Tuesday, March 8, 2016

DuPont SCLAIR Covered Hoppers

DuPont Canada's St Clair River site in Corunna, ON produced SCLAIR polyethylene resin, a revolutionary product developed in the late 1960's. A very visible, outwardly orange and winter white covered hopper car fleet plied the rails of North America publicizing the product for nearly forty years, such as NCLX 46548 on CN No 369 at Kingston on December 12, 2015 (above). According to a recent online report, there are only three cars from this formerly 140+ car fleet still seeing service: 46544, 46548 and 46551. Slightly smaller ones in 44600-series have been gone for a few years now, though fellow blogger Michael Hammond snapped one in Corunna, ON in 1993. Another online report places a line of Sclair cars in Norfolk Southern's Etna yard, near Pittsburgh's Azcon Scrap in 2006. Dead line!

DuPont Canada Inc rostered two series of cars of the same length, though the smaller cubic foot cars were of a lower external height and shorter internal length. Both series were built by American Car & Foundry:
  • DOCX 44601-44680 with an external length of 53'2" and capacity of 4460 cu ft. blt 1965.
  • DOCX 46501-46564 with an external length of 54'7" and a capacity of 4650 cu ft. blt 1969-72.
The 44600's may have extended into the 44700's. I noted 44747, plus 44761 also reported in orange.
The fleet was sold to Nova Chemicals, receiving NCLX reporting marks in 1995-1997 after the patented SCLAIRTECH line was acquired from DuPont Canada Inc. in mid-1994, significantly enhancing Nova's production while DuPont reshuffled their non-strategic product lines.

Way back in 1981, DOCX 44627 was off-spot for the Northern Telecom plant, which was served by CN's Industrial Spur and could have one to three Sclair cars spotted at any one time. Shown at the siding at the top end of the Cataraqui Spur, this photo usually engenders lots of interest due to these cars being equipped with friction bearing trucks:
In November 1980, friction bearing-equipped DOCX 44613 was also off-spot, held on Queens track 4, about four miles east of the Industrial Spur:
NCLX 44608 off-spot at Kingston's Industrial Spur which served the 1971-built Northern Telecom (later Nortel and Nordx/CDT) plant on Gardiners Road, June 2000:
Before the plant closed in mid-2003, CN 4115-4118 are ready to leave the plant and re-enter the CN Kingston Sub, on August 9, 2000 (below). Sclair car NCLX 44612 is behind the units, having just been pulled. NCLX 44627, 44603, 44622 and 44623 were still on the plant's three tracks.
The Avens facility in Brockville still received shipments in occasional Sclair cars, like NCLX 46548 on October 9, 2012:

Here's another view of the Axens facility from the Development Drive side, taken in July, 2018. CP's trackage serving the plant is at rear:
This undated train show-acquired photo shows NCLX 44674:
My Sclair car observations: date, car number, CN train on, remarks:
Jan 20/80 DOCX 44611
Jun 7/83 DOCX 44623 on CN's Industrial Spur
Jun 22/84 DOCX 44605
Jul 6/84 DOCX 44623
Mar 30/92 DOCX 44612 to CN's Industrial Spur (with VIA 6312 in consist of local freight)
Jan 24/94 DOCX 44613 from Industrial Spur
Aug 9/87 NCLX 44687
Dec 6/97 NCLX 46556 on tailend of No 363
May 31/98 NCLX 44658 on No 318
Sep 12/98 NCLX 46527-46515
Apr 30/99 NCLX 44674 plus two more on No 306
Sep 28/99 NCLX 44675 in Don Yard, Toronto
May 17/00 NCLX 44601 to Industrial Spur
May 20/00 NCLX 44732 (could be Sclair?) on No 308 dest Moncton NB
Apr 29/01 NCLX 46557-44714 on No 306
Oct 2/01 NCLX 44604 for Industrial Spur
Nov 30/01 NCLX 44627 on Industrial Spur
Sep 6/03 NCLX 44747(sic) on No 369
Nov 22/03 NCLX 44644 on No 308 (from here on, only the three survivors)
Jun 15/06 NCLX 46548 on No 309
Jun 23/06 NCLX 46548 on No 369
Aug 11/11 NCLX 46544 at Belleville
Sep 2/11 NCLX 46xxx at Avens, Brockville
Dec 3/16 NCLX 46544 on No 376

