The railway to Arnprior, Ont. is a locomotive for economic growth
A manufacturing company is calling on surrounding businesses in the Ottawa Valley to come aboard and share their railway track.
The only track left in the area could provide a cost-effective alternative for shipping and receiving a large volume of products.
As the train approaches, a series of short whistle-blasts can be heard in the distance. Only a few minutes later, five tanker cars slowly roll around the bend of the track.
It’s delivery day at the Nylene plant in Arnprior, Ont.
"There’s approximately 179,000 pounds of raw material inside each one of these containers," says logistics manager, Tom Fishenden. "For our facility there is only two suppliers in North America that supply the raw material - one is in Virginia, one is in Texas."
The product is called caprolactam, the main ingredient Nylene needs to produce nylon; which will be used to make carpets, wire and cable casings as well as other products, like plastic casters for chairs.
"The factory never shuts down," says Fishenden. "Bringing it in by rail ensures we have enough to last us maybe two to three weeks."
The non-hazardous compound travels from the U.S. to Ottawa, where it travels along the main cargo track through the city, then down a 40-kilometre spur line right to the plant's back door.
So, why rail over the road? Well, each one of these cargo containers is the equivalent of about four transport trucks worth of material.
On average Nylene receives a weekly delivery through CN Rail of nearly 20 trucks worth. Managing director Ralph Anzarouth says shipping by train is a fraction of the cost, but it does not include the price to maintain its line.
"Along with leasing the corridor from the city of Ottawa comes a responsibility to maintain the track," says Anzarouth. "We obviously, through this rail, can access any point in North America and I’m hoping to interest other businesses in the area to leverage this and participate in the maintenance of the rail … there’s the huge benefits of the rail from an eco standard point of view not just economical but ecology carbon footprint lowering costs."
Anzarouth adds that even throughout the pandemic and the sharp rise of inflation, their shipping costs have remained relatively stable.
"And there is a resurgence in North America of finding ways to ship to by rail simply because of the efficiencies of bulk and volume compared to what you can get on a truck," he says.
The rail line is the only one remaining in the area. As demand dropped, CN removed most of its tracks, which made way for nature trails instead.
"It’s a very attractive feature to have for a business and economic development in various regions," says David Wyboo, business development officer with the County of Renfrew.
"We’re always trying to canvas and find companies in our area that might be able to benefit, take advantage of this. If you are able to ship a large number of goods at an affordable rate that’s advantageous for our businesses which benefit the economy. When it comes to attracting new businesses as well, a lot of large manufacturers are always looking for the transportation networks that are available particularly rail."
Wyboo notes that Renfrew County is the largest in Ontario and offers a diversified economy of not only agriculture and forestry, but a large network of manufacturers including science and technology, all which could be carried by train.
"Things like cars for auto dealers, farm equipment machinery, any large number of manufactured goods, things like agricultural products and fertilizers, lumber as well aggregates would be potential materials shipped by rail and there could be advantages to that," says Wyboo.
For Anzarouth, the possibilities for this line are endless.
"There is lots of benefits to using rail," he says. "There’s an opportunity here to continue to use the rail and to continue to leverage it and possibly in the future possibly connect up to the LRT in Ottawa, why not!"