Thursday, July 24, 2014

QOPX Woodchip Gondolas

It's common to see woodchip gondolas in parts of Canada where the forestry industry is active, but it's unusual to see them on CN's Kingston Sub between  Montreal and Toronto! 

National Steel Car built 105 61'6" IL woodchip cars in Hamilton ON in September-November 1987. The cars were 163 gross tons, with a 6,600 cubic foot-capacity, painted light green and numbered QOPX 100-204, with the reporting marks signifiying the Quebec & Ontario Paper Co. The cars were Leased from General Electric (GERSCO) by the Donohue Paper Company. Known for producing newsprint for major U.S. newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, Donohue's newsprint mill  in Thorold, ON received woodchips from Northern Quebec and Ontario. The mill's location was on CN's Thorold Sub, at Mi 3.65 of the Coniagas Spur. Interestingly, in 1987 Donohue was acquired by Quebecor, and in 2000 by forestry giant Abitibi-Consolidated. The mill now uses recycled newsprint as a feedstock.
In late 1999, the cars were being loaded at Donohue's mill in Senneterre QC, on CN's track AT46, routed to Thorold via Garneau-Montreal-Toronto, thence Thorold by trains 365-449 over CN, returning on CN Nos 338-366. Some cars were also loaded at Ostrom, ON at Mile 69 of CN's Ruel Sub, and routed Ostrom-Capreol-Toronto-Thorold via trains 336-450, returning on 451-337. While riding ONR's Northlander in March 1994, we met CN No 450 which included some QOPX cars. Some cars were also interchanged to Ontario Northland at North Bay, destined Cochrane, ON. Mike Lockwood kindly shared photos of QOPX cars on No 336 at Brechin East behind 9455-9421 (above) and another 336 at Udney behind 9416-4731 (below):
The thing about wood chips is that they 'cube out' before they 'tare out'. In other words, woodchip cars are built big because they can be overdfilled withoug reaching their rated capacity in thousands of pounds. In BC and the US, nets are used, placed on the loaded cars to facilitate such over-loading. Mike's pictures show the cars with blue tarps. Randy O'Brien of Niagara Falls sent three photos of the cars passing through there:

This photo that 'LJ' posted to Facebook shows an eastbound Niagara-bound freight entering St Catharines yard with two SD701's and a DW&P SD in the spring of 1998. Six QOPX cars are on the head-end:
When the cars operated over the Kingston Sub, untarped, it was common to walk the Kingston station platform and find many fragrant, stray woodchips every few feet! Like I said, over-loaded! At least once, we collected a paper Tim Horton's donut bag full of the piney pieces. The cars ran in groups of two to eight, likely based on the car capacity of the loadout track and the frequency with which CN switched the mill.
Here are some QOPX woodchip gondola observations at Kingston - cars shown in my photos are empties. Date, CN train on, remarks:

July/99 No 366 5+4 cars
Aug/99 No 366 148, 136, 154
Aug/99 No 365 199, 130, 192, 111
Aug/99 No 366 128, 168, 136, 142
Aug/99 No 366 105 (top photo), 156, 100
Sep/99 No 367 136
Nov/99 No 365 178, 107, 116
Nov/99 No 365 115
Dec/99 No 366 199, 132, 171, 125, 111, 118 123
Jan/00 No 366 147 (above), 192, 161, 141, 200 +3 cars 
Jan/00 No 366 104, 112,  165, 122, 172
Jan 16/00 No 365 121, 117, 180, 100 with blowing wood chips!
Jan 20/00 No 365 200, 146 on tailend
Jun 30/00 No 365 123, 129, 134, 183 
Aug/00 No 366 137, 135, 171, 183, 103, 130, 129
Aug/00 No 366 139, 182, 133, 124
Aug/00 No 366 (below) 154, 195, 123, 106, 112
Aug 24/00 No 365 192, 138, 188, 134, 201
Mar/01 No 366 103, 113, 147, 137, 156
Aug/01 Tarped QOPX cars with CN and CV paper boxcars south of Thorold, ON Abitibi-Consolidated paper mill.

Earlier, aboard VIA Rail, I had observed QOPX 168 at CN's Turcot yard in Montreal's west end on August 22, 1996.
These cars have been renumbered into Steelwheels LLC STWX 100-204 series in 2005, then 88 cars went the AEX 9703-9790 series, in service with The Andersons. In 2010, 15 more cars went to the Andersons as AEX 17665-17679. On June 6/09, I observed AEX 9770 and 12 other former QOPX gons at Kingston. Other than that, they seem to be operating elsewhere, mainly in the US Midwest and West, most often tarped when loaded. A 2004 STB recordation lists 88 cars. STWX reporting marks cars in Minnesota in 2010. Imagine my surprise when, doing a drive-by of the Norfolk Southern yard in Selma, NC in May 2013, one of these cars was in the yard, bearing reporting marks AEX 9708. That's a long way from Northern Canada to North Carolina!

Running extra...

Leaving no stone unturned....start at 1:18 mark...SEE the Herzog PLUS train dropping ballast...TASTE the ballast dust...HEAR the stream of rock stop just before a level crossing!

No more free Chill magazine! Previously available for free at The Beer Store, it's now available either by The Subscription or The Online Edition. I will miss the use of the the words "Chillosopher" and "Guy'd" in article titles like The Chill Guy'd to Grilling. Chill was a good read - free magazines are getting as rare as free beer!

Why are brewers and marketers messing with beer? Now there's maple beer, cranberry beer, strawberry lager, apricot ale, raspberry ale, and even Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale. I can't grin and beer it! I'm at lagerheads with the industry! Let beer be beer. Ich bin ein bier!


BA railsystem said...

Interesting post Eric. I really enjoy the great detail you go into with your research. Plastic hopper cars also have a tendancy to "cube out" depending on the density of the product.

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Ben.

Agreed about the plastic pellet cars. When I visited the KoSa plant near here, I was told an average car carries about $200,000 worth of pellets. These would later be heated, have air blown into them and become bottles for soft drinks.

Light, but valuable! Something to think about when we see these cars rolling past us.

Thanks to fellow rolling stock enthusiast Darrell Sawyer of Lethbridge, I've been able to add some valuable information to this post regarding the cars' intermediate owners during their first renumbering.


Anonymous said...

These cars pass through Cartersville Ga on CSX on the regular (usually Q581/582). Some of the AEX cars have recently been relettered PMRX. If you would like some pix, let me know.

Patrick Harris
seaboardcoast AT hotmail DOT com

Eric said...

Thanks for that update, Patrick. Sure, a couple of photos would be great. These cars are changing their reporting marks frequently now!