Freight Car Friday #43 – Thiele Kaolin Tank Cars


Photographed in the former ACR Steelton Yard in August 2004, ACFX 79202 is a good example of a clay slurry service tank car leased to Thiele Kaolin of Sandersville, Georgia.

Kaolinite is a natural occurring mineral often found in a clay form called kaolin. Shipped in either a dry powdered form or mixed with water to form a slurry, one of the primary uses of kaolin is coatings for glossy papers like those found in your favourite magazine. Before it closed down, the St. Marys Paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie produced such high quality papers for the American market, and tank cars of clay slurry would have been common around Sault Ste. Marie.

One interesting thing about the photo above is that all three leased cars visible here are built from different designs and builders. UTLX 300950 to the right was built by and leased from Union Tank Car; ACFX 79202 is built by and leased from ACF Industries while the unknown car to the left was built by Trinity Industries and possibly leased from either GATX, GE Railcar Services (NATX) or Trinity Leasing (TILX).

2 thoughts on “Freight Car Friday #43 – Thiele Kaolin Tank Cars

  1. This particular car appears to have been built in December 1979, although I’m not sure that the paint job isn’t a later repaint.

    Slurry tanks were around in the mid-late 1970s, not sure about earlier. They got real common after the early 1980s with some tariff regulation changes in the USA.

    Clays and similar minerals by the way are still shipped dry in covered hoppers, or mixed with water as a slurry in tank cars. Methods probably depend a lot on the preference of the customer.

    In the 1960s and earlier for sure boxcars were the common method of shipping all sorts of bulk commodities; covered hoppers (in general) only really became popular around the 1950s and later.

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