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Combating a Rising Tide

Combating a Rising Tide


Residents along the Mississippi River in southeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois talk about the Mississippi River’s high-water marks based on bitter memories of past years’ floods. There was ’93, where the Rock Island, Ill., river gauge measured 22.63 feet. More senior residents remember ’65, at 22.48 feet, the prior record.

On May 3, the gauge reached yet another record: 22.7 feet. With it come new memories: the failure of a levee in Davenport, Iowa, that left much of downtown inundated. There’s also the more mundane but still painful damage: vehicles abandoned to the floodwater, soggy basements, family photo albums that didn’t get moved in time. Then there are the acts of kindness, the small victories and eventually, the return to normalcy. All of these will be woven into the memories of the floods of ’19 for those who lived through them.

Our network shadows the Mississippi for 360 miles from St. Paul, Minn., to Muscatine, Iowa. CP employees live in towns and cities along the river’s banks, fish in its waters and admire its beauty from locomotive cabs and hi-rail trucks. The flat plain that unfolds from the river’s west bank provides a low-grade route for operating trains, but it also imposes curves, bridges over tributary streams and on occasion, floods.

Engineering, signals and communications and operations employees in this territory laboured this spring in challenging conditions and for long hours, day after day, to keep CP’s routes in operation. They replaced a major bridge in an astonishingly short timeframe, lifted and tamped track that was already under water and poured riprap to protect the right-of-way from punishing waves. They also warned the owner of a restaurant in Davenport that a levee had failed and that water would soon rise, then gave him a pallet of sandbags to help protect his business.

The effort took innovation, pride and extraordinarily hard work. The accomplishment: a rail corridor that remained open on days when, in the past, it would have closed. When closure could not be avoided, trains rerouted, sometimes on CP rails, sometimes over other railroads.

As lives and train operations resume their normal course, Canadian Pacific Magazine shares these images to commemorate the achievements that took place this spring. We hope they serve as inspiration and a source of pride to the entire CP family. In the face of such adversity, it was an achievement for the ages.