LAST MONTH Canadian Pacific’s eastern subsidiary St Lawrence & Hudson was to boost the capacity of its Montreal - Toronto roll-on, roll-off piggyback service by putting into revenue service the original experimental Iron Highway trainset. This is a holding move pending the arrival of another 240 platforms ordered from National Steel Car for delivery later this year.

The extra stock will enable StL&H to expand all trains to carry 60 trailers, and launch a twice-daily Toronto - Detroit service. At the same time the concept is to be relaunched with a new name.

Originally a private venture, Iron Highway was jointly developed by CSX Intermodal and CP at a cost of US$30m. CSX later dropped its Detroit - Chicago route to concentrate on its bid for Conrail, and StL&H has been using the pre-series trains on the 560 km run between Montreal and Toronto. However, it feels the limit of 20 trailers per train cannot attract large firms looking to switch substantial loads to rail. Iron Highway’s two daily trains each way are running 85% full, but this amounts to a mere 64 lorries a day compared with 2500 using the parallel Highway 401.

The original Iron Highway concept as developed under the High Productivity Integral Train initiative is gradually being watered down. First to go were the integral power units, which were replaced by conventional locos when CSX ordered the first pre-series trains. StL&H replaced the innovative mid-train ramp wagons for rapid loading and unloading by portable ramps at the terminals, and finally the shock-absorbing wheelsets under the carrier wagons will make way for conventional wheelsets on the NSC-built sets.