When construction of the CN Campus in Transcona wrapped up on April 7, 2014, it was exactly 100 years to the day after the completion of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway just east of Fort Fraser, B.C.
Both occasions marked historical moments in the history of Canadian railroad, with the railway linking Winnipeg to the west coast, and the completion of the campus the start of a national training program for potential CN employees.
The CN Campus opened with the goal of training the next generation of conductors, locomotive engineers, track maintainers, welders, machine operators, car mechanics as well as other positions that you might expect to associate with a rail company. The building is also being used for some existing employees who want to update their skills in their current trade, or are looking to make a shift to something else.
This facility, and another one in Homewood, Illinois, was built to centralize and standardize the training of employees.
“It was all very decentralized,” said Operations Training and Development director David Radford. “In the past it would all be in either hotel facilities or we would subcontract meeting rooms. Or else it was done in our old training centres. Some of it was done across the street (550 Pandora Ave. E.), which is a very small building that’s been around for a long time.”
No more flip-charts in hotels, no more locomotive simulators scattered all over the country. Everything is now under one roof, with the flip charts being replaced by hands on training in areas like signal, switches and manual maintenance of the tracks. Before that was all something that had to be verbally explained or shown on paper, now it’s all practical and there to be seen.
“A good example is the locomotive simulators. Those were decentralized so there was one here and one there all over Canada. So we brought them all to Winnipeg,” says David.
“So those locomotive simulators are in use from eight in the morning to midnight every day.”
Next stop, Winnipeg
Three groups of people will benefit from the opening of this campus in Winnipeg:
1. CN now has the ability to centralize and standardize training, and at a higher level than it ever has been before. This should increase productivity of employees, while ensuring a better understanding an implementation of safety standards.
2. The trainees at the campus will get taught with theory and practical application in a way that has not been seen before, exposing them to techniques and technologies in a safe learning environment.
3. Winnipeg sees 250 to 500 students per week staying at six different hotels and accounting for 600 round trip flights to the city every month. The campus has 60 full-time staff, and Manitoba sees a total capital investment from CN totaling $172 million every year.
Winnipeg is the third largest rail hub in the country, and according to David Ranford there were several characteristics that made Winnipeg the best choice for the location of the CN Campus, including the space they already owned at the Transcona Yards.
“This is close to one of our biggest terminals in Canada, we had the land available in this area that we already owned, the availability of accommodations,” said David. “When you looked at places like Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and you’re buying up three to four hundred rooms per night like we were at one point last year, we could get the rooms in Winnipeg where other cities didn’t necessarily allow for that.”