Saturday, May 19, 2012

Manitoba Covered Hoppers

The Province of Manitoba leased covered hoppers for grain service in 1980.  In February 1979, Premier Sterling Lyon's provincial government did not join a federal-provincial grain car study.  Manitoba believed responsibility for providing grain cars lay with the federal government.  Instead, it budgeted $2 million for a 'one-year, one-shot' deal to lease 400 covered hoppers capable of moving 38 million bushels of grain.  That worked out to $500 per car per month. Purchasing like cars would cost $50,000 per car! By leasing, Manitoba believed box cars would be freed up for shipping grain via Churchill.

Two factors that made covered hoppers available were: a U.S. trade embargo on grain sales to the USSR, as well as lessened demand for cars to ship Saskatchewan potash. Both these factors freed a number of leases, with those cars finding their way into Manitoba. The cars were actually sub-leased from companies that had already committed to them. The market situation allowed Manitoba to have cars available during the months of highest demand - June to November.

The decision to lease broke new political ground, yet there was little Opposition objection to the passing of the measure in the provincial Legislature. By leasing, the province was not committing to own cars that would not always be needed for grain shipping.
A March 8, 1980 Regina Leader-Post clipping shows the cars ready for use:
By leasing the cars, Manitoba succeeded in decreasing grain inventories.  Fifty percent of 1979's harvest was stored due to a shortage of cars.  By the end of 1980, inventories had been reduced to zero, turned to cash for Manitoba's farmers. The 1980 crop year was expected to be one with record grain exports, a majority to be handled through West Coast ports rather than Eastern ports and the Lakehead.

While the other prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were each buying 1,000 new cylindrical covered hoppers to contribute to the western grain car pool, Manitoba looked to car leasing companies such as North American Car, Pullman Leasing and United States Railcar Leasing to form a fleet for farmers' use, in place even before the other provinces' cars were built. Two Rivers, MB elevator managers made the news in a Canadian Press story decrying the use of lower-capacity, worse-condition boxcars for their Cargill and UGG elevators. They observed that CN left 51 cars sitting in a quarry near Rivers for two weeks, including five of the 400 cars leased by the Manitoba government!

Although Manitoba's leased cars were a variety of manufacturers, capacities and reporting marks, they had one thing in common - the provincial armorial bearings (crest) surmounted by "Manitoba", on a steel plate with a green or red background, welded high in the centreline of the carbody.
Though I was in Manitoba again in 1981 and 1982, I didn't see any of the Manitoba covered hoppers while trackside.  With most of Manitoba's harvest sent to terminal elevators at the ports of Churchill and Thunder Bay, a co-operative arrangement between the Manitoba and federal governments resulted in Manitoba's better-known fleet of grain cars - the Buffalo boxcars beginning in late-1985.  Here's an example of these former CN boxcars with 8-foot doors, CN 429004 at Portage la Prairie in 1986:
Although very little has been written about Manitoba's temporary covered hopper fleet, that's not to say that I'm the only one who remembers them.  Bill Whitfield kindly supplied this photo of TLDX 7766 which he took in Pecos, Texas in March 1983:
Though the fleet didn't last long, some of the cars apparently did. Here's a photo of a considerably grubbier sister, TLDX 7888 from an online auction site, undated.  The crest has been removed, but its former location is clearly visible by the lighter yellow paint: These weld marks denote Manitoba cars years after the crests have been removed, and will be featured in the following post...survivors still in service.
A few years later! Check out this Doug Stark photo of fleetmate TLDX 7875 in London, ON in January, 1995 with those weld lines still showing but the TLDX logo plate gone:
I photographed two Manitoba covered hoppers at the Trans-Canada Highway crossing of CP's Carberry Sub in Portage in June 13, 1980.  On the head-end CP 5514-5522-5668, CN's former Pleasant Point Sub trackage is in foreground:
From left: TLDX 9066 Acord Grain Co., PTLX 14322 Pillsbury, and USLX 5900, one of only five Evergreen Hatchery cars leased by Manitoba, of which I was lucky to see two.  Note: Evergreen Hatchery car above on CN lines - green paint on the welded plate; Evergreen Hatchery car below on CP lines - red paint on the welded plate:
This 19-car eastbound CN freight is coming down the Gladstone Sub at West Tower behind CN 4303-4327 at 0847 on June 17, 1980.  Its first car is Manitoba covered hopper TRNX 500290, with reporting marks only, but likely leased to Pillsbury.  CP Carberry Sub in foreground:

USLX 5904 was spotted at Portage's United Grain Growers elevator in June 20, 1980 (top photo).  This car had been unloaded in Thunder Bay at Saskatchewan Pool's Elevator 7A six days earlier.

The following list includes the cars I saw in Manitoba from June 11-23, 1980 on both CN and CP lines.  I also saw many Manitoba covered hoppers in Thunder Bay while eastound and westbound aboard VIA Rail to Portage.  

Since the cars were seen on both CN and CP trains, it's unknown to me how they were assigned to each railway.  Either equally, based on total provincial rail mileage or on each railway's percentage of total grain shipped.  My current working theory: green shield background for CN-assigned cars, red crest background for CP-assigned cars.  The list includes specific cars of larger groups of leased cars, listed by reporting mark, builder, capacity, car number including paint scheme if known.  P-S 4427 cu ft cars were produced 1963-71, 4740 cu ft cars were produced 1966-72, and 4750 cu ft cars produced 1973 and after:

CRDX Pullman-Standard 4750 cu ft:
7203, 7209, 7303, 7316, 7322, 7330, 7334, 7350, 7356, 7358, 7369.

