Friday, April 24, 2020

Canada's Grain Fleet - Covered Hoppers

The boxcars that carried Canada's grain gave way to cylindrical grain cars - 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 CN and CP rails since 1972. Their design was unpopular with US railroads, where 4650 cu ft cars prevailed. The 4,550 cubic-foot teardrop/cylindrical design without a flat roofline remained conspicuously Canadian. Cylindricals forever! Or so it seems as these iconic grain-handlers seem to head to the horizon (top photo) on CP at Burnside, Manitoba on June 5, 1986.

Early designs in covered hopper technology included CN and CP 3,000 cubic-foot slab side design. Also with a capacity of 3,000 cubic-feet were aluminum tank-hoppers, so-called due to their curved sides that ended at the eaves, capped by a flat or peaked roof. Canadian Pacific not only invested in 250 cars of this design in 1959, but also a 900-car order of steel 3,400 cubic-foot cars in 1964. A second order had central circular roof hatches, not on each side of a central roof walk as in the first order. CN, meanwhile, waited until 1965 for a Marine Industries 3,850 cubic-foot design, a true cylindrical covered hopper with a body that was cylindrical right to the roof hatches. CP also purchased such cars, and the design, with a 3,800 then 4,550 cubic-foot capacity, would be the Canadian standard for the next 20 years of production. CNWX 109720-109612-109736 are right-most three Coke can cars on CN 5200’s inbound train, taken from the Trans-Canada Highway overpass in Winnipeg on June 7, 1984.
Faced with an aging fleet of decades-old CN and CP steel boxcars, and even outside-braced wooden boxcars, the Canadian government began supplying cars for grain transportation in 1972. These were steel covered hoppers with standard characteristics: 4,550 cubic-foot capacity, 59-foot overall length, 47-foot, 11-inch interior length, four central trough roof hatches for loading, and four gravity discharge hoppers below. The design was inexpensive to fabricate and efficient for users due to the lack of interior bracing and quick gravity unloading to empty the car. Trough hatches did not require precise loading nor re-spotting at an elevator chute or spout, unlike boxcars and circular roof hatches. While Hamilton's National Steel Car led production, Hawker-Siddeley's Trenton, NS and Thunder Bay plants produced cylindrical grain cars as did Marine Industries in Sorel, QC. Government specifications did not encourage builder-to-builder variation, with only very subtle differences in end bracing and roof walk mounting for trackside spotters. Up to 1976, car body ends were vertical, then sloped inwards thereafter.


The Government of Canada's initial paint scheme was a mostly brown car (representing soil) with a 15-foot wide yellow band (representing wheat fields) with two large, stylized wheat sheaves. Each sheaf  measured 7'9" tall x 5'6" wide, with a stylized yellow  Canadian flag above the reporting marks and conspicuous, bilingual Government of Canada lettering at the opposite end of the car side.
CPWX 603751 (Blt 10/77) has been loaded at Westbourne, MB in May, 1984 (above). It wears the initial Government of Canada brown & yellow scheme as does CPWX 601073 (below) whose reporting marks were chosen for Model Power’s  HO-scale cylindrical (too short, friction-bearing, under-detailed but it’s all we had until Intermountain and other model manufacturers cottoned on to the Canadian market.) I spotted and photographed the prototype in motion at Portage la Prairie, MB on June 5, 1986:
The lightweight 4,100 cubic-foot CNWX covered hoppers had two 15-foot wide yellow bands at each end of the aluminum car body, with the same wheat sheaves, stylized Canadian flag and Government of Canada lettering in red. These cars rode on 70-ton trucks. As with the early tank-hoppers, aluminum construction fell out of favour due to the tendency of aluminum to corrode and experience metal fatigue at stress points and at seams. Those issues were some years away when my Dad photographed new CNWX silver and yellow aluminum covered hoppers eastbound with some of their first loads past a westbound led by CN 1074-1086, in the Portage yard on July 4, 1976. One of my favourite grain car photos ever, we were getting our first glimpses of Prairie railroading in the gloaming, on the second day of our first visit to relatives in Manitoba!
CNWX 108139 is a sample silver and yellow cylindrical grain car whose trough-hatch covers are visible from above on a westbound train of empties pulled by CN 9637-9503 at Portage on June 16, 1980:
Unlike the aluminum and yellow scheme, the brown and yellow scheme was applied to CNWX and CPWX cars. Billed to Winnipeg when returning from eastern Canada, CNWX empties were thence routed for loading across CN’s western lines.


The brightest paint schemes adorning the cars belonged to the Canadian Wheat Board, Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation and the province of Alberta. Having just arrived in Portage in August 1981, these new, colourful provincial grain cars (above) Saskatchewan’s SKNX 397003 (Blt 3/81) and Alberta’s ALNX 396068 (Blt 2/81) – certainly caught my eye. The ‘old boy’ is CNWX 106705 between them, built in December, 1976, with a Canadian Wheat Board car at left.

