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Canadian National Railway profile

By | May 1, 2020

Canadian railroad uniquely connects to all Class I railroads, two oceans and the Gulf of Mexico

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A southbound Canadian National container train passes through Sussex, Wis., in 2015.
TRAINS: Brian Schmidt

Canadian National summary
Canadian National Railway Company is a Montreal, Quebec-based railroad operating over approximately 20,000 route miles connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico throughout Canada and the central U.S. It connects principal cities such as Chicago; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Montreal; New Orleans; Toronto; Prince Rupert and Vancouver, British Columbia. Canadian National connects with all class I railroads in North America. It’s network forms a broad T-shape across the continent enabling it to cooperate or compete with all Class I railroads.

The railroad employed 25,975 employees as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Canadian National logo
Canadian National history
The railroad was incorporated on June 6, 1919 to operate three financially ailing railroads that had come under the control of the Canadian government. The name Canadian National had already been in use for six months prior to the road’s incorporation as a convenient way to refer to the government’s combined operation of the Intercolonial Railway, the Canadian Northern Railway, and the Canadian Government Railways.

With the addition of the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Grand Trunk Railway, CN’s main routes in Canada and the northern U.S. were in place. CN remained a government corporation until November 1995, when it was privatized.

CN subsidiary Grand Trunk Corporation is designated by the AAR as a U.S. Class I Railroad in its own right, with a main line stretching from Port Huron, Mich., to Chicago and two secondary lines to Detroit. From 1971, GTW was a part of CN’s U.S. subsidiary Grand Trunk Corp., which also owned Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific and Central Vermont. In 1980 it acquired the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton, from Detroit to Cincinnati, and in 1981 the Detroit & Toledo Shore Line. Portions of the former DT&I south of Toledo were later spun off and are now operated as the Indiana & Ohio Railway. In 1995, CN sold CV and was granted permission by the ICC to integrate its U.S. holdings into the CN system.

Although both GTW and DW&P still exist on paper they are operated as part of Canadian National.

On February 11, 1998, CN purchased the Illinois Central Railroad for $2.4 billion, adding 2,642 miles to its route map and a north-south trunk to what had previously been an east-west railroad. CN officially merged with IC on July 1, 1999, retaining the CN name and identity. By Oct., 2000, after a changeover in computer systems and operations, IC ceased to exist as a common carrier. On October 9, 2001, Canadian National purchased the Wisconsin Central Transportation Corp. for $1.2 billion, forming the missing link in CN’s Y-shaped transcontinental system. (Prior to the merger, CN was WC’s largest customer, the result of an August 1998 haulage rights agreement that saw CN trains use WC’s rails between Superior and Chicago.)

WC’s 2,850-mile rail network served the upper Midwest and Canada, with a main line from Chicago to Superior, Wis., and principal branches running west to Minneapolis and East Winona, and east across Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, Ontario. CN expanded again in 2004, acquiring two other railroad systems: Great Lakes Transportation and BC Rail.

Canadian National industrial mix

In 2019, Canadian National told the SEC that intermodal traffic comprised 44% of the railroad’s carload volume followed by metals and minerals, 17%; petroleum and chemicals, 12%; grain and fertilizers, 10%; forest products 6%; coal, 6%; and automotive, 5%.

Jean-Jacques Ruest, Canadian National CEO
Canadian National
Canadian National executive officers (as of December 2019)
•Jean-Jacques Ruest, President and Chief Executive Officer
•James Cairns, Senior Vice-President, Rail Centric Supply Chain
•Janet Drysdale, Vice President, Financial Planning
•Sean Finn, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Services, and Chief Legal Officer
•Ghislain Houle, Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer
•Dorothea Klein, Senior Vice-President and Chief Human Resources Officer
•Doug MacDonald, Senior Vice-President, Information & Technology
•Keith Reardon, Senior Vice-President, Consumer Product Supply Chain
•Rob Reilly, Executive Vice-President, Chief Operating Officer and Interim Chief Information and Technology Officer
•Doug Ryhorchuk, Senior Vice-President, Network Operations

CN selected 2019 financial details (totals may not balance due to rounding)
Balance sheet:
Total assets: $43.7 billion
Total liabilities: $25.7 billion
Total shareholders’ equity: $18 billion

Income statement:
Total revenues: $14.9 billion
Total operating expenses: $9.3 billion
Total operating income: $5.6 billion
Total net income: $4.2 billion

Information taken from a Securities and Exchange Commission filing made available on Canadian National’s website. History provided by Matt Van Hattem.

4 thoughts on “Canadian National Railway profile

  1. CN also has access to Hudsons Bay at Churchill, Manitoba , thus making it the only railroad that can access the Arctic, Pacific, Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Truly a continent wide system, unlike the US big 4!!! And proudly CANADIAN!

  2. A life-long C.N.R. buff, I found it an interesting and informative article that I’ll be saving in ‘achieves’ for future reference. Thanks very much.

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