As mentioned in a previous post, blocks of loaded pulpwood flatcars have been common rolling though southern Ontario on CN M397 for the last year and a half since CN has put the south end of the former Algoma Central on mothballs. I believe that these are loaded on a busy log spur at Mead on the former ACR and routed around Lake Huron via Toronto and Chicago to get to mills in Wisconsin.
Most of these cars bear WC reporting marks, and are a wild variety of former CN-family cars from different groupings, including BC Rail, Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific, CN, and even other Wisconsin Central and Algoma Central cars.
Most of the old Algoma Central-marked flatcars in the 2384xx and 2385xx series are also still in service, and also occasionally show up mixed in, although they are dominated in terms of sheer numbers by the hundreds of cars in the WC 237000-238xxx block.
Last Sunday’s 4-car pulpwood block on 397 contained this treat for an ACR fan. AC 238405, formerly of AC 2401-2425 series built new for the ACR in 1975 as standard 52’10” bulkhead flatcars and converted to a pulpwood car by Wisconsin Central in 1998. The original lettering is quite worn, but you can still see the original “ALGOMA CENTRAL” lettering to the right of the new car number.
Since sprint of 2020, when CN mothballed the former Algoma Central line between Sault Ste. Marie and Hawk Junction (no freight has run south of Hawk since April 2020) loads of pulpwood in AC/WC flatcars have been a relatively common sight running through southern Ontario on Toronto to Chicago train M397. A log loading operation at Mead (former location of the old Newaygo sawmill that operated between 1974-85) is one of the only major customers on the former AC line, and with the line unused south of Hawk these loads take the long route to northern Michigan/Wisconsin via Toronto and Chicago.
It’s not uncommon to actually see AC-marked pulpwood cars mixed in with the WC ones – most of the AC 238100, 238400, and 238500 series cars are still active – but this WC car in particular happened to catch my eye out of a block of nine loaded WC cars on August 2nd’s CN M397 through my hometown of Sarnia.
The WC 237000-238000 series of converted pulpwood flatcars is a wild range of old flatcars from many previous CN-family (mostly DWC and BCOL, but also other former CN and WC cars) rebuilt and renumbered with very little organization to what prior groups the cars are pulled from, just renumbered into the series as they’re converted.
The orange colour of WC 237703, and some of the paint patchwork underneath the most recent patches for the new WC number and the log bunks suggested a North American Car Co. (NAFX) heritage – likely via AC 2476-2494 series. Some cooperation on facebook with a couple of guys with access to the UMLER (Universal Machine Language Equipment Register) – the common electronic equipment database used by North America’s railways – helped confirm that the previous identity of WC 237703 was in fact AC 2489, and its original number before being acquired by the Algoma Central (in 1994) was NAFX 53201 (from NAFX series 53200-53249).
This pair of cars represents a group of what appears to have been about a 50 car series of WC flatcars that were leased from PROCOR in 1994.
These cars were originally built in 1974 by Marine Industries as part of a group of 160 cars for PROCOR in the number series UNPX 173020-173179. These cars are just over 69′ in internal length between the bulkheads.
In 2005 these cars were transferred back to PROCOR and renumbered with UNPX reporting marks again, but keeping their 38000 series numbers.
AC 238464 at Steelton yard on July 9, 2001. You can see a piece of the original ‘CENTRAL’ lettering to the right of the number, so this particular car is from the 2401-2425 series built new for the ACR in 1975. This was renumbered and rebuilt with side stakes in 1998.
AC 238446 at Cochrane, Ontario on July 16, 2014, one of 70 cars in series 238400-238469 rebuilt in 1998 from cars in the AC 2401-2501 number range in random order.
The orange paint on this car marks it as having been renumbered from a car in the specific series AC 2476-2494, originally built in 1975 for North American Car Co. (then one of the major car leasing/management companies – now part of GE Rail Services) and acquired by the ACR in 1994, possibly via the CN/CNIS 603400-603424 series.