One more...NCLX 46551 eastbound at Kingston on CN No 376 on August 6, 2016:
Eye-catching SCLAIR covered hopper models were produced in O scale by Weaver. 
Lots o' links;
Check out these retro video captures, kindly shared by Pierre Fournier, of a SCLAIR pair:
Might they represent one car from each series of SCLAIRS? Their heights seems to differ. The two cars were on CN No 307 in Quebec on October 21, 1998.
DOCX 46512, photographed by Bill Grandin in 1975, shared by Jim Parker:
DOCX 46563 photographed by Bill Grandin in July, 1979 and shared by Jim Parker:
NCLX 44611 with two fleetmates, from the Bill Grandin collection via Jim Parker:
Undated and uncredited nice photo of DOCX 44644:
SCLAIR fun fact: Alberta's Ben Alain passed along the location of an extant SCLAIR car - NCLX 46558 at the Joffre, AB (not Quebec!) NOVA refinery. Ben notes that the car is filled with a defined amount of concrete and used as a scale test car. Found it from my satellite! Pan around if you like.
More satellite view research! Google map view of the NOVA St Clair River site reveals two SCLAIR hoppers in the yard and one within the plant (all circled):
NOVEMBER 2016 update: NCLX 46548 four cars in on CN No 369 at Kingston. Thanks, Logan! 
JANUARY 2017 update: Logan had an eye for Sclair again and Jake Earle snapped this Sclair (most likely NCLX 46544) in Brockville yard with CN SD70M-2 8938, noting that Sclair cars are often handled by CN Nos 585/586:
April 2017 Update**** Paul Hunter kindly shared this photo of NCLX 46548 at the head-end of CN No 369 at Queens East:
January 2018 Update**** NCLX 46548 eastbound at Belleville during the free Railstream railcam preview period.
March 1, 2018 Update****  NCLX 46551 eastbound at Napanee on CN No 368 reported by Malcolm Peakman.
April 2018 Update**** NCLX 46544 link sent by Chris de Vries through Brockville on April 8 and Logan Cadue snapped NCLX 46548 eastbound at Kingston on April 20:
JUNE 2018: NCLX 46548 by Malcolm Peakman on CN No 368 June 14, back west on No 369 on June 24.
JULY 2018: NCLX 46551 video capture by Logan Cadue on CN No 369: 
Here's NCLX 46544 entering Belleville yard near the head-end of CN No 369 on May 10, 2019, in company of HPJX aluminum-ingot cars:
JUNE 26, 2019: David Thompson's video capture on CN No 369 at Coronation Boulevard:
JANUARY 2020: NCLX 46544 observed on CN No 369.
JANUARY 2021: NCLX 46548 on CN No 369.
MARCH 23, 2021 UPDATE: NCLX 46544 in Brockville on CN No 532, shared by Jake Earle:
MARCH 31, 2021: NCLX 46544 heads back west (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):
APRIL 9, 2021 UPDATE: NCLX 46551 on CN No 517 at Belleville (image courtesy RailStream, LLC) 
DECEMBER 2, 2021 FINAL UPDATE: All three in-service Sclairs were marshalled together on CN No 509, photographed by Marc Dease:

Billed for set-out to Zubick's Scrap in London via MDC:

Running extra...

Graphics guru Randy O'Brien shared his version of the NOTROPHY trophy. Lost the thread there...but noticed the spikes!

