Thursday, February 22, 2024

Schnabel HEPX 200 Retires

From a passing GO train, I photographed load-less Hydro One (formerly Ontario Hydro) Schnabel car HEPX 200 and accompanying caboose HEPX (ex-CN) 79640 at CN's parallel Oshawa yard in October, 2012. The unique Schnabel often rested at Pickering on CN track W317, occasionally visible on the southward lead while I was aboard VIA Rail. This (top photo) was my most recent sighting of the soon-to-be-retired car. It was repainted from yellow/orange Ontario Hydro to overall orange Hydro One between 2001 and 2003, likely due to the splitting of Ontario Hydro into Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation.

Eleven years earlier, Ontario Hydro Schnabel car HEPX 200 and caboose HEPX 79640, a D-9R dimensional movement symbolled CN No 423 behind CN 9445 and five idler gondolas requiring daylight movements only, are on track KL30 off the Queens South Service Track.  An Ontario Hydro pickup truck is idling near the tail-end. Having overnighted east of Brockville on January 14, 2001 then reaching Kingston at 1820 on January 15, No 423 later continued west at noon as one of the few westbound freights this January 16 morning, arriving at the Ontario Hydro Lennox Generating Station on CN's Bath Spur at 1330. CN No 310 had derailed at Mallorytown, meaning all eastbound VIA trains had to be wyed at Queens then head west, like VIA Enterprise No 50. Its passengers have been bussed east: 6428-4121-Chateau Radisson-Yoho Park - the consist's markers visible at right on the south service track.  One of my few visits to the north side of Queens, and not crossing any tracks, this 0700 one rated a visit from a passing Kingston Police constable.  
Nearly impossible to fit in one frame, I resorted to some close-ups. The main load supports are near the end of the car, with inboard support seen here at right (below). Loads could be shifted 12 inches vertically and 14 inches horizontally if required, with a width of 10'8" and a height of 14'8". Note stencilling 'RETURN CAR WHEN EMPTY TO ONTARIO HYDRO PICKERING ONTARIO CN DELIVERY'.
With a load limit of one million pounds, HEPX 200's gross weight on rails was rated as 1,466,000 pounds.  

Thanks to my brother Dave for passing along this link showing the impending retirement of Schnabel car HEPX 200. Built in May, 1974 I can only guess that it's reaching its 50-year AAR interchange age limit. In the video, the suggestion is that due to technology, the old Schnabel, its load-adjustment equipment along with its four man crew, and caboose are no longer required. It looks like HEPX 201 just takes its load and goes with it, as the transformer it carries can not form 'part of the car' structure as it is on HEPX 200. 
  • HEPX 200 was 121 feet long when empty, up to 132 feet loaded, with two four-wheel and two six-wheel trucks at each end, a total of twenty 33-inch wheels on each side, built by National Steel Car.
  • HEPX 201 is 146 feet long, with four four-wheel trucks at each end with 36-inch wheels, built by Kasgro in November, 2020. The unique car is 9 feet wide and has a 40-foot long deck, and a load limit of 806,000 pounds. Its first load was a transformer travelling from Quebec to Nanticoke, ON in May, 2021. On a maiden trip on February 20, seen heading eastward at Belleville (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):
Hearing the odd throb of a GP-9 at 1745 from our house on April 11, 1998 we headed out to the Bath area, based on scanner information from my brother. We got there in time to see the unique yellow caboose in the Lennox transformer yard, but Dave transcribed the entire consist of the transformer move to the Lennox Generating Station at 1809:
  • CN 7202
  • CN orange ballast gondola 90430
  • CN renumbered for company service 'tank hoppers' 53398-53395-53399, often used as idlers on CN dimensional moves
  • HEPX 200 with transformer
  • HEPX 79640
After the above sighting, I was able to use CN's public car tracing function to track HEPX 200's movements from April 11, 1998 through February 7, 2001. Empty movements were on manifest freights like 332, 380 and 382 through London east to Toronto, 366 east to Montreal, 395 to Sarnia, and Don turns 527 and 548 to Pickering:
  • Apr 30/98-Jul 9/98 Stored empty at Pickering.
  • Jul 11/98 - Placed loaded at Courtright/Sarnia CSX and still there Nov 2/98 (reportedly arrived behind CN 9591 with 4 covered hoppers).
  • Nov 22/98-Apr 19/99 Stored empty at Pickering track W317.
  • Apr 28/99 - Placed empty at Courtright/Sarnia CSX.
  • May 7/99 - Placed loaded on GEXR track XY01 at Guelph.
  • May 20/99-Jun 17/99 Stored empty at Pickering.
  • June 19/99 - Interchanged to RailinkHH at Hamilton.
  • June 25/99 - Placed loaded on GEXR at Guelph.
  • Jul 15/99-Nov 9/99 Stored empty at Pickering.
  • Nov 12/99 - Placed empty on GEXR at Guelph.
  • Nov 26/99 - Placed loaded on RailinkHH at Hamilton.
  • Dec 3/99 - Feb 4/00 Stored empty on GEXR at Guelph.
  • Feb 13/00 - Placed loaded at Courtright/Sarnia CSX.
  • Feb 25/00-Mar 31/00 Stored empty at Pickering.
  • Apr 10/00 - Loaded at Guelph GEXR track XY01 to Courtright/Sarnia CSXT.
  • Apr 18/00-Nov 23/00 Stored empty on GEXR at Guelph.
  • Dec 28/00 - Placed empty at Montreal Wharf track SE52.
  • Jan 16/01 - Placed loaded on Bath Spur track KN23.
  • Jan 24/01-Feb 7/01 Stored empty at Pickering track W317.
CN track W317 is at the end of the Pickering lead that leaves the CN Kingston Sub near the Pickering Town Centre and ends near Montgomery Park Road, across from the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. There's a large Hydro One transformer and equipment yard there with several CN spurs (below). 
The 2024 Google imagery shows two depressed-centre flat cars surrounded by transformers (enlarged red box) though these don't appear to be HEPX cars. 
HEPX 200, with yellow transformer at Bayview Junction in 1979 (online auction site photo):

