Freight Car Friday # 69 – ONT 6051

While today’s Freight Car Friday subject isn’t an AC car, nor taken anywhere near the ACR, it is definitely related.

This shot courtesy of an antique show find by Keith MacCauley shows an almost brand-new Ontario Northland triple hopper # 6051. 72 of these cars numbered ONT 6000-6071 were built by National Steel Car in 1971 for use carrying iron ore from Adams Mine near Dane, ON to steel mills in Pennsylvania. Canadian National, Ontario Northland, and New York Central/Penn Central provided cars into a pool for this service, with many of the PC’s portion coming from the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo and Canada Southern Railways (although that’s clearly an actual PC car coupled at left in this photo). Given the freshness of the ONT car, the date is almost certainly summer 1971. We haven’t identified the location, but it’s likely somewhere in the States.

In the late 1970s this service ended, and these cars were disposed of by the Ontario Northland, with the Algoma Central picking up thirty of these cars in 1978. They would run for several years in original numbers with just the reporting marks patched out, and then in the mid 1980s these cars were renumbered from their 6000 series numbers to the 8600-8629 series.

Scale Test Car 10302 Model

In the previous post, I discussed background information on the Algoma Central’s old steel ore hoppers from the early 1900s, and the surviving example that was converted to a scale test car and operated into the mid 1980s.

Fortunately Westerfield makes a detailed craftsman kit for a couple of variations of the Pressed Steel Co. ore hopper, making it possible (although a bit of work) to model either the early 1900s ore fleet or the surviving scale test car.

The instructions provided with the kit are quite detailed, so I won’t go into a detailed blow-by-blow of the construction, except to point out the major deviations and additions I made based on the modernizations performed on the prototype car.

The most obvious modification when modeling the scale car conversion is of course the steel roof that was added to the car. This was simply fashioned from some .020″ sheet with some interior bracing and a 1×4 ridge pole to set the appropriate peak height and slope. This was glued to the tops of the sides with ACC. Fascia trimwork on the ends was added with 1×4 strip cemented to the roof.

Tichy running boards support and brass wire corner grabs added. I plan to try to add the actual wood running boards using weathered strip wood later once the car is painted.

Another modernization feature on the prototype car is upgraded grab iron arrangements with full ladder grabs at the opposite corners of the car. This required drilling a number of new holes for the additional grab irons and bending them from brass wire.

Also, the original hand brake was upgraded with a power hand brake with the familiar vertically mounted brake wheel with geared housing, although the car retained the original split “K” air brakes. This was added by building up the mounting bracket for the brake wheel housing with styrene strip and adding a brake wheel & housing from a Tichy brake detail sprue.

One last note I should make on the brake equipment is that the kit box contained a Tichy parts sprue for a standard “one-piece” K brake, when the car should have a split K brake with separate piston and air reservoir. This may have just been a packaging mistake on my car, but I had to obtain another Tichy part sprue for the split version of the K brake system. The extra Tichy parts may eventually find their way under other old work equipment at some point.

The car still needs to be painted, and custom decals made to finish it off.

Scale Test Car 10302 and AC&HB Pressed Steel Car Ore Hoppers

In the early 1980s, the Algoma Central rostered a single scale test car, for testing the calibration of track weigh scales, that was also a historical artifact from the earliest days of the railway.


Scale test car AC 10302 was originally built new in 1901 for the Algoma Central Railway as an ore hopper in series AC 4201-4399 (odd numbered only) and is the only remaining survivor of the original fleet that served the iron ore mines of the Wawa range at the beginning of the 20th century.


This ancient car was pretty much celebrating its 80th birthday when photographed in active service at Wawa in March 1981 (photographer unknown, my collection), present to test the calibration of the local scale. Amazingly, this car still survives to this day, its existence having been discovered by members of the Canadian Historical Railway Association in the 1980s and acquired for preservation at the Canadian Railway Museum/ExpoRail in St.-Constant, Quebec as an extremely early example of an all steel hopper car. While restoring the car, volunteers actually managed to find traces of the previous Algoma Central & Hudson Bay Railway lettering, and this was recreated and restored.


(Above photo at ExpoRail in St-Constant, QC., courtesy of Michael Eby.)

Roster information is a little spotty for the early years, but there appear to have been 200 such cars built in 1900-1901 for the AC/AC&HB, and another 100 were acquired second-hand in 1916 from the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad in Minnesota. They seem to have been eliminated from the roster by the early 1930s.

Based on the best information available, the following roster information is compiled:

Series Qty. Build Date Notes
(Original Series 1900-1904):
3101-3150* 50 1900 re# 4001-4050 /1904
3151-3200* 50 1900 re# 4051-4100 /1904
4201-4399 (odd) 100 1901 re# 4101-4200 /1904
(Secondary Numbers 1904-1933):
3901-4000 100 1901 ex-D&IR 3050-3399 series /1916
4001-4050 50 1900 ex-3101-3150* /1904
4051-4100 50 1900 ex-3151-3200* /1904
4101-4200 100 1901 ex-4201-4399 /1904

Some questions and a lot of unknowns still exist here though as some sources list the original two 1900 groups as AC 3001-3099 and 3101-3199 (both groups odd numbers only) instead of the AC 3101-3200 (unbroken) series I used above, but a builder’s photo exists which shows car ACR 3200, which is not accounted for under the apparent odd-numbers only numbering scheme suggested for the original cars. The next year in 1901 another 100 cars were acquired numbered AC (or AC&HB) 4201-4399 (odd numbers only). The entire mess was renumbered around 1903-04 to AC&HB 4001-4200 (unbroken) to clear up the jumbled numbers. Another 100 cars acquired secondhand in 1916 from the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad were slotted directly under the existing cars as ACR 3901-4000.

