WINDSOR, Ontario – Hundreds of people gathered here in a festive atmosphere for the solemn departure of the Monarch Express, a joint Kansas City Southern and Canadian Pacific Railway initiative to help save the monarch butterfly.
A gleaming new dark green boxcar, with a colorful monarch painted on one side and the slogan “Save the monarch, join the 60,000 tree challenge” on the other, served as the backdrop as speakers from the paths of iron and members of Rotary International launched the three country drive. The event took place at CP’s Windsor Yard, which connects to the CP-owned 1.6-mile rail tunnel under the Detroit River to Detroit.
From there, the wagon will make multiple stops across the United States, including Chicago, Kansas City, Mo., and Laredo, Texas, as it follows the traditional route of the migrating monarch butterfly to its winter home in Mexico. . There will also be several Mexican stops including Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and finally at the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacán. The railroads, auto leasing company GATX and other partners announced the effort last month [see “KCS, Canadian Pacific, GATX launch …,” Trains News Wire, Aug. 5, 2022].
The project was natural for KCS and CP since their combined routes roughly parallel the 3,000-mile course of the monarch butterfly, considered one of the world’s great pollinators. Just outside Windsor at Point Pelee, Canada’s southernmost continental point, hundreds of thousands of monarch butterflies congregate each fall for their flight to Mexico, where the butterflies use the air currents, the Earth’s magnetic pull and the position of the sun on a journey that culminates in Mexico around that country’s Day of the Dead holiday in early November.
David Eaton, vice president of sales and marketing for KCS in Monterrey and former president of that city’s Rotary club – and the man leading the project – said The trains News Wire, the planned merger “encapsulates the unity of North America” by serving Canada, the United States and Mexico. The $31 billion transaction still needs approval from the US Surface Transportation Board.
Rotary has taken the initiative to raise awareness of the status of an endangered butterfly, one step away from extinction. Naturalists say the monarch has only a 10% chance of persisting above the threshold of extinction for the next 30 years. Essential to the world’s food supply and natural ecosystems, the cause of their “alarming” decline is multiple, including deforestation and climate change, according to Rotary.
At the Windsor rally, the “Mariposa” (butterfly) boxcar, built at GATX in Mexico and painted in Hearne, Texas, was hooked up to an equally shiny CP 7005, a rebuilt EMD SD70ACU.
Eaton said it was “very easy” to get GATX support. The company was promoting a new line of 60-foot high-cube Plate F boxcars “and the environmental advantages of the boxcar over trucking,” he said.
As the train travels south, it will also be looking for $100,000 for the Save the Monarch Butterfly 60,000 Tree Challenge. The money will help plant 60,000 oyamels at the El Rosario Sanctuary to help restore the monarch population. Next to the shiny orange, black and white Monarch rendering of the covered wagon is a crowd-pleasing QR code.
Rotary and its partners, including the NASCO Freight and Trade Coalition, invite the public to also join the campaign through Operation Pollination at www.operationpollination.net