Southwest Sask. railway rolls

All aboard! The Great Western Railway (GWR) keeps rollin’ along, but now with the Fife Lake Railway (FLR) along its tracks.

In March, the GWR acquired the FLR under a 100 per cent share-purchase agreement.

“The FLR, the short line railway, the GWR owned 13 per cent of it and there were seven other shareholders, which were various local governments, municipalities and towns. We’ve been working with them over the last two years to negotiate on the terms. Where we ended up purchasing all of the outstanding shares,” explained Andrew Glastetter, general manager.

According to a recent media release, the GWR has operated and maintained the FLR since its inception, under operating agreements and more recently, a lease of the rail line. Management and the board of the GWR has always seen the FLR, as a very good fit for the organization. The FLR is situated over more than 60 miles from a junction with the GWR line just west of Assiniboia south to Coronach, SK.

“One of the reasons why we did it is over the years, when they started up operations in 2005, they contracted the GWR to do their grain hauling on their behalf because they didn’t really have any railway experience or operating people within their ownership group at the time,” he noted.

“They hired us to haul the traffic and split the revenue and it was an operating agreement for many years. Starting in 2016, we made a move to start leasing the line off of them instead of operating it on a contract arrangement for them,” Glastetter added.

Glastetter said one of the reasons for the all-out purchase of the FLR was to try and drive grain back to the short line. “We’ve seen a lot of it migrate up to the CP main line up to the larger main terminals on the CP main line.”

“We’re looking to get some of that grain back onto our line, so the producers can truck locally to the local railway and send it out like that,” he said.

In doing that, he noted, the GWR put a lot of efforts into the marketing side of things. “We went out and bought 150 of our own grain hoppers a couple of years ago, we started our own grain company just within the last few months — Great Western Commodities (GWC), and we hired a business development manager — who has some experience specifically with grain and has a lot of good contacts with producers in the area,” he added.

Another step, as the GWR was looking to grow was to grow the grain business along GWR’s line, as well. 

“We just thought it would make sense to really look at also marketing the 60 miles worth of track on that FLR line, which connects directly to our line,” he said.

It was a situation where the GWR thought it would be a lot more motivating to want to market and grow the business on that line if the GWR was in more of an ownership position. “That is one of the reasons why we felt we’d do it. They have a nice good capacity medium-sized terminal at Rockglen and we’d like to really work with them to try to help drive more grain through that terminal with more local grain on that line,” Glastetter said.

“Our focus right now is having our business development person and the GWC side of our business to get much more familiar with the purchasers out in that area and work to try and connect those producers with the buyers we’re already in touch with,” he said.

Glastetter noted another focus is to see what kind of supply and demand there is. “We’re looking forward to help get the producers a better option to get their grain to the local railway, rather than having to truck it many miles to the larger terminals on the main line.”

GWC, according to a recent media release, is Saskatchewan's newest grain dealer. GWC is bonded and licensed with the Canadian Grain Commission and is ready to help move grain. Whether a grain buyer, producer or end-user — GWC is available to help make the right connections.

Of course, a big focus these days, is the hot and dry weather and grain. “I think perhaps it might be safe to say the southwestern part of the province might not have been quite as bad off as the southeastern part for a while, but there has been a lot of concern,” Glastetter said.

There was rain in the forecast, which was good news for grain producers, but Glastetter noted — “Hopefully, we can get it in the right areas.”

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