Freight Car Friday #51

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.

CN Operations at Hearst

Hearst was the Algoma Central’s northern terminus and connection to the Canadian National Railway. For yard, station and other facilities the ACR shared with CN.

The ACR wye and connection to the CN main was just to the west of Hearst yard, and any movements on the CN main from Hearst Junction to Hearst would have to be made under the CN dispatcher’s authority. Conversely, if CN needed to turn some equipment, movements over the wye required the ACR dispatcher’s authority.

Equipment Restrictions

When the ACR first connected to Hearst in 1914, Hearst was a division point on the transcontinental mainline of the National Transcontinental Railway. However when the NTR became part of the Canadian National Railways in the early 1920s, this became a secondary line to the ex Canadian Northern Railway main line (crossed by the ACR at Oba) which is still CN’s primary transcontinental route today. As such, this line languished and was never maintained to the same standard as a more major route.

The Pagwa subdivision between Hearst and Nakina featured exceptionally light rail – often less than 80 lbs/yard – that had never been upgraded since the steam era and probably in these late years a fair bit of deferred maintenance in general. This line was *severely* restricted as to the weight and types of equipment that could run over it, with the heaviest diesel locomotive permitted on the line being an SW1200RS. (CN 1387-1395 are known to be in Hearst in the late 1970s.)  Cars with greater than 177,000 lbs (88 tons) *gross* weight required special handling, and during the months of May-June for the spring thaw cars exceeding 142,000 lbs (71 tons) gross weight are banned west of Calstock.

East of Hearst is better, but still light rail. GP9s could operate west of Kapuskasing to Hearst, but between these two stations heavy six axle units like C630s and SD40s were explicitly banned and even modern four axle road switchers such as C424s, GP38-2s and GP40-2s are to be used “only in emergency, and at 10 miles per hour below” the regular speed limit making a GP9 pretty much the biggest unit that could be expected to run into Hearst in the 1970s and 1980s.

The north end of the ACR was also relatively light rail (but definitely better maintained than between Calstock and Nakina, which CN was trying to abandon anyway) and AC trains typically avoided using their six axle SD40 units north of Hawk Junction.

Passenger Service

Passenger service west of Hearst to Nakina (junction with CN’s main line) was actually still provided during the early 1980s by trains 272/273. While officially listed as mixed (freight and passenger) trains in the timetable, most sources seem to agree that in practice it was passenger-only in the 1980s, with any westbound freight routed via the ACR to Oba, as there was zero on-line freight traffic except for the Lecours lumber mill at Calstock, which by this point would be served by a turn job out of Hearst yard. CN was petitioning to abandon the line between Calstock and Nakina at this point, and moving the through traffic off of the line probably helped to destroy any remaining on-paper revenue and support their petition. And due to the extreme weight restrictions on the line, a lot of traffic simply could not go that way. Abandonment formally happened in 1986 and the line was torn out west of Calstock.

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CN 7210 combination baggage/coach at Hearst in 1976. Paul O’Shell photo.

The (non) “mixed” typically ran with an SW1200RS and single heavyweight baggage/coach combination car. CN 7210 appears to have been the regularly assigned car on this line. This car remained in CN colours all through the early 1980s, although passenger service was officially operated by VIA Rail then. In my summer 1979 CN timetable, 273 departs Hearst at noon on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with 272 from Nakina running on opposite days (Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays) and scheduled to arrive at 5:30 pm.

There was no passenger service running east out of Hearst anymore by this point in time. Hearst was once the final destination of local passenger service from Cochrane, connecting with southbound trains over the Ontario Northland to Toronto, but by the late 1970s passenger service was provided only as far as Kapuskasing by the joint CN-ONR train the “Northland” from Toronto. (Replaced later by the Toronto-Cochrane coach-only “Northlander”, which itself was discontinued in 2009.)

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ACR No. 1 at Hearst, July 2, 1972. Robert Schwenk photo in my collection.

The Algoma Central’s passenger service ran daily except Monday from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst during the spring/summer, and on the weekends only (Fridays through Sundays) during the fall/winter season. No. 1 had a scheduled arrival time of about quarter after seven during the summer, and quarter to six in the winter. The ACR train would tie down on the main track in front of the station and depart early the next morning as no. 2. (On days that the CN “mixed” ran, the inbound ACR would arrive up to two hours after, and the outbound train would be almost to Hawk Junction by the time of the 273’s noon departure.)

Freight

Local switching of the yard and local industries around Hearst would have been performed by CN, as it was their track and facilities. The lumber mill at Calstock would have also been handled by an extra turn job out of Hearst yard although I do not know when this would run.

The 1979 CN timetable shows a Kapuskasing subdivision freight departing Hearst at 11 am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for Cochrane. I would presume that the CN crew would spend the morning performing the local switching requirements

The corresponding westbound is not timetabled, but I would assume it to operate as an extra on opposite days (Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays) the same as the mixed train to the west of Hearst.

My 1989 CN timetable does not have any freight schedules actually listed for the Kap. sub, and sadly I do not have one from closer to 1985.