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) scheme was a brown body with one central wheat sheaf with 'The Canadian Wheat Board/ La Commission Canadienne du Ble" to its right. A 12" yellow stripe ran the length of the side sill, and CWB cars wore only CNWX reporting marks. Still on jointed rail, the Kingston Sub will soon be relaid with the welded rail visible in the foreground in March, 1980. This simpler, centred single wheat sheaf Canadian Wheat Board scheme debuted in 1979, and this car is about two months old on a winter grain train through Kingston:
Canadian Wheat Board CNWX 396774 was built in January, 1979. The small paper grain slip on the lower-left tackboard shows the car’s lading and destination. Heading out of Winnipeg, on June 7, 1984:
Assigned to CN or CP, as denoted by the letter 'N' or 'P' in their reporting marks on the provincial cars and Government of Canada cars, they stayed on their home rails for loading. The cars were apportioned to each railway based on the percentage of grain volume handled by each, at that time: 47.7% for CN and 52.3% CP. Interestingly, in 1990, 173 CPWX cars would become CNWX, as grain volume had shifted from CP to CN. The railways required a provincial judge to confirm these statistics and render a decision for the transfer!
The provincial cars were not restricted to Saskatchewan or Alberta, but roamed western Canada. In fact, during the 1986-87 crop year, Saskatchewan's covered hoppers were loaded in Saskatchewan only 52% of the time, loaded in Alberta 35% of the time and Manitoba 13%. The cars' round-trip time to port improved from 24.7 days in 1985-1986 to 20.5 days the following crop year.
Alberta Heritage Fund ALNX 396115, built six months previous, has been loaded at Portage Pool ‘B’ on August 26, 1981 (above). Spotted by my aunt and uncle, the first ALNX cars only a few days old and on their first trip west from NSC and they recorded this prorotype information for me:
The Province of Alberta's Capital Projects Division purchased 1,000 cars in 1980, purchased with funds from the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund. Alberta's Heritage Fund logo comprised a stylized (some say swastika-like) HF with the map of Alberta blended with a gold (representing oil money) shadow. This attractive lettering was later subjugated by a huge 'Alberta' logo. Interestingly, as of August 2015, only one car retained this original scheme - that's out of all the blue cars in the ALNX and ALPX fleets - ALNX 396029!
The Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation was incorporated under the Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation Act on October 2, 1979. The cars' brown and orange paint scheme, complete with yellow pin-striping and golden wheat sheaf, is often referred to as the most attractive grain car scheme by rail enthusiasts! My uncle poses with months-old, second-of-the-order for CP lines SKPX 625001, loaded at Gladstone’s United Grain Growers elevator (above) on August 25, 1981.

The Alberta and Saskatchewan governments made sure their citizens, specifically farmers, knew that their tax dollars were being invested to improve grain transportation. Though not exactly as advertised,  newspaper photos were published to acquaint farmers with the cars they'd soon be seeing spotted for loading at their local elevator. The introduction of the Alberta and Saskatchewan cars tipped the balance in favour of covered hoppers in the Canadian dedicated grain fleet. Boxcar numbers continued to drop, while tonnage increased. These cars also continued the trend away from railway-owned cars to private owner cars, a trend which continues today. BN (USLX) 439763, SKNX 397444 and CNWX 108352 clank their way out of Symington yard on June 7, 1984:

Read more about some 1982 grain train covered hopper consists here.


Manitoba had its own seldom-mentioned covered hoppers. In 1980, the provincial government chartered American lease hoppers, with a provincial coat-of-arms on red or green steel, welded to each side. It's rare to find a picture or discussion of these cars anywhere, although the Manitoba/Canada Buffalo boxcars for grain shipping to Churchill and Thunder Bay are better-known and more often-photographed. 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.  In doing so, Manitoba believed box cars would be freed up for shipping grain via Churchill.

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. While the other prairie provinces were each buying 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.  Although the 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.

Read more about the Manitoba's leased cars I observed.

Though the fleet didn't last long, some of the cars apparently did.  The crests had been removed, but the crests' former location was clearly visible by the lighter paint. Weld marks denoted Manitoba cars years after the crests have been removed. I was fortunate to see two of five of the Evergreen Hatchery cars leased by Manitoba, namely USLX 5900 and 5904. Note: Evergreen Hatchery car on CN lines - green paint on the welded plate; Evergreen Hatchery car on CP lines - red paint on the welded plate. USLX 5904 had been unloaded in Thunder Bay at Saskatchewan Pool's Elevator 7A six days earlier.
Interestingly, some of the Manitoba-leased cars of the same number series that I observed soldier on, still in service today.  Read more in this post. As time marched on, the weld marks where the Manitoba crest was attached are still visible, although the rust marks have diminished somewhat.  PTLX 34494, lettered for NFO Grain, was photographed in 2009, with six characteristic rusted weld marks still visible. As recently as 2016, some of these leased cars are still in operation, with the rusted weld marks still evident, for those who know where to look and what the marks represent!

Read more about the unique articulated covered hopper CN 398000 - designed for service to Churchill.


