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.