The ACR 3200 builder’s photo also shows a completely different style of lettering than the restored lettering on AC&HB 4341 above (and displaying the railway’s original name as only “Algoma Central Railway”, not the later “Algoma Central & Hudson Bay Railway”); and Dale Wilson’s newest book “More Black Bear Tracks” has a 1917 photo of ACR 3903, one of the ex-D&IR cars, with a simplified paint job with only “ACR” initials and basic car data.

These ore hoppers were primarily used to transport iron ore from Algoma Steel’s Helen, Magpie and Josephine mines in the Michipicoten Iron Range around what is today the Wawa area to the ore dock at Michipicoten harbour. However the last of these mines shut down in the early 1920s and Helen Mine wouldn’t be redeveloped until nearly two decades later in 1939 at which point a “new” fleet of secondhand twin hoppers from various American roads was acquired to handle this service, making it all the more amazing such a relic ever survived.

Slope Sheets and Hopper Body Assembly

Continuing to make progress on my hopper scratchbuilds this week, assembling the body sides and end sheets.

The above photo shows the layout of the end sheets on the styrene sheet, these were laid out and cut out at the same time as the body side sheets. The angles in this project make things interesting, but essentially it’s a fairly straightforward exercise in geometry.

The tops of the ends are completely straightforward being a simple flat panel, and with the .060″ square top chord extended around. The square stock was filed to fit and the ends assembled to the bodies.

Next step is installing the end slope sheets into the body. The main trick here is to be very carefully to install everything square.


I have a few more of the cars to work through this week yet, and then the next step after that will be to cut out and install the intermediate slope sheets for the central bay.

AC 8600-8629 Series Hoppers Part 1 – Background and Body Sides

AC 6056 at Wawa in March 1981. Slide from my collection, photographer unknown.

In the 1980s, the Algoma Central rostered three types of 100-ton hopper cars in Wawa iron ore service: 100 of the distinctive and unique round-sided black hoppers in the 8000 series, built in 1971 by National Steel Car, 300 of the green rapid-discharge hoppers also built by NSC (using an Ortner Freight Car design under license) in 1974-75, and 30 “standard” triple hoppers acquired secondhand from the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission around 1978.

The Ontario Northland hoppers were part of a 72 car series ONT 6000-6071 built by NSC in 1971 and were used in iron ore service from Adams Mine at Dane, ON to a steel mill somewhere in Pennsylvania. For this service, triple hoppers were provided into a pool by Ontario Northland, Canadian National and New York Central (CASO and TH&B cars). Around 1977 or 1978 this particular service to Pennsylvania had either changed or ended completely, and the cars either went back into general usage by their owners (CASO cars were likely renumbered back to original NYC & PLE source series) or were sold off. 30 of the ONT cars were sold to Algoma Central in 1978; I’m not entirely sure where the other 42 ONT cars went initially, but today they can be found on the New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad in New England. When first acquired, the cars were just given AC reporting marks and kept their original numbers for a few years, but were later renumbered into the 8600-8629 series sometime around 1984.

AC 8620 at Scotch Block (Halton Hills), ON October 18, 2008. Photo by David Graham. All the years of weathering have obscured the original colour and much of the lettering, but these cars were painted in the Ontario Northland’s dark green “Progressive” scheme.

While basically a standard design for a hopper, there’s no model out there that exactly matches this car. These are relatively modern welded cars built in the 1970s, but as they were intending to haul iron ore and rock, their size is much smaller than many other modern cars. Most models that are out there that are of an appropriate size tend to represent 90-ton cars a few decades older than these cars, with a different number of side posts/panels and riveted construction. One could accept a riveted car as a stand-in, but the difference in side panels causes issues for the spacing and placement of the lettering.

So, to solve this problem, I turn to my styrene supply to build a few of them for the fleet…

First of all, I spent time carefully working up my own scale drawings as a guide for this project. With the angles involved with the hopper bays, it’s a little more complicated of a build than a small shed or something. Using equipment registers I can find out the major overall dimensions, and using some relatively side-on photos available online, I was able to scale out a few dimensions and work up a drawing.

Actual dimensions of ONT 6000-6071 series, from ORER:

Inside Length 40’6″
Width 9’8″
Height 6’0″
Outside Length* 44’2″
Width** 10’7″
Height*** 10’8″
Capacity lbs 200,000
Cuft 2700

* Over couplers
** At top of side
*** From rail head to top of side

Basic undetailed scratchbuild hopper side.

The basic sides/end are constructed from .020″ styrene plastic sheet, with HO scale 4×4 side posts and an .060″ square top chord. To represent the angled bracing at the bottom, I cemented a strip of .060″ angle, open-side down along the bottom edge of the car side. (The bottom of the side posts are all cut off at a 45 degree angle with my Chopper.) General side dimension notes – top of side: 40’6″; top chord overhangs by 6″ for length of 41’6″; height of side: 7’6″, length of bottom of side: 31’6″ (length of bay cut-out: 4’6″), height of top ends, 2’9″.

Note the different spacing between the ribs at the middle of the car compared the outer bays – this was deliberate and I took a lot of time to try to make sure the panel widths were scaled out properly based on the prototype photos. I worked it out to about 25″ between the 4″ ribs (or 29″ rib centrelines) for the four middle panels and 30″ (34″ rib centrelines) panel width for the outer panels.

Since if I’m going to build one, I can build more than one; and if I build more than one, it’s efficient to build them all at the same time, assembly line style, so once I finish basic construction on all of the sides for the cars, I can move on to assembling the sides with the ends…

Note: for anyone working in N-scale, I found this model on Shapeways.