Lots o' links:

This is Feb24 OOF (One-Off February) second-last Post OO4. Each post during the month will centre on an event or a piece of equipment that was unique, happened only once, or was a one-off, too. And who knows what I'll come up with for Leap Day, February 29th, too!? You'll also note something unique and unusual that every blog post title in this OOF has in common, too. I still smell a contest!

Running extra...

If you're tracking the delivery and implementation of the transformative new Corridor sets, check these links...this past week saw the introduction of a second Siemens set through Kingston as well as the delivery of VIA's 13th Siemens set. Unlucky 13? After the set was unusually stashed at the TMC, adjacent equipment from VIA No 78 derailed upright at TMC early on February 21: VIA 905-4007-4103-4111-8100.

Speaking of transformers, digital photography has sure changed prototype and layout photography. For this week's Tail End Tuesday, I snapped 80 digital photos of co-located CN and CP cabooses, all in 20 minutes on my Kingston's Hanley Spur layout. Whether it's iPhone layout photography, disco at the club, or a war movie, it's always good advice to "Get Down!" for best results.
CN crossing Rideau Street (above), CP approaching Cataraqui Street (below) and the 'race' (last photo).


Rob Hupfield said...

Thanks for another terrific post, Eric.
Can Ukraine perhaps use this equipment?

Eric said...

That's a good question, Rob. I'm not sure what Hydro One's plans are in that regard.

Just because HEPX 200 has reached its AAR years-limit for interchange doesn't mean it can't be used in other jurisdictions where modernity and technology are not the only criteria for its use.

Thanks for your comment,

Eric May said...

Interesting that the video at Myrtle shows return by CPR delivery.

Eric said...

Good eye, Eric. Something must have changed!

Thanks for your comment,

Michael said...

Interesting deep dive into the Ontario Hydro rolling stock. I snapped a photo of a 16-axle depressed centre flatcar KRL 164004 in London in 2017 and assumed it was for transformers and similarly heavy hauls. This post confirms that earlier hunch.

Eric said...

Thanks, Michael. There is indeed a large market for large loads, with many new cars being built privately. The railways don't seem interested in maintaining a niche fleet for only occasional use! And, the private builders/owners keep the cars rolling and generating revenue wherever they are needed in North America.

Out of respect for today's focus on mental health, I no longer make superficial, facile jokes about depressed-centre flatcars. I trust no-one else will, either!

Thanks for your comment and for your important work in mental health. It matters!