Sometimes termed the Trudeau or Coke-can scheme, the red cars wore a dual yellow wheat sheaf scheme with black walkways and end ladders. Built in September of 1981, CNWX 101287 is on a 91-car train pulled by CN 4309-4277-4152 (above) as CN’s operator waits with orders on June 16, 1982. The word 'Canada' in white lettering, with 18-inch high Canadian flag emblem was centred on the car side. Data was yellow, reporting marks white. Built dates of some of these cars that I observed 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. CPWX 607644 wears the red Government of Canada ‘Coke can’ scheme, coupled to a more senior CP script boxcar sub-lettered for the International of Maine Division at Westbourne, MB in May, 1984:
This Geep-led CN train included a sinuous string of brand new ‘Coke can’ covered hoppers. CNWX 111708 and candy apple-red confreres convoy westward for what might be their first grain loads at Portage on September 19, 1985:
CNWX  aluminum and yellow smaller-capacity 4,100 cubic-foot cars, intended for use on lightweight branchlines, made them early targets for scrapping. Gathered and stored between Mileages 174 and 179 of CN's surplus Kinghorn Sub, at least three special movements brought long 56-car to 113-car trains of the pioneer cars into Neebing Yard's track NO13. The cars were taken off their trucks, placed on their sides and cut up on site. Over 200 of 2,424-car fleet met this fate in Thunder Bay in March 2008 alone. The scrap value of the aluminum in each car was reportedly $10,000. By 2009, the entire fleet aluminum and yellow fleet was history.

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 on CN and CP, respectively. Frankly, once the cars started losing their -WX reporting marks, they were no longer unique to me. Several had their reporting marks changed, relettered for private elevator companies.

After the Canadian government raised questions about fleet upgrading and maintenance costs several times over the years, the government reached agreement with CN and CP in 2007 to transfer operation, refurbishment, and maintenance of the fleet to the two railways. Over the next seven years, thousands of the cars were retired, returned to their leaser, or sold to prairie shortlines that handled grain and other bulk commodities. This left roughly 3,100 of the former Wheat Board hoppers under CN and CP ownership; the railways overhauled these cars to extend their lifespan.

Passage of the Transportation Modernization Act in 2018 paved the way for CN and CP to explore the purchase of new cars. Shortly after its passage, CP announced it would receive 5,900 new hopper cars over four years to replace its aging fleet. CN followed suit in 2020 with an order for 1,500 new hoppers, followed by an order for 1,000 more in 2021. These cars, being built by National Steel Car and Trinity Rail, sealed the fate of the Wheat Board hoppers, as the new cars are lighter, smaller (3 feet shorter) and can hold 15% more grain.

A concise listing of Government of Canada, Alberta, Saskatchewan cars that roamed CN and CP lines, and Canadian Wheat Board cars that were solely on CN, including reporting marks, quantities, builders, built dates and as-delivered paint schemes:


Running extra...

Covidmercials. Many of the earliest ones were for automakers and car dealers. Then there were the restaurants urging take-out orders. Then stores offering curbside pickup. Then there are those that advertise services no longer available. These latter sadness-tinged, profit-sucking-sound ads inevitably start with what I call 'Sad piano music'. Slow, minor chords in a dream-like soundscape evoking sadness, despair, and melodic melancholy for money not being spent.

Covidrinking games. "Sad piano music!", I yell out. Then I drink. 'That world leader is an idiot!', then I drink. "Time for the provincial pandemic update!" just before I imbibe. This pandemic stuff is only as sobering as we let it be.

Covideo. Check out the latest non-operating layout tour of my Kingston's Hanley Spur HO layout. And if you think a non-operating video is not a layout video, well, neither is the sound-equipped light show of someone's favourite DCC unit slowly going through the entire sound effects menu before it even turns a wheel. An operating video will follow, don't despair, from this Covideographer!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Canada's Grain Fleet - Boxcars

Boxcars were the freight car of choice for grain transportation from the early 1900's until they were replaced by gravity-discharge aluminum and steel covered hoppers beginning in the 1970's. The covered hoppers were easier to load and unload. Boxcars required wooden or cardboard grain doors, to hold the cargo in while the car was being loaded via the door. By 1987, terminal car dumpers still existed for boxcar unloading, but these massive mechanisms were quickly aging, and costly to repair and operate. In Thunder Bay, 14 of 21 dumpers were over 25 years old, and 25% of them were predicted to be out of service by 1992.