On the buses! Facebook friend Richard Sun snapped Kingston Transit 1502 - unique! The only KT-scheme NOVA bus in the fleet - all others in the 1500-series wear the beautiful blue Kingston Express livery.
How to spot trains. British version. 

Winnipeg's Isaac Raymond snapped a perfectly mundane CN intermodal train photo this week. Unique angle, eh? 
RDC-1 RPDX (ex-VIA) 6133 travelled from Moncton, NB to Toronto's MacMillan Yard on March 2 second-last in the consist of CN No 305. Snapped along its route by many including Michael Delic in Whitby. On its way to preservation, the redolent RDC shared the train with a Canadian Forces Leopard 2 tank!


BArailsystem said...

Great post Eric. There is an additional Sclair painted car NCLX 46558 at the Nova Chemicals, Joffre site. It's not technically in service as it is a cement filled scale test car but it still sports the bright orange Sclair paint with "Polyethylene" in English above the large SCLAIR letters and in French below. Thanks for the read.


Michael said...

These were a staple of train watching in the Sarnia area in the 1980s and 1990s. They were an exception to the rule, which is why I think they continue to fascinate us. Very few companies did this with train cars. I found one other shot of a Sclair hopper I took in 1992 and posted it on this week's post.


Eric said...

Thanks for the tip, Ben. Did not know about that one! Found it in a satellite photo, which might be the only photo I'm finding:

Thanks for your additional photo, Michael. It was great to see the TRAINS unit on The Beachburg Sub, too!

Thanks for your comments,

Zartok-35 said...

What a cool paint scheme these cars have! I've only seen one once, in Calgary, several years ago, on the CN highline over the Deerfoot highway. The train even had Cataraqui-esque power, a striped GP9 and GMD-1; both "Black capped Chickadees" in my eccentric nomenclature.
So Eric, did you ever see a Sclair hopper at Portage?

Eric said...

Not that I know of...good question though, Elijah.

I thought I should preserve some photos and data on these unique cars before they all go to the big scrapyard in the sky. I'm really not sure how well-travelled they were - presumably to any plastic plant!

Thanks for your comment,

Scott Elliott said...

When I worked for Dow Chemical in the 80s in polyethylene, I suggested that we paint at least one hopper car with the DOWLEX Polyethylene logo, as we were introducing it to the market. After review of top management, I was told that they feared sabotage, as Dow's name was not all that loved, and that they did not want our customers seeing what their competitor was using!!

Eric said...

Thanks for sharing that neat memory, Scott! We rail enthusiasts are quick to focus on 'the paint scheme' but we sometimes forget about the corporate philosophy and mindset behind such trackside publicity!

Derek Ralph said...

I'm from Pittsburgh, and I actually remember wondering if these cars were real, and only seeing them for the first time at Azcon as described. No camera at that moment, unfortunately - I was entertaining a cousin from Texas with stuff to do in the city.

Ironically, Azcon is itself no longer there, either! The company closed up a couple of years ago.

Cam said...

Thanks for writing this, Eric - great info! I always wondered about the history behind these cars. They are so distinctive. Do you know if they ever ran on CP?

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Cam. They are indeed distinctive-looking cars!

As far as I know, the SCLAIR cars were linked to DuPont plants, at least in the true DuPont era. Perhaps more of those plants were on CN than CP.

They have taken on a mythic status in model form now!

Cam said...

Yes, it seems that way. I have great memories of seeing them on the Kingston Sub from time to time. Always fun to have some variety!

Cam said...

Hi again, Eric - do you know the weight rating and type of trucks on these SCLAIR hoppers? Looking to replace the ones that came with my Intermountains.

Eric said...

Not OTOH, Cam. Any visual hints in the first two photos in my post? Found this on Google: https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,2299255 and that thread refers to 77-ton friction trucks trucks on cars of that age. Does that sound right?

Hope this helps,

Cam said...

Thanks Eric! That is a great resource, and that does sound right.