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Industry Achievement
Ross Walker (2003)
Ross Walker, former senior vice-president, CN Western CanadaFriends, colleagues, customers, union leaders, and government policy makers had a word for Ross Walker. They called him a leader; and with reason. During his 47-year career with Canadian National Railways, Mr. Walker displayed leadership ability that encompassed all facets of CN’s business and the industry at large. From the beginning of his railway service as an assistant agent in 1947 to his retirement as senior vice-president, Western Canada, in 1994 he excelled at his myriad assignments and trained many others to become assets to CN.

This is particularly true in his roles as chief of transportation, vice-president of the Mountain Region and senior vice-president, Western Canada. In the late 1970s, CN’s western operations had serious capacity problems, and was far from being able to cope with a rising torrent of Pacific Rim trade. By the mid 1990s, when the rate of western traffic growth had begun to stabilize, CN’s network on the prairies and in the mountains was originating most of the company’s traffic. The capacity problems were particularly bad on the main line between Edmonton and Vancouver. Mr. Walker personally led the planning and fought for the allocation of resources that resulted in a right of way that was able to cope with the heavy traffic volumes that continued to grow during the 1980s and 1990s. During that time, dozens of major producers, from pulp mills to coal mines, set up shop alongside a CN line in western Canada, and Walker played a lead role in many of those developments, notably the Northeast British Columbia Coal Mines development and a new grain terminal at Prince Rupert.

He built solid relationships with his customers across the west, and forged equally solid relationships with his unions and policy makers at every level of government. He lobbied for changes in the Crowsnest Pass freight rate structure and worked with grain industry leaders to help bring them about. As intermodal traffic grew in Canada, he lent his support to the task of enlarging CN’s mountain tunnels, a project that, when it was completed, made it possible to ship containers double stacked on CN anywhere between Vancouver and Halifax. He successfully negotiated with CP Rail to buy their half interest in the Northern Alberta Railways, and then did an excellent job of integrating that property into CN’s ongoing operations.

But his major contribution may have been organizational. He created a Western Canada business unit and hand picked a team that controlled as a single entity all CN operations between the Lakehead and the Pacific Coast, thereby allowing CN Western Canada to match human resources to the levels a modern railway needs, and harness them to a common sense of purpose. He was a leader, but equally a builder.

While achieving all these accomplishments, Mr. Walker represented Canadian National in the many political and social activities associated with his position with particular excellence.

Ross A. Walker throughout his career was a leader both in Canadian National and in the railway industry, and we are pleased to induct him in the leaders category of the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame in 2003.

    © 2006 The Canadian Railway Hall of Fame. All registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.