What stays in the vault, remains in the vault.” (another inside joke, but I think you catch my drift.)

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