As mentioned above, except for the lumber mill at Calstock, there was no on-line freight customers on the Pagwa subdivision towards Nakina, and due to the condition of the line, really no traffic at all was actually routed over this line anymore at this point, instead being handled by the ACR to Oba to be returned to CN for the trip westward.

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ONT no. 516 prepares to depart Hearst for Kapuskasing with several loads of lumber from Lecours and several loads of copper concentrate from Michigan bound for Rouyn-Noranda. July 2015, my photo.

The Kapuskasing subdivision and the remains of the Pagwa subdivision to Calstock (the rest abandoned in 1986) were sold to Ontario Northland in August 1993.

On the ACR side of things, ACR freight no. 5 would arrive in Hearst in the evenings on weekdays, Monday through Friday, with no. 6 departing south with interchange traffic the following day, Tuesdays through Saturdays.

ONT 9′ Door Boxcar Rebuild (AC 2917)

A while back I stripped the paint on a handful of True Line Trains 40′ Ontario Northland boxcars in preparation for modifying and repainting them as cars acquired second hand by the Algoma Central for LCL and company service. Naturally, these then sat on the workbench for a while awaiting detailing and painting while I tackled other projects. Last night I pulled these back out in order to start finishing off the details and get them ready for painting.

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First up is this car which will end up representing AC 2917. This car was built in 1947-48 by National Steel Car for Ontario Northland and rebuilt by the ONR in the early 1960s with a 9′ door opening. This rebuild required reinforcing of the side sill below the door opening and new door tracks. Note that the new doors used were taller than the original doors, being meant for a 10’6″ interior height car while the Ontario Northland boxcars were older cars with a 10’0″ interior height, so the door tracks in addition to being longer to accommodate the larger size of the door are mounted lower down.

The doors on the True Line model are unfortunately molded as part of the car body, so the first step of the major modification was to cut this opening out entirely. The side sills also had to be carefully cut off along the bottom edge of the car body so that new side sills and door tracks cut from styrene strip could be added. I don’t really recall where the doors came from originally, I pulled them out of my parts box where they’ve been for a while.

After removing the ladders and brake detail, original mounting holes were filled in with round styrene rod and the ladders were shortened and reattached. Tackboards on the doors and ends are original parts from the model relocated. The brake wheel housing was also remounted lower down.

This car just requires a few more of the brake detail parts to be re-applied on the “B” end of the car, and also the addition of a new horizontal grab iron on each end (I couldn’t find my small diameter brass wire last night) to complete the detailing. Then it should be ready for the paint shop.

I have a few more cars that basically just need all of the ladder and brake detailing work done which I hope to complete over the next week and then I should have a small fleet of about half a dozen ex-Ontario Northland boxcars for work and wayfreight service.

Freight Car Friday #21

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 360

Photographed by myself in Sault Ste. Marie in August 2004, ONT 7908 is the last of a 109-car group of cars on Ontario Northland’s roster in the 7800-7908 series and acquired in 1983. While official equipment registers and therefore most other compiled roster information for the ONR lists these as a singular series due to their similar dimensions and features (from a usage perspective), there are actually at least three distinct sub groups involved:

ONT 7800-7844, built by Evans Products /197x?, ex-NSL ?
ONT 7845-7899, built by Berwick /1978, ex-MNJ 120565-120599
ONT 7900-7908, built by Evans Products /1979, ex-NSL 155150-155194

* While 7800-7844/7900-7908 are both by Evans, they are from different years of production and have differences in the side sills, so each of the three groups are different from each other.

These cars are classed with an AAR mechanical designation of “XP”, indicating special features or assignment to particular commodities. Notes in the equipment register indicate that these cars are intended for metal refinery products, so these would be used hauling processed or semi-processed nickel and copper products such as ingots or anodes from Timmins or Rouyn-Noranda. Some movements destined for the western/mid-western United States could be routed via Cochrane-Hearst-Sault Ste. Marie over the ACR.

In addition to the 7800-7908 series cars, Ontario Northland also rostered a few other groups of former St. Lawrence Railroad (NSL) boxcars, which were given ONTA reporting marks and unlike the 7800 series cars actually kept their original NSL numbers and paint, with the original lettering just patched out, which adds a little additional colour.

Series ONTA 150550-150574 and 150775-150824, comprising a total of 75 cars, were Plate C cars built by Berwick in 1979 and acquired by Ontario Northland in 1981. ORERs seem to last list either of these series around 2003.

Series ONTA 102381-102399 and 151000-151010, comprising a total of 30 cars, were Plate B cars built by Golden Tye using Berwick kits/components and also acquired in 1981, although by 1984 the 102300 series cars were off the roster and in my 1986 ORER only five of the eleven 151000 series are still listed.

Another group of 16 cars, also built by Berwick in 1980 but from an unknown original owner, were acquired in 1989 and numbered in the ONTA 3000-3015 series. These cars were painted a plain brown and also listed as assigned to zinc/copper refinery products. This series disappeared from ORER listed in the mid 1990s.

Aside: The centre-beam flatcar at right in the main photo at the top of this post, with the wrapped Tembec lumber load, likely also came from the Ontario Northland at Hearst.