Grain boxcar fleets declined through attrition, and it was the railways' intention after 1986 to use them only on branchlines unable to accommodate covered hoppers. Noodles and a leaf (top photo). From right, CN 426568 and 427992 at Portage la Prairie on June 3, 1986. Two years earlier, refurbished maple-leaf CN 428752 and 428762 with wheat sheaves, maple leaf 424774 and wet-noodle 427271-427058-425345 pose at Winnipeg’s CN Symington Yard as cars ascend the twin hump in background. June 7, 1984:
In 1981, the number of railway boxcars and government covered hoppers in dedicated grain service were at a break-even point, at about 13,000 each. The Grain Transportation Agency in that year predicted a decrease of 164 boxcars per month, due to attrition. In the GTA study, the actual attrition rate was closer to 200. CP had 4,545 grain boxcars in 1981, 2,972 in 1985, 1,260 in 1986, 672 in 1990, 363 in 1992 and only 209 in 1993. CN had 11,000 dedicated grain boxcars in its car fleet in 1965, 6,178 in 1981 and 3,660 in 1985 and 2,874 in 1986.

I observed CP 269331 with  the spartan lettering of an International of Maine-assigned car, spotted at the Meadows, Manitoba elevator on CP in 1984 (below). This well-travelled boxcar had nothing for the elevator agent to cooper (nail) the grain doors to, so he told me that he kicked it by in favour of four covered hoppers:


CP designated some boxcars in its 248350-267210 series, a wide swath of boxcars built between 1941 and 1953, for grain service as early as 1970. Wood lining in the cars was removed as they would no longer handle general merchandise, only grain. CP also funded the rebuilding of more 40-foot boxcars for general service, such as handling bagged flour. Used in grain service at the end of the boxcar era, these cars were numbered in the CP 17000-24000 series, and the 268000-269000 series. Some International of Maine cars ended up in this group! Also in the early-1970's, CP pruned its fleet of six-foot-door cars that were quickly becoming obsolete for most shippers. Over 3,600 cars were renumbered into the CP 108000-125610 (some sources indicate CP 115520-120692) for grain service.

Forty feet, sixty tons - when loaded, these annoyingly antiquated conveyances carried grain in 60-ton loads. Here, these slanted, scripted or multimarked boxcars were only light weight - empties. Amazing how shallowly the multimark, around since June, 1968, had penetrated the paint palette of the grain car pool! Westbound over the CN diamonds at West Tower in Portage la Prairie in September, 1985:
Major rehabilitation programs undertaken by the railways, and at the expense of the federal government and the railways, produced 2,000 cars in 1974, 3,000 in 1979 and 2,000 in 1980. The latter programs were only expected to extend each boxcar's service life by five years. In other words, these cars were just about worn out, and it was possible that there would be no useable grain boxcars left by 1985 if no action was taken.
A variety of CP grain boxes near Portage MPE Pool ‘A’ (above). Rusty and weathered slanted-lettering CP 118905 and refurbished CP 123669 hint at the breadth of paint schemes and years of weathering of the fleet, photographed at Portage in August, 1981. Refurbished CP Rail grain boxcar 123081 with script and stacked sisters returning west for their umpteenth loads on CP's Minnedosa Subdivision northwest of Portage on May 29, 1984:
It was not uncommon to seeing a boxcar train of loads heading east through Portage, with a leaky car door dropping grains of wheat along the right-of-way - all the way to Thunder Bay! On the light-rail CN Oakland Sub, north of Portage la Prairie, workaday CN 427443 with cut-down ladders and no roofwalk, has been coopered with steel banding and thick, cardboard grain doors by the MPE agent at Longburn in May, 1984:
Now called 'iconic' or even 'epic', back in 1985 it was just 'railroading' on the Prairies. The days of prairie branches served by aging power hauling equally aged boxcars were waning. Read more about some 1982 grain train boxcar consists here.

GMD-1’s 1012-1067 handle 20 grain boxcars eastward into Portage at Eighth Street on September 18, 1985. These cars may have originated on CN’s Oakland Sub:


