Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Canada's Cylindrical Grain Cars

Cylindrical grain cars are one of Canada's best-known contributions to the North American railcar network. Over 19,000 government covered hoppers, built by Hawker-Siddeley, National Steel Car and Marine Industries have been carrying Canadian grain on rails since 1972. Their design was unpopular with US railroads, who preferred 4650 cu ft cars, the 4550 cu ft teardrop/cylindrical design without a flat roofline remained conspicuously Canadian. This post shows the cars largely as delivered. SKNX 397003 blt 3-81, CNWX 106705 blt 1-76, and ALNX 396068 blt 2-81 wobble west through Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in August 1981 (above).
The brightest paint schemes adorning the cars belonged to the Canadian Wheat Board, Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation and the province of Alberta. Assigned to CN or CP, as denoted by an 'N' or 'P' in their reporting marks, the cars stayed on their home rails for loading. SKPX 625001 is the second of 523 Saskatchewan cars assigned to CP which were not restricted to Saskatchewan, but roamed western Canada. Only six months old, it's been spotted for loading in Gladstone, Manitoba (above). ALNX 396115, one of 477 Alberta cars assigned to CN, is loaded at Portage Pool 'B' the same month:
Later subjugated by a huge 'Alberta' logo, the Heritage Fund logo comprised a stylized (some say swastika-like) HF with the map of Alberta blended with a gold (representing oil money) shadow. UPDATE - as of August 2015, apparently only one car retains this original scheme - that's out of all the blue cars in the ALNX and ALPX fleets - ALNX 396029! Spotted by my aunt and uncle, the first ALNX cars only a few days old and on their first trip west from NSC:
CNWX 107078-107097's aluminum and yellow glint in the gloaming at Portage in July 1976. These smaller-capacity 4100 cu ft cars, intended for use on lightweight branchlines, made them early targets for scraping, and over 200 of 2,424-car fleet met this fate in Thunder bay in March 2008.
Four years later, the aluminum has dulled and darkened. The trough hatches and tank design visible on this CWB car and CNWX 108139 were characteristic of the cylindrical cars.
Shiny CNWX 396410 whizzes westbound on a winter rail grain unit train at Kingston in March, 1980. Still on jointed rail, the Kingston Sub will soon be relaid with the welded rail visible in the foreground. This simpler, centred single wheat sheaf Canadian Wheat Board scheme debuted in 1979, and this car is about two months old:
CNWX 395582-396753-396491 have been loaded at Portage Pool 'B' on June 20, 1980. A farmer departs the drive shed in his now-empty GMC grain truck, and CN will soon lift these six month-old cars for their trip to port.
Built in 1979, Hawker-Siddeley CNWX 396774's truck springs are compressed and its Wheat Board ticket is nailed to the tack board beneath the reporting marks. Departing CN's Symington Yard in Winnipeg in 1984, this car is likely heading for Thunder Bay:
CPWX 603751 blt 10-77, graffiti-free and ACI-labelled is spotted at Westbourne, Manitoba in 1984:
Unlike the CWB and silver-yellow scheme, this brown-yellow scheme was applied to CNWX and CPWX cars, as was the red Canada scheme. CPWx 607644 is also at Westbourne, coupled to a CP script International of Maine Division boxcar:Nearly new and empty CNWX 109710-109612-109736 are less than a year old, wending their way into Symington. Billed to Winnipeg when returning from eastern Canada, empties are thence routed for loading across CN's western lines. Sometimes termed the Trudeau or Coke-can scheme, the red cars wear a dual wheat sheaf scheme. Built dates of some other cars seen in 1984: CNWX 109222 blt 9-82, 109518 blt 11-82, 109664 blt 9-83, 109923 blt 10-83, CPWX 606947 blt 9-82, 607049 blt 8-83, 607168 blt 9-83 and 607257 blt 10-83.
Red cars stand out behind 1201 on Vancouver's waterfront in 1986. Alberta and Saskatchewan cars have become faded from baking in the Prairie sun and begrimed from being dragged through drizzly mountain passes. Today these cars still carry Canada's golden grain harvest, albeit without the -WX suffixes in their reporting marks, having been returned to the control of CN and CP, and unceremoniously mixed with non-cylindrical IC and SOO covered hoppers of various designs.


Zartok-35 said...

Those are some very nice pictures! Having grown up with the grain cylinders, I can truly appreciate them. That picture with the 1201 is quite amazing!

Tyler said...

I grew up with these cars as well. When I hear the word "train" the first mental image that pops into my mind is a long string of these cylindricals zinging across the prairie.

Eric said...

Thanks for your comments, Elijah and Tyler. The grain trains looked SO much better with only cylindricals (OK, maybe the odd slabside hopper or grain boxcar). I'll be posting more shots of the parade of steam at SteamExpo '86 in a future post.

Jason said...

Hi Eric,

I have a question for you. Do you know when the Alberta cars switched from the old Heritage Fund paint scheme to those with the large 'Alberta' logo and 'Take an Alberta Break...'? I seem to recall it being in the late 80's or early 90's but I haven't been able to find a definitive answer anywhere online. I figure if anyone knew, it would be you.

Eric said...

Good question, Jason. My best answer for you is 1990-1992. This is based on sources including the Morning Sun Color Guide and CP Tracks. The place names seem to have been added slightly later, along with the 'Take an Alberta Break' slogan. Check out this minty car taken in April 1992:

Hope this helps,

Jason said...

Thanks Eric!