Posts Tagged ‘Covered hoppers’

Heritage Covered Hoppers?

July 17, 2017

We’ve all heard about heritage locomotives, particularly those that Norfolk Southern created to celebrate its 30th anniversary back in 2012.

If you pay attention as a train passes you at trackside, you might spot some freight cars in some semblance of their original livery.

It might be an outline of a former herald, e.g., Penn Central or Conrail, or it might be the faded markings of a one-time owner.

And then there is this covered hopper that can be described as heritage, BNSF style. One of its grain cars is shown in Cleveland with an added “Burlington Route” emblem on it.

Photograph by Roger Durfee

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Penn Central Memories Bleeding Through

January 16, 2017
A double set of Penn Central mating worms logos can be seen on the nose of a former New York Central E8A rusting away in the collection of the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum in Bellevue.

A double set of Penn Central mating worms logos can be seen on the nose of a former New York Central E8A rusting away at the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum in Bellevue.

Penn Central disappeared as a railroad on April 1, 1976, when many of its railroad assets were absorbed by the newly-formed Consolidated Rail Corporation.

But Penn Central as a corporate entity continued to exist because it had extensive real estate holdings.

The railroad of the name Penn Central is far better known than the Penn Central Corporation, which continue to hold and manage the non-rail assets owned by the railroad that Conrail didn’t want.

A decade after Penn Central, the railroad, ceased to operate, Penn Central, the corporation, continued to sell and manage those assets. It even reorganized itself on Oct. 24, 1978, when it adopted the Penn Central Corporation moniker, and on March 28, 1994, when it was renamed American Premium Underwriters.

That suggests an insurance company, which is exactly what it was. It had its headquarters in Cincinnati and later was acquired by American Financial Group.

But enough history of Penn Central the financial company. Penn Central the railroad best known for seeking bankruptcy protection in June 1970 still lives if you look for it.

You can find vestiges of PC in the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum as well as on the sides of covered hopper cars.

I present here a gallery of Penn Central memories that were still living that I found in the past year and a half at various locations in Ohio.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Look closely and you'll find evidence of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central, Conrail and the Wheeling & Lake Erie. The car is shown sitting on the lead to a grain elevator in Monroeville.

Look closely and you’ll find evidence of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central, Conrail and the Wheeling & Lake Erie. The car is shown sitting on the lead to a grain elevator in Monroeville.

The Penn Central logo is bleeding through over a Pennsylvania Railroad keystone logo.

The Penn Central logo is bleeding through over a Pennsylvania Railroad keystone logo.

A covered hopper in the consist of a Norfolk Southern train at Marion still wears its PC green and markings.

A covered hopper in the consist of a Norfolk Southern train at Marion still wears its PC green and markings.

Glimmer of Good News in Freight Car Report

July 21, 2016

A railroad industry analyst has found of glimmer of good news in the 2016 second quarter freight car order report of the Railway Supply Institute.

KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Steve Barger said the order, delivery and backlog statistics are “somewhat better than expected.”

train image2The report said that second quarter orders increased sequentially to 7,555 cars from 6,646 in the first quarter of this year.

Carbuilders delivered 15,655 railcars in the second quarter of 2016, which was a decrease from first quarter deliveries of 16,834 cars.

The freight car backlog is 89,155 units, which although down 6.2 percent from the 95,038 units of the first quarter is at historical highs.

Barger said there appears to be a replacement market that is experiencing modest growth.

Non-tank car orders totaled 4,363 units in the second quarter as opposed to 5,729 units in the first quarter.

Covered hoppers experienced the largest concentration in orders, totaling 2,017 rail cars, or about 27 percent of the total, below last quarter’s 51 percent, with mid-cube covered hoppers representing the majority of the orders at 1,286 cars, vs. 2,020 cars ordered in the first quarter.

Orders for large-cube and small-cube covered hoppers were 708 and 23 cars, respectively, as opposed to 1,335 and zero, respectively, for the first quarter.

Orders for tank cars were 3,192 units as opposed to 917 in the first quarter.

Tank cars and covered hoppers accounted for more than 69 percent of total orders in the second quarter against 64 percent last quarter.

Winding Line of Covered Hopper Cars in Ohio

March 10, 2015

Winding hopper cars

It is common to see photographs of trains winding around in mountainous areas, particularly in the Western United States.

But such views in Ohio are unusual because most railroad lines here are pretty much straight due to the flat terrain. So I was struck by the sight that I saw atop the reservoir in Wellington on Sunday.

A grain train with CSX motive power was parked on the connecting track between CSX and the Wheeling & Lake Erie. This track loops around the Lorain County Fairgrounds.

The grain train, which did not have a crew on board, was waiting to get onto CSX. In the image above, the view is looking northwestward.

The motive power is just out of sight to the right and the tail end of the train is visible in the distance.