It was cheaper and easier for the railways to repair boxcars for use on lightweight branchlines, than to upgrade the branchline infrastructure - roadbed, ties and rails - to support heavier covered hopper cars. The federal government boxcars rehabilitation schemes undertaken in 1979 and continuing into 1980 included:
  • repairs to floors 
  • repairs to rusted areas of carbody
  • spot welding
  • door repairs
  • nailable door areas improved
  • car sides riveted to door posts (repairs visible on either side of door)
  • gussets used to reinforce lower dor tracks
  • yellow push plates added to doors to make opening and closing easier
  • spray painting of repaired areas
A yellow wheat sheaf - a smaller version of the government grain hopper scheme - was applied to the left of the door. Under it was a stencilled bilingual message, reading in part, "REPAIRED WITH FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA and in French: REPARATIONS EFFECTUEES AVEC L’AIDE FINANCIERE DU GOUVERNEMENT DU CANADA". Cars emerging from the rehabilitation scheme were formerly CN 520000-539009, renumbered CN 427800-428999. Rehabilitated CP cars were renumbered CP 122000-122999 and 123000-123999. CN did most of the  shop work at Transcona and in Regina, where half of the roundhouse was given over to the work.
Refurbished slanted-CPR 123541 shows its spray-painted areas of repair, wheat sheaf and stencilling, denoting its refurbishing in May, 1980 for grain service (above). Also photographed on June 7, 1984, CP 123692 has been patched, painted at CP Winnipeg Yard:
CP placed their wheat sheaf stencil on the boxcar sides slightly lower than CN did. CN boxcar 428919 (above - Blt 5/54) last outshopped in September, 1980. “Repaired with financial contribution from the Government of Canada”. The repair and repainting was more obvious on these cars due to the use of current CN paint on the weathered, chocolate brown sides of maple-leaf boxcars. Spotted on team track in front of Portage's CN station in August, 1981:
On May 24, 1980, transfer van CN 76555 awaits the passage of a freight train through Kingston including CN government-rehabilitated boxcar CN 428701. Note the somewhat rare yellow stencilling under the wheat sheaf on this car, as well as the yellow door-opening aid welded to the door:
The lower-right yellow stencilling denoted no roofwalks on the cars, though the cars retained high ladders and handbrake wheels. CN 428635 is a 10"0" height car, refurbished and received its yellow push plate, wheat sheaf logo and bilingual message beneath it in December 1979, at Portage June 3, 1986:
CP's grain boxcar fleet was reported for several years to the National Transportation Agency as a requirement of the Western Grain Transportation Act. The year 1986 marked a precipitous decline in the year-end-reported CP boxcar fleet size: 2,972 in 1985, 1,260 in 1986, 1,175 in 1987, 1,050 in 1988, slightly higher 1,095 in 1989, 672 in 1990, 444 in 1991, 363 in 1992 and 209 in 1993. Though CP's Colonsay Subdivision was being rehabilitated when I visited in 1986, none of these boxcars that were spotted at Penzance, SK for loading during rehabilitation wore the wheat sheaf rehabilitation logo:
A 1983 study by the Grain Transportation Authority estimated boxcar capacity and requirements to 1991. The results showed that within that timespan, there would be too few boxcars to service the port of Churchill and/or the lightweight branchlines. CN's boxcar shortfall was predicted to occur as early as 1985. While not posing an immediate problem, due to CN's practice of light-loading hopper cars on lightweight branchlines, something clearly had to change. The very epitome of the need for the coming change - rehabilitated CN boxcar single-car spotted at aged Federal, Searle and Pool-lettered elevators at Colfax, SK on an unseasonably and unreasonably cold September, 1985:
CP was also predicted to experience a boxcar shortfall as early as 1990. Even if all CN's boxcars were loaded for Churchill service, there would still not be enough cars. Use of CP's boxcar fleet could forestall the deficit until 1988. 
An old warrior, CN 420566’s CNR maple leaf logo is still visible (above). CN 427956 sports a Superior door and CNR maple leaf logo (below), both at Portage on June 3, 1986.


CN not only sent loaded boxcars of grain to Vancouver and Thunder Bay as CP did, it also sent cars mostly from northern prairie elevators to the Arctic grain-shipping port of Churchill. This line was a political football continually passed around between governments, shippers, and farmers. In 1986, while the future of the port was being debated, 339 "buffalo" boxcars with 8-foot doors were rehabilitated at CN's Transcona Shops in Winnipeg, drawn from 1956- and 1957-built cars from the CN 540760-545759 series, becoming CN 429000-429338. Transcona could complete six cars per day.

Another series of 1600 "buffalo" cars, from the same feedstock series, CN 445000-446615 followed in 1987-88. The cost of $17,000 per car was equally split between the federal and Manitoba governments, so the cars were painted with the Manitoba and Canada logos.  The cars were to be unloaded at Thunder Bay or Churchill, stencilled thus: "THIS CAR NOT TO BE INTERCHANGED - FOR CHURCHILL AND THUNDER BAY GRAIN SERVICE ONLY". Primarily filling the Churchill elevator in spring and summer, the buffalo boxcars would travel to Thunder Bay with grain in winter, once Churchill shut down in late October.
Newly-refurbished Buffalo boxcar CN 429004 was westbound through Portage la Prairie on June 3, 1986 (above). CN 429035 is another Buffalo boxcar (below) on the same train. Note eight-foot doors and new paint, even on trucks. Another key feature is the Churchill and Thunder Bay-only stencilling beneath the CN logo.
In 1986, CN was unable to move 590,000 tonnes through the port with its own fleet, and had to borrow boxcars from CP Rail, as had been foreseen. As late as 1994, CN was suspected of causing artificial shortages of Churchill-dedicated cars by squirrelling them away on isolated sidings, a contention that was publicly challenged in print by newspaper advertisements from the Hudson Bay Route Association! Average yearly shipments through the port from 1984 to 1994 were 379,000 tonnes, with a high of 621,000 tonnes in 1983. A dismal low of 50,000 tonnes was shipped through the port in 1988. The final train of buffalo boxcars departed Canora, SK for Thunder Bay on December 5, 1996. By 1997, covered hoppers would finally be allowed to deliver shipments over the Churchill line. Long-held CN conventional wisdom that covered hopper harmonic oscillation on CN's Herchmer Subdivision trackage would lead to derailments was disproved during testing in 1995-96.
Watching Portage switcher CP S-3 6569 switching grain boxcars at the United Grain Growers elevator at Eighth Street in 1984 (above), I knew the journey to a distant terminal, likely Thunder Bay, would soon begin. Direct grain shipments to the U.S., and a shift in grain markets from Europe to Asia, were already signaling the decline of grain export from the Lakehead. In 1983, a record 17.7 million tonnes were shipped from the port, compared to less than a third of that amount, less than a decade-and-a-half later. By 1995, CP's remaining boxcars only operated on Manitoba's Russell Subdivision and a few lines in Saskatchewan: the Dunelm, Shamrock and Neudorf Subdivisions.  Their last year of operation was 1996. That summer, CP boxcars loaded at Gretna MB, and Simmie, McMahon and Esterhazy SK were sent east to Thunder Bay, returning waybilled to Winnipeg for scrapping. The final CP subdivisions restricted to boxcar loading were officially abandoned on July 31, 1996. 
And that’ll do! Trainman directs engineer’s shove back via radio. These covered hoppers brought into Portage, likely lifted farther east on the Rivers Sub, are being coupled to the grain boxcars from the west on September 18, 1985. Note the depressed truck springs on both…loaded! The other half of Canada's grain fleet comprised covered hoppers - read more in an upcoming post.

