Pulpwood Loads/Jigs

As I may have mentioned a few times on this blog, pulpwood logs are a significant traffic item on the Algoma Central, and a type of load I’ll need quite a supply of for my flatcars and gondolas. I’ve been doing some playing around and simulating with some car cards and waybills and I figure on using anywhere from 15-20 pulpwood loads during a future operating session (when I have a layout to actually operate on some day), and these loads can be moved in at least five different types of cars (52′ flatcars, 40′ flatcars, 52′ gondolas, 61′ gondolas, 48′ gondolas), so I need a lot of loads and several different types of loads.

While there are some cast resin or plastic loads that you can get to fit certain models, they won’t fit some of the customized cars I have, and I’ve never really seen one made for a standard gondola. Moreover, just nothing looks as good as a load made of real logs.

Fortunately these aren’t too complicated to make, collecting real twigs of an appropriate size and cutting them to length. (If you – or a friend – has a bandsaw, cutting a lot of them very quickly is a breeze.) Really the trickiest part is selecting good twigs that are nice and straight so you can actually get a lot of logs out of them without “wasting” most of it.

Pulp logs in northern Ontario are typically cut to ~8′ lengths. This is a perfect size for loading crosswise in bulkhead flatcars and gondolas (with usually a 9′-9’6″ inside loading width) and purpose-built flatcars (or rebuilt/modified from plain bulkhead flatcars) for pulpwood service with side stakes have the stakes evenly spaced out for logs of this size. Once the “logs” are cut, they’re just stacked up on the cars. On the prototype, gravity and the friction of the rough surfaces of the logs is usually enough to keep everything in place (although trains carrying pulpwood loads “without side stakes and chains” are often subjected to speed restrictions and ACR timetables included special footnotes in the Special Instructions section to keep a close watch for shifted or protruding logs en route so it obviously isn’t 100% perfect and an obvious reason why the side-stake cars really took over in popularity.) On the model these physics don’t quite scale the same way, and we can make it much easier to load and unload the cars by gluing the logs together into a solid load.

To make it a bit easier to work on making some of these loads, I spent a little time in the workshop this week and tossed together some sheet styrene fixtures to the exact loading dimensions of some of my common car types for pulpwood service. This lets me assemble and glue together some loads on the workbench without banging actual cars around and risking damaging their details or getting glue on them. (And white glue peels right off the styrene when dry so a bit of liberal over-use is no bad thing when building in the fixture.)

Assembly fixtures for 52’8″ bulkhead flat, 52’6″ mill gondola, 40′ pulpwood flatcar. The flatcar load at top was previously a load for a kitbashed 51′ flatcar at the club which got dropped on the floor and turned into several pieces to be re-assembled. The missing area at the one end and a few gaps at the bottom still need to be filled in here

52′ flatcar load completed in assembly fixture

Finished load on Walthers 52’8″ bulkhead flatcar

Finished load in Rapido 52’6″ gondola. Note vertical logs at ends to extend the height of the load. This was a common practice for loading pulpwood in gondolas.

Next steps: collect and cut a LOT more branches. I have three loads completed and I’m out of logs. I need at least 15-20 more to cover my eventual needs. Maybe more spread out across all the possible car types just so I have enough if the mix of loaded car types changes session to session (e.g more 52′ flatcars one session, more 61′ gondolas the next).

Freight Car Friday #59 – GROX 50008

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GROX 50008 is an example of the pulpwood flatcars commonly seen around log sidings on the former ACR currently. Most of the cars I saw were either these GROX cars or cars with VRSX reporting marks, which were even more commonly. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get photos of any of the VRSX cars from the train.

This empty flatcar was caught at Hawk Junction on July 19, 2017

Freight Car Friday #58 – AC 2204

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40′ flatcar 2204 on the house track at Oba in November 1976 with track material (a switch frog). This car is from a 50 car group numbered 2201-2250. These cars appear to show up in equipment registers around 1942 according to Ian Cranstone’s roster index page and were likely built by Canadian Car & Foundry.

Photo courtesy Paul O’Shell.

Freight Car Friday #51 – NOKL 732348

An innovation in the 1970s was the design and development of the centre-divided bulkhead flatcar for the shipping of lumber. Designed with a central truss structure that both strengthened the car and supported the load without the need for additional stabilization in the load and equipped with built in ratchets and tie down cables to eliminate a lot of strapping and with or without deck risers for the first row of packaged lumber bundles. This made it much easier to load packaged and bundled lumber as bundles no longer needed to be staggered in order to create a solid and secure load and a lot of waste generated in the form of strapping and blocking material is prevented.

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NOKL 732348 was photographed on July 16, 2015 at Hearst (Wyborn siding) with a load of lumber from Lecours Lumber in Calstock, Ontario. Leased flatcars with the reporting marks of shortline Northwestern Oklahoma Railroad (actually a mark used by cars leased to various railways by First Union) are among the most commonly seen in this service, and these blue painted cars in the series NOKL 732300-732349 and 733050-733099 (built by National Steel Car in 2000 and 1998 respectively) are specifically leased to Ontario Northland. Brown painted NOKL 734500-734599 – built by NSC in 2004 – also seems to be a series exclusively seen in ONR service in addition to Ontario Northland’s own ONT 4100-4149 series, built by NSC in 1997.

Series Builder Date
ONT 4100-4149 NSC 1997
NOKL 732300-732349 NSC 2000
NOKL 733050-733099 NSC 1998
NOKL 734500-734599 NSC 2004

Additionally, CN provides some cars for loading in the area, in various family reporting marks (CN, IC, WC, BCOL, etc.) and a few other NOKL groups.

Freight Car Friday #48 – AOK Pulpwood Flatcars

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These two cars represent a series of pulpwood cars currently in service hauling logs from the former Algoma Central to mills in Michigan or Wisconsin. A close look at the car shows that these were rebuilt from older V-deck pulpwood cars with extended bulkheads and side stakes for handling larger logs.

The top photo was taken on September 30, 2013 at Hawk Junction, while the photo below is at Sault Ste. Marie on July 12, 2015. The above cars would have been set off at Langdon siding just south of Oba, where a significant loading operation was going on.

The AOK reporting mark officially belong to the Arkansas-Oklahoma Railroad, but in this case marks these cars as being leased to the railway from Greenbrier Leasing.

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