This is the first time I’ve seen a grain train on this connecting track. I wonder if interchanging grain trains with CSX is a recent development for the W&LE.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Waiting For The Harvest Season to Begin

October 10, 2014
A caboose and string of covered hopper cars wait at Jones Switch for the call to be pulled down to a nearby elevator to be filled with grain.

A caboose and string of covered hopper cars wait at Jones Switch for the call to be pulled down to a nearby elevator to be filled with grain.

I don’t know who Jones was and why a switch on the old Peoria, Decatur & Evansville was named after him.

I just know that for as long as I can remember there has been a grain elevator southeast of my hometown of Mattoon, Ill., at a place called Jones Switch.

Today Interstate 57 goes practically over the top of Jones Switch. The PD&E, which was acquired by the Illinois Central Railroad early in the 20th century is mostly gone east of Jones switch.

A portion of the PD&E remains in place from the Canadian National yard in Mattoon – what’s left of it anyway – out to the elevator at Jones Switch.

Traffic on this spur probably is sporadic. A week or more might go by without any trains moving over these tracks.

I left in Mattoon since 1983 and don’t get back there much so I don’t know how often that trains operate on this line.

I do know that the last two times that I saw Jones switch there was a string of covered hopper cars parked to the west and an IC caboose wearing the IC “death star” logo was being used as a shoving platform for CN crews backing the hoppers out to the elevator.

As far as I know, the occasional move of covered hoppers is the only traffic still left on this segment of the old PD&E.

There are countless locations such as Jones Switch scattered all over America. A branch line or a portion of a branch line remains in place to serve a particular customer or two that needs rail service.

The distance between the Mattoon yard and Jones Switch is a couple miles or so and the track is not in the best condition.

I have to wonder how much longer that CN will agree to move covered hoppers over this stretch without some track rehabilitation.

Whatever the case, I made it a point to visit Jones Switch last month during a visit back to Mattoon this past August  to do some railfanning of the former IC.

The caboose I had seen two years earlier on these tracks was there along with a string of covered hoppers. The elevator owns or leases a geep painted solid blue that has had its markings and numbers removed.

The diesel was silent and I didn’t observe any activity at the grain elevator.

The only sounds came from traffic rushing by on the interstate and the wind rustling the corn plants next to the tracks. Some of that grain might move over these very tracks in a couple more months.

But the corn was still quite green and would need more than a month to mature and be ready for harvest.

So everything waits for its time. The caboose, the covered hoppers and the blue geep will soon enough have work to do.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Rust is threatening to overcome the IC's gray paint.

Rust is threatening to overcome the IC’s gray paint.

Some of the corn growing next to the tracks may well journey to market over those tracks and maybe even in these cars.

Some of the corn growing next to the tracks may well journey to market over those tracks and maybe even in these cars.

CN train crews are not allowed to go all the way to Jones' switch.

CN train crews are not allowed to go all the way to Jones’ switch.

The heritage of this locomotive is a mystery, what with its markings and numbers having been removed.

The heritage of this locomotive is a mystery, what with its markings and numbers having been removed.

What tales could this geep tell of places its been and worked?

What tales could this geep tell of places its been and worked?

The elevator at Jones Switch looms in the background over Interstate 57. These tracks once went all the way to Evansville, Ind.

The elevator at Jones Switch looms in the background over Interstate 57. These tracks once went all the way to Evansville, Ind.

Need a used tractor? It still has lots of life left in it.

Need a used tractor? It still has lots of life left in it.

‘Tis Getting to be the Season for Grain Trains

September 13, 2014
Norfolk Southern train 42R has a solid consist of covered hopper cars as it cruises through Brady Lake.

Norfolk Southern train 42R has a solid consist of covered hopper cars as it cruises through Brady Lake.

The first official day of fall isn’t here yet but already one harbinger of autumn has begun to show up on Norfolk Southern. I spotted two grain trains on back-to-back days during recent outings.

Grain, of course, is shipped year around, but we most associate its transport with the harvest season that gets underway in earnest in the fall. Soon, farmers will be in their fields to reap corn, soybeans and other grains, and will be trucking their bounty to market.

Some media reports say that there will be a record harvest this year, which is going to put pressure on the railroads to move the grain. Already there has been discontent in North Dakota and Canada over the lack of availability of covered hopper cars to move grain sitting in storage facilities.

Although Northeast Ohio is not a huge grain producing region, we can expect to see more trains such as these rolling through our region.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

On another day, a train of covered hopper cars is parked in the Berea siding just west of Mapleway Drive in Olmsted Falls, with its Canadian Pacific leader basking in the sunlight. CP is a major hauler of grain in North Dakota over former Soo Line routes.

On another day, a train of covered hopper cars is parked in the Berea siding just west of Mapleway Drive in Olmsted Falls, with its Canadian Pacific leader basking in the sunlight. CP is a major hauler of grain in North Dakota over former Soo Line routes.

Grain03