NAHX Hawker-Siddeley cylindrical 4550 cu ft:

NAHX other builders cylindrical:
465420, 465429, 465430, 465438, 465439.

PLCX P-S 4750 cu ft:

PTLX P-S 4750 cu ft:
Pillsbury 14269, 14274, 14289, 14292, 14296, 14307, 14314, 14322 
Tri-County Grain Cynthiana, Indiana 34164, 34166, 34168
NFO Grain 34477, 34491, 34503, 34513, 34528, 34535, 34535, 34537, 34546, 34552, 34554, 34556, 34557, 34558.

TLDX P-S 4427 cu ft:
2733, 2813, 5064, 6991, 7001, 7827, 7942, 7844
Transport Leasing 5398, 5640, 6966, 7716, 7758, 7788, 7875, 7878, (3)7885
Pillsbury 5680, 5686, 5702, 5711

TLDX P-S 4740 cu ft:
Acord Grain Co Illinois, Kansas 9065, 9066

TRNX Trinity 4750 cu ft, likely leased to Pillsbury:
500105, 500110, 500206, 500237, 500290, 500327, 500397, 500415, 500657.

Evergreen Hatchery Dysart, Iowa
5900, 5904


Wellens & Co. Gold Country
7570, 7571, 7575, 7585, 7586

Jim Parker kindly shared three of Bill Grandin's photos taken May 13, 1980 showing three of the leased cars in service:
USLX 7564
TRNX 500397 - unusual squared, black reporting marks
PTLX 34488 NFO Grain

Special thanks to Monica Ball at the Manitoba Legislative Library for her assistance.  Here's a follow-up  post that shows some of the above car series still in service today.

Proto 2000 PS2CD HO scale model of a TLDX yellow car lettered for General Grain:
April 2018 update**** Marc Simpson reported a photo of Manitoba lease car TLDX 5670.

Running extra...

Just finished Between You and Me - A Memoir by CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace.  A fascinating career and unique style, including saying "Forgive me..." immediately before a difficult question, especially during his famed interview with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.  (This was not the "Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla" referred to by Stitch Jones in Clint Eastwood's movie Heartbreak Ridge.)

After reading the editorial in the October 2011 Railfan magazine that sparked a record number of letters to the editor, Trackside Treasure launched its own poll on freight car graffiti.  Though a minority of respondents thought it was artful self-expression, and some wished Kilroy Was Here and Bozo Texino would re-appear, the vast majority thought of this scourge as visually-destructive vandalism. Certainly makes me long for photos from the 1980's and before - not an empty spray can anywhere trackside.


Anonymous said...

Great posting ... Don't think I've ever seen this information in one place before.

Jason said...

Cool stuff. Have never heard of these anywhere but your blog. Thanks for the post!

Eric said...

Thanks for your comments, Jason and A. So far I've only heard of one other fan who has a (single) photo of these cars. I think we all assumed that they'd always be around, which they turned out not to be.

To make things more interesting, watch for the ensuing post which will include some modern-day sightings of these cars. And keep your eyes peeled trackside and one might roll past you...32 years later!


Ian Cranstone said...

An excellent post on a little-covered topic. These cars were before my time rail fanning, and because they were leased there is little documentation about them. Thanks for preserving a small piece of Canadian grain car history.

Eric said...

Great to hear from you, Ian. Since I'm no expert on car leasing, I found it interesting that the province of Manitoba was able to lease (perhaps sub-lease is the correct term?) these already-leased cars on relatively short notice. That likely accounted for the far-and-wide nature of the cars lessees, which in turn led to my interest in them. My quest for records of the cars Manitoba leased showed that it was indeed little-documented.

I can't really recall why I became so interested in the cars at the time. I guess they appeared to be something different, and the variety of paint schemes was certainly eye-catching. Perhaps I'll find out more now that this post is published... But if not, it took me quite a while to get the information together and get it ready to go, so I'm glad it is interesting so many other rolling stock enthusiasts.

Thanks for your comment,

Anonymous said...

This was really great. I've always been interested in Canadian grain trains. I have model trains of the newer Canadian wheat trains along with the CP locomotives. My cars are Canadian Wheat Board, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and other logo'ed covered hoppers. I also have CN locomotives and many cars with the Maple Leaf. I am American but I love Canadian RR history. Thanks for the posting. Grandtrunkbob

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Bob, and good to have you aboard. Having seen many a grain car roll by, I share your interest in these trains of any era. Stay tuned here for more posts on Portage la Prairie and other western Canadian operations that I've photographed. There is definitely a movement afoot towards greater interest in Canadian railroading.

Chris BIGDoer said...

Here's a Manitoba buffalo boxcar I found in Nordegg Alberta in 1997. This car was destined to be put on display at the Brazeau Collieries historical site, but at the time of my visit, was sitting in the last section of track remaining along the abandoned CNR line.

Chris BIGDoer

Eric said...

Thanks for the photo of that 'Buffalo' boxcar, Chris. I also enjoyed exploring your blog.

While that boxcar was never used to haul coal - such cars were likely 6-foot door cars - by the time preservation comes to mind, the cars actually used are no longer available for preservation.

Interesting to see that car looming out of the woods, nonetheless!

Thanks for your comments,