Shippers Reverse Course, Back Sale of Former Wisconsin Central Lines

On June 9, 1997, Algoma Central Train 2, the Local, is just emerging from the gorge section of Agawa Canyon. Photo by Steve C. Bradley.

Shippers Reverse Course, Back Sale of Former Wisconsin Central Lines

By Justin Franz

WASHINGTON — A group of shippers have come out in support of Canadian National’s plan to sell 900 miles of the former Wisconsin Central in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario to Watco Companies. The news comes just weeks after the same group came out in opposition and asked that the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to closely review the proposed transaction. 

On March 30, Watco Companies announced it had agreed to purchase a large chunk of the former WC in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario, including the former Algoma Central in Ontario and about 650 miles of branch lines in the United States. Watco planned to incorporate the new trackage into their Grand Elk Railroad, Inc. and a new railroad called the Fox Valley & Lake Superior. 

But just days after the announcement, two groups of shippers called Wisconsin Central Group and Lake States Shippers Association, filed notices asking that it be designated as a “significant” transaction, one that would demand a high level of scrutiny. Among their concerns was that Watco — which already owns the 600-mile Wisconsin & Southern — would be doubling its trackage in Wisconsin and thus control much of the rail network there. Shippers were also dismayed that the deal was announced following “entirely closed-door negotiations.” 

On April 23, the same groups filed an amended petition and commented in support of the sale. In the petition, they noted that they had met with CN and Watco officials and were satisfied with the results of those meetings. 

The sale of the former WC lines could happen as early as this summer. 

This article was posted on: April 27, 2021