This post is a long-overdue updating of my original 2009-2010 posts on CN and CP grain boxcars and cylindrical covered hoppers - larger, reformatted images and additional information. Since these long-ago posts are frequently linked-to on online forums, I'll allow them to live in their long-ago early-Trackside Treasure format, but this two-part series will hopefully present an updated and upgraded account of Canada's grain fleet!

Check out Marc Simpson's excellent post on modelling the CN boxcar fleet.

Running extra...

Wishing Trackside Treasure readers a Happy Easter. Hoping you have time to reflect on sacrifice and reward, on suffering and rebirth, on times past and times to come. When this time of pandemic is over, we will be a changed people and our world tinged by what we're experiencing now. Through it all, the Trackside Treasure community is all in this together. Stay tuned for more posts that are unceasing and unstoppable. And huge props to Al Gore for getting us ready!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Dark and Seamy Side of Sharing

Egregious. Unnecessary. Dysfunctional. Narrow-minded. Unethical. Desperate. And those are the good adjectives! Something odd happened on the way to the blog:
This week, a big ruckus erupted on another social media platform that shall remain nameless but rhymes with 'Pacebook'. Someone who shall remain nameless but whose name rhymes with 'Work' was posting a plethora of photos with a caveat that they not be shared with a certain website owner/administrator who shall remain namelsss but who runs CRO. Not that that person pays attention to caveats. In fact, most everyone has a CRO photo-stealing horror story. Read on...

Not being immune to Facebook drama, which sometime requires Comments I Like to Share, I can tell you that when a group is infiltrated by ne'er-do-wells that then overthrow the group admin and lock him out of his own page, it's like some sort of autoimmune disease  that then causes the group to go from version 3.0 (below) to version 4.0 (oh, oh! above) - definitely a sign of trouble. Now it's gone back to 3.0. Jeesh. Just be respectful and courteous!
Some of the group's rules actually concern stealing content. Not being content to see content stolen, I've highlighted this important rule:
The central issue here is how, when, to whom, and for how long consent is granted. And if you visit the CRO website, there are still more rules that look like they were drawn up by a Philadelphia lawyer on caffeine:
But what's the sense of having rules if you play fast and loose with them? I believe there are too many rules, and that rules were made to be broken. But it seems that contributors are held to these rules and the owner/administrator is not. Then there's even more legalese (actually giving me legal unease!):
Now let's discuss the drama I alluded to earlier. Buckle up here. Seems that Railfan A took some really cool photos years ago that came into the possession of Railfan B who decided to post them to Facebook with a caveat that they not be shared with Railfan C. Railfan D sent them to Railfan C who then posted them without appropriate photo credit to Facebook. Confused yet? Railfan B then removed them and also his membership to the Facebook groups. Then, Railfan E, an administrator of the Facebook group got wise and booted Railfan C, whom they'd admitted as a fellow administrator, also disavowing any support or advertising to CRO. And now Railfan B is back aboard. I would suggest that the best way to try to discourage CRO's unethical behaviour is to stop supporting CRO.

Letting someone who is that unprincipled become an administrator would be like granting a Costco membership to a kid that likes large containers of candy. He's going to run amok!

At this point, I'm not going into a long discussion of the perils of photo-sharing and my own personal interpretation of copyright law as it pertains to pictures of trains. 

Instead, I'll let you in on my decision tree. I take train pictures. I can either:

a) keep them to myself, in a hermetically-sealed shoebox on the top-left shelf of my Ikea cupboard until I die, at which time I've stipulated in my will kit that they be buried with me to ensure nobody ever sees them


b) post them to Trackside Treasure.

