Yes, there was some significant traffic that was lost to ocean-going ships after the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959. The Seaway allowed larger ships to travel between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes, which made it more economical to transport goods by ship than by rail.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Seaway caused a 20% decline in the amount of grain that was transported by rail between 1959 and 1969. The Seaway also had a significant impact on the transportation of iron ore, with a 15% decline in rail traffic between 1959 and 1969.
However, it's important to note that the railroads did not lose all of their traffic to the Seaway. The railroads continued to transport a significant amount of goods between the Great Lakes and other parts of the country. In fact, the total amount of freight transported by rail in the Great Lakes region actually increased by 10% between 1959 and 1969.
The Seaway simply provided a new option for transporting goods, and some shippers chose to take advantage of it. The railroads were able to adapt to this new competition by focusing on transporting goods that were not as susceptible to competition from the Seaway, such as coal and chemicals.
Overall, the St. Lawrence Seaway had a mixed impact on the railroads in the Great Lakes region. The Seaway did cause some traffic to be lost to ships, but the railroads were able to adapt and continue to play a major role in the transportation of goods in the region.
Yes, there were concerns among the railroads in the Great Lakes region in the 1950s that they might lose a significant portion of their freight traffic once the St. Lawrence Seaway opened. The St. Lawrence Seaway, which officially opened in 1959, is a system of locks, canals, and channels that allows ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.
The primary concern of the railroads was that the Seaway would provide a more direct route for international shipping to access the interior of North America, bypassing the need for rail transport. This could potentially lead to a shift in transportation patterns, as ships could transport goods more efficiently and at a potentially lower cost compared to railroads.
While the opening of the Seaway did indeed bring about changes in transportation routes and patterns, the actual impact on rail traffic was not as drastic as initially feared. Several factors contributed to this outcome:
Bulk Commodities: Railroads in the Great Lakes region primarily carried bulk commodities like coal, iron ore, and grain. These commodities were often too heavy or not suitable for long-distance maritime transport. Therefore, the Seaway's impact on rail traffic was somewhat limited in this regard.
Infrastructure Limitations: The Seaway system, while beneficial for ocean-going vessels, had limitations in terms of the size and type of ships that could navigate its locks and channels. This meant that not all types of cargo could be efficiently transported via the Seaway, leaving some business opportunities for the railroads.
Economic Considerations: The cost-effectiveness of transportation modes is influenced by various factors, including fuel prices, labor costs, and infrastructure fees. Depending on the specific circumstances, it might still be more economical to transport certain goods by rail rather than by ship.
Geographical Constraints: Some inland destinations were better served by rail due to their proximity to railheads and existing rail networks. This made rail transportation more efficient for certain regions.
In the end, while there was some competition between railroads and the maritime transportation provided by the Seaway, the impact on rail traffic was not as severe as initially predicted. Railroads adapted to the changing landscape by focusing on their strengths, such as providing efficient transportation for specific types of cargo and connecting to areas that were not easily accessible by waterways.