Earlier this week I received a package in the mail with a collection of new-old stock Atlas tank car models from the very early 2000s that I managed to scare up on eBay. Among other things, included were a few of these ACFX chlorine service tank cars with the orange band that I’ve been looking for for a while, as it’s really something that places a setting as “post-1980 Canadian railway”.
The car is in a generic ACF lease scheme but that orange band tells a story – a specifically Canadian and ‘eighties one. During the 1980s, there was a short-lived Canadian government regulation requiring pressurized tank cars suitable for carrying hazardous compressed gases (both flammable and toxic inhalation hazards) to be painted with a bright orange horizontal band around the middle of the car as a very visible marker to first responder crews in the event of an incident. Non-pressurized cars did not receive these markings.
Although I can’t find a particular written source at hand, the common telling is that this regulation was one of the measures instituted in the aftermath of the infamous 1979 Mississauga wreck. Several factors however led to the eventual dropping of this requirement after a few years: a lack of universal adoption (as this was not a requirement in the United States, and it takes a number of years to apply the new lettering standards to an entire fleet of existing cars) and the eventual realization that when the paint burned off in a fire the visual cue wasn’t all that useful…
So the orange stripe was dropped, but even today if you’re lucky you can still come across older tank cars built or repainted in the 1980s that haven’t been repainted since and still show the stripe, although 30 years of repaints and retirements have seriously thinned their ranks.
I photographed the CGTX car above in a CN train at Copetown, Ontario in March of 2007 and the Procor car below was photographed just outside Sarnia in October 2014. Even 10-15 years ago in the early 2000s you could see the orange stripes a fair bit more often still on CGTX, CITX/DCTX and PROX cars and while fewer and farther between now, there are still survivors out there today that make for a splash of interest in a passing train.
Here’s another pair of water tank cars photographed in the mid 1990s at Steelton Yard (Sault Ste. Marie) by Blair Smith.
The age and origin of these cars is unknown, but these exhibit the typical silver paint on the AC’s water tanks. Note the interesting lack of ladders and running boards to actually access the dome on AC 10652 above, and the additional piping on the end of the car frame for supplying water to coupled accommodation cars.
Unlike the ex-Canadian National cars featured last week however, these cars show no obvious signs of any sort of insulation or heating. Not sure how that works in January in northern Ontario.
AC 10654 below has clearly reached the end of its service life and has been retired as it’s seen here off its trucks at Steelton shops.
Other confirmed car numbers of similar silver water tanks include AC 10648 and 10655 (the latter also lacks ladders and running boards, like 10652).
This pair (actually a trio, with AC 10656) of interesting little tank cars were acquired secondhand from Canadian National, likely somewhere around 1990(?). These cars store potable water to supply accommodation cars in work trains.
Lending to the unique appearance of these cars is the coating of spray-foam insulation on the body of the tank and small heater to prevent the tanks from freezing in the winter and that huge vent(?) fashioned from an old caboose smokejack.
Both photos courtesy of Blair Smith.
This kaolin slurry tank car photographed by Blair Smith in the early 1990s in Sault Ste. Marie represents a General American (GATX) built car leased to Dry Branch Kaolin by GATX.
Formerly Georgia Kaolin, Dry Branch Kaolin is now part of IMERYS.
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).