And the winner is...b)! Read on...
That's what it says in the sidebar of Trackside Treasure re: attribution (above). I recently had an unusual episode in which a sometime-in-the-future book author demanded that photos I had saved from an ebay listing be deleted. Why? Because he had bought a copy of the photo in question and then proclaimed that he therefore owned the copyright to the photo. Well, maybe that copy, but who knows how many other copies have been made and are circulating throughout the world like mosquitoes at a campground? Rather ridiculous.

I had an issue with copyright a few years ago (most of us bloggers have our own copyright horror stories) and mine pertained to having a photo misappropriated, miscaptioned then intentionally included in a for-profit publication. I blogged about it at the time on another one of my blogs. I've since removed that post since the person that misappropriated it is no longer with us, and I no longer felt the need to perpetuate his misdeed, for which he apologized to me, any longer. Rest in peace.

I also had an issue with a photo print that I'd purchased, added to my collection, and included in one of my books. The photographer contacted me. I sent him a complimentary copy of the book. I didn't debate the provenance of the photo, I ended up compensating him the same way I did others who contributed tens or even hundreds of photos to that same book. Resolved.

Just today, a VIA/CN Turbo advertisement appeared online. I commented that that photo was taken from my brother's blog. The poster commented that 'it's available on lots of websites' implying that it wasn't from his blog, or that it's a different photo. Details on the photo confirm that it is the very same photo! So sharing without the initial sharer's knowledge is widespread. Revealed.

One more thing - From Trackside Treasure, if you ever happen to read that far down in the randomly-assembled right sidebar material. I try to live by what I profess. I have to look myself in the mirror in the morning when I shave. My legs. Read on:
This is my separate disclaimer for the temporarily-appropriated header photos that appear at the top of this blog. I added this because an issue was brought to my attention with header photos. If there's something I enjoy more than blogging, it's talking about blogging in the era of Facebook.

So the issue isn't copyright or even sharing, it's maintaining one's reputation as best one can, in an era where everything is just a click away from right click/Save As, remove the watermark, say it's your own photo, reposting and Bob's your uncle! Actually, Bob's my cousin.

So stay safe out there and stay ethical! Less drama means more fun.

Running extra...

Pandemic painting. Staying safe means rocking the neighbourhood. My good wife created these and we'll be distributing them on our walks. Fourteen rocks in total have answered the call to serve during this troubling time. They couldn't get any boulder, and will leave no stone unturned in completing their mission!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Go West! My Travels in Western Canada

If my aunt and uncle hadn't settled in Portage to set up a dental practice there, I might only have passed through. I'm not even sure how much our family knew about the plethoric railfanning potential of Portage prior to our first visit there in 1976. (You'll find plethoric Portage post links in this post.) Being beside those busy tracks for the first time must have been what a colony of ants feels like when it discovers a park full of picnickers! My aunt and uncle 'down at the station' at Portage on CN's Rivers Subivision, 1981 (top photo).

Not only did the west-of-Winnipeg transcontinental mainlines of both CN and CP make Portage their first sizeable stop on their long march to the West Coast, but their tracks crossed there. Emanating from Portage were more lines! The CN Rivers and CP Carberry Subdivisions entered from the east, with CN's Gladstone and CP's Minnedosa Subdivisions heading northwest, and CN's Oakland Subdivision heading straight north. To me, the west end of Portage was really where the West began!

There was a steady, sometimes pulse-pounding panoply of train movements. Passenger, freight, switching, hotshots carrying cattle, containers and new cars, work trains, unit trains of grain, potash and coal, and even an interchange between the two railways' yards.

On CN and CP, and later when VIA Rail came into being in 1976 and consolidated operations at CN's Fisher Avenue East station in 1978, passengers boarded there for Vancouver, Churchill, Montreal and Toronto. Northern locals and intercity flagships stopped to embark and disembark passengers and to take on and disgorge baggage and express. Both stations were staffed, with operators hooping up orders for head-end and tail-end crews of most trains. 

CP stationed a switcher to serve its Portage-area industries, while CN didn't seem to have enough local business to justify one. CP's smoky S-3 6569 switched the large Campbell's Soup plant on the northwest fringes, North American Can of Canada Ltd., N.M. McAllister Pea and Seed, Engro and Elephant fertilizer dealers, a team track and three of Portage's four elevators. Two were operated by Manitoba Pool Elevators (MPE) and two by United Grain Growers (UGG). In what is the only such known example in Canada, CN switched the rear of the MPE Pool B while CP switched the front! Upon completing our tour of the 1959-built Campbell Soup plant, VIA's Super Continental could be seen across the grainfields, heading west! My uncle and I on the VIA platform with MPE Pool B elevator and the hot afternnon sun at our backs in 1982:
There was also the Skyline Bridge, lifting Tupper Street North up and over all the trackage, as well as level crossings, crossovers, and station platforms from which to take in the passing trains. At times it was possible to see up to four trains simultaneously! 

