The year is 1909. Grand Trunk Railway, a CN predecessor, begins construction on a new railway shop in Transcona, MB. The railroad is stretching westward, building infrastructure to sustain growth. Its 800-acre plot of land, 10 kilometres from downtown Winnipeg, brings hundreds of people to the area. With them comes a bakery, butcher shop, post office, churches and a school house – all the makings of a growing town.
By 1914, Grand Trunk’s first train from Winnipeg arrived in Prince Rupert, BC – linking one rail origin to a key gateway. A hundred years later CN and Transcona celebrated another milestone together: CN cut the ribbon on its Winnipeg Campus, a bright, new addition to the Transcona landscape.
“Our training campus in Winnipeg’s Transcona neighbourhood will enhance our railroader training programs, and help us instill a strong safety culture in our new hires and reinforce it among current employees who are learning new skills or upgrading existing ones,” Claude Mongeau, CN’s President and CEO, told the crowd at the grand opening. “The new Winnipeg training centre is also a symbol of the key role that Winnipeg and Manitoba play in CN’s network. Winnipeg is the hub of our transcontinental network. All of CN’s east-west transcontinental traffic, and our north-south cross border traffic are funneled through the city.”
The $60-million investment didn’t stop in Winnipeg. CN also built a campus in Homewood, Ill., in the heart of one of North America’s busiest transportation hubs – the Midwest. Just south of Chicago, the 55,000-foot facility houses CN’s U.S. training facilities. The 100,000-square foot facility in Winnipeg has capacity for 350 students, while the Homewood location can handle 250. Students travel from across Canada and the U.S. for training, meaning an economic boost for the communities they learn in.
Prior to CN Campus, new railroaders were trained at different operations across the network. Centralized training makes for a more consistent, universal experience. “CN Campus offers the exact same hands-on training that I got from my more experienced colleagues every time I started a new job,” Jim Vena, CN’s Executive Vice-President and COO, says. Vena began his career at CN as a brakeman, working in roles like yardmaster, conductor and locomotive engineer before taking on an executive role.
At CN Campus, railroaders are teaching railroaders, pairing generations of knowledge with modern technology. “Working with experienced instructors is paramount. They know the job. They know the infrastructure. Most importantly, they know safety,” David Radford, CN’s Director of Operations, Training and Development, says. Radford works on site at CN Campus and sees firsthand how students take their training into the field.
CN Campus is a symbol of safety for CN. It’s where safety starts, instilling a strong safety culture and clear practices in railroaders. Shortly after the grand opening, CN held its first Safety Culture Symposium in partnership with St. Mary’s University in Halifax. The university is home to the CN Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. The symposium put safety culture experts and transportation industry leaders in the same room, creating an open dialogue about safety issues on the job. It’s a new form of education for CN, educating peers in all stages of their transportation careers. “Safety culture is about being safe and getting safer every day,” Mongeau said, highlighting the importance of CN Campus and gatherings like the Safety Culture Symposium.
Lifelong learning plays an essential role in CN’s safety culture. CN Campus isn’t strictly for new hires. It’s also for existing employees who come to learn new skills and upgrade their certifications. It’s a place where best practices are perfected and curricula change to suit industry trends and regulations.
CN Campus is equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Students go on to help move over $250-billion in cargo a year for customers. To prepare, they use modern tools like locomotive simulators, belt pack simulators or dispatch stations in indoor labs. Outside, there is dedicated rolling stock and other essential equipment for training.
CN Campus is designed to foster camaraderie and connections among colleagues. Between the floors of classrooms and the workshop, there’s a large, open cafeteria and meeting space for students to gather and mingle.
CN Campus was built with advanced construction methods to ensure the facilities are as energy efficient as possible, while providing a comfortable environment for students and staff. CN employed sophisticated building controls, modern efficient heating and ventilation equipment, LED Lighting, locally accessed building materials, and finishes and furnishings with high recycled material content.
CN Campus is an opportunity for CN to grow; growing a new generation of railroaders and enhancing an existing safety culture across the network. It’s about embedding a culture of safety in everything CN does.
Designed for the transfer of knowledge from experienced industry veterans to students and peers, CN Campus is an educational institution above all. CN wants students to leave their classes, prepared for their work and fully immersed in safety culture. The facility was built for learning, offering a new opportunity to transportation leaders in North America. It has the potential to act as a launch pad for lifelong learning across the industry.
Transportation and logistics are ever-changing. Safety and efficiency, CN’s top priorities, are eternal. Building for the future means constant innovation and staying true to the priorities CN was founded on. CN Campus is making that happen.