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Making It Happen at CN’s Chappell Yard

TOP: Prairie Region-based crews worked from August into early December to construct an additional main line to accommodate through-trains at CN’s Chappell Yard in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. A crew assembled for the daily job briefing with a train in the background loaded with some of the rail used to construct 4.3 miles of continuous welded rail track. ABOVE: Even with the early onset of frigid winter weather, work was completed on time for the arrival of the first through-train in Chappell Yard on December 11.

“We need to make this happen.  What’s it going to take?”
When CN’s Chief Engineer, Design & Construction James (“Jim”) McLeod issued that challenge last June, the PNR RailWorks Track office in Alberta took it seriously. No reservations. No excuses. No complaints. Just plain hard work and a can-do attitude to complete this important work for a valued customer, no matter what else also was on the schedule.
For operational reasons, CN needed to make a number of improvements to its Chappell “switching” Yard in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, by the end of the year to accommodate through trains. PNR RailWorks quickly mobilized a small crew that went to work in August.  Soon after, Jim reiterated the urgency of his request. “Treat this like a derailment,” he clarified.
“We knew what that meant,” said Scott Hunt, regional manager for the Prairie Region. “Figure out a way to get it done. So we did."
From that point on, PNR RailWorks dedicated substantial resources to getting the work completed on time with crews that peaked at 30 employees, scheduled around the clock at critical points in the project, seven days a week, from September through December 11, when the first through-train passed through the yard.
From the very beginning, Jim established clear expectations and an open line of communication that set the tone for the project and ultimately contributed to its success.  “Communication can never be overdone,” he emphasized.
Jim requested and received daily updates on the status of the project from Field Engineer Chris Cote.
As the project progressed, PNR RailWorks’ team confronted and tackled a number of challenges in its quest to construct 22,700 feet of continuous welded rail (CWR) track – 4.3 miles – and two turnouts for a new an additional main line extending the length of the yard.  Crews were finally able to resolve a key bottleneck when a subcontractor completed rebuilding a retaining wall under the yard overpass to make room to construct the main line track. Also, at the height of work intensity in November, temperatures dipped to -35ºC (-31ºF).
PNR RailWorks’ exceptional efforts to successfully complete this project by the deadline and with zero safety incidents did not go unnoticed.
“We are very appreciative of the work PNR (RailWorks) has done,” asserted Jim. “You had good guys on the ground and we trusted that they knew what they were talking about. You were an extension of CN, which is just what we were looking for.”