Most, but not all, trips were by rail, though for our first we drove west in the family VW Beetle in 1976, then aboard VIA Rail in 1978, high-speed in my brother's VW Rabbit GTI in 1979. In the eighties, I arrived aboard VIA Rail in 1980, passing through again October of that year, then aboard VIA Rail in 1981, and 1982, 1984, 1985 and 1986.
The three of us made some roadtrips together. In 1981, to a dental convention in Calgary. This enabled me to take the thrilling Calgary-South Edmonton Dayliner and ride behind steam at Heritage Park. Taking in the lofty local scenery, my aunt and uncle pose with their trusty Datsun at Banff's Bow River waterfalls parking lot (above). My doting aunt gives me some good last-minute advice while we await VIA No 2 in the 'basement' VIA station in the 1967 Palliser Square/Calgary Tower VIA development that was used until 1990: 
In 1982, we drove out to the farm show in Regina. (What were those BN predecessor boxcars doing south of the highway we had no time to investigate? Years later I would find out they were 'destroyers' brought to Regina for scrapping.) Quite a few times, we headed north to Gladstone to visit my uncle's parents. Here, my uncle and I peruse an item of interest in his parents' house, with his mother Anna seated at the kitchen table:
The "visiting fireman" tour of Winnipeg led us through the backstreets of St Boniface, skirting Symington Yard and past the depot trackage downtown. In 1984, to Gimli and west to Brandon, where we happened to catch the end of VIA's Winnipeg-Saskatoon 'prairie schooner'. My aunt and uncle treated me to some nice dinners, here we are at the buffet of the Countess of Dufferin restaurant in Winnipeg with an old railroader:

But I was just as happy to be back in Portage where the action was non-stop .My aunt and uncle would drop me off at the station on their way to "the office". I'd then roam and rove wherever the rails led, in search of new vantage points. I'd try to avoid getting skunked by being in the wrong place at the wrong time - behind a stopped freight train on one railway, missing a flood of freights on the other. Picked up for lunchtime, invariably as a CP westbound was pulling in to work the yard, after lunch it was back for another hours-long stint trackside in the afternoon. Suddenly it seemed, it was suppertime, just as VIA was pulling in! It was not unusual, in the cool of the evening, over at my aunt and uncle's house, to hear the wail of windborne whistles and the bellicose bunting of freight cars being shunted in the yards. Not to worry about trains missed -  there would be more to observe tomorrow, and I had numbers to transcribe before bedtime!

Once I was old enough to drive, they kindly lent me their car. This allowed me greater range, and I was able to photograph nearby elevators. The large, rising slip-form concrete bulk of MPE's high-throughput plant at Tucker got me thinking...this must be the shape of things to come. There was no time to lose. 
I took some time usually reserved for Portage to travel to the happy hunting-ground: Saskatchewan. My aunt and uncle upon my return from Saskatoon in 1986 (above) wearing their typical office attire. Stopping over in Portage in both 1985 and 1986 heading to or from Vancouver, I rented a car in Regina and Saskatoon, respectively. I followed my pre-planned route based on a provincial road map to visit elevator towns. Some surprises - at some towns, there already were no elevators left. Conversely, I encountered some that weren't expected, at points not shown on the map. Due to the number of stops on my route, each one was necessarily brief. Just enough time to photograph elevator row and maybe one other photo angle, or some other item of railway, agricultural or historical interest. Kodak 35 mm film was expensive. Can you tell that this occurred in the pre-digital camera, pre-GPS era? Not surprisingly, many of the towns I visited are now without elevators. I had made it in the nick of time.
The end of one part of the journey, the start of another. A couple of fellow travellers, boarding VIA No 2 at Portage at the same time as me with my knapsack and suitcase. I was travelling in Chateau Rouville's roomette 4. Want to read more?
Wat to view all my plethoric Portage posts? Check out the Railfanning and Modelling Portage la Prairie link widget in my right sidebar -->

Running extra...
It's a long-shot, but there's Longburn elevator (above). Quite awhile ago, I contributed photographic support for an article on a Freelanced Canadian Prairie Branch by Russ Bonny appearing in the current Layout Design Journal. Russ has done some interesting research! Preview pdf copy here.
Two new cars at my CN freight shed through the generosity of Mark Charlebois. A faithful Trackside Treasure reader, I'd like to share an excerpt from Mark's thoughtful letter that accompanied the cars on their trip west to Kingston, 

"Thank you for your thoughts that you share with us. It truly is important to offer more to the collective than just trackplans or superficial details regarding a sought-after locomotive or rolling stock, or perhaps even a locale. To share details is the basis of our hobby; the desire to help other modellers or share information so that the knowledge isn't lost to time. Seldom do folks offer thought-out, novel ideas that don't revolve around personal gain, the rat-race of modelling elitism or some war that one is waging on, say, a manufacturer or country."

Our shared goal is to make that REA reefer into a San Luis Central one that mirrors the SLC 232 I photographed (only Hanley Spur rolling stock photo!) in April, 1979. Mark is also a VIAphile. It's really easy for us to absorb VIA's Montreal-Toronto-Ottawa schedules right now - one train each way per day effective March 31: