Freight Car Friday #34 – Iron Ore Hoppers (HLMX)

Rounding out our look at hopper cars in the Tilden iron ore pellet service over the last two weeks, is this look at the current cars in use in this service.

In 2004, the bulk of the cars in this service were leased hoppers from GATX. In my 2013-14 visits, the primary fleet was composed of cars leased from Helm Financial (HLMX), or subsidiary Helm-Pacific (HPJX).


The most common cars in the train by far were these plain looking HPJX cars.


The next most prominent car by numbers were these former Chicago & Northwestern hoppers now marked with Helm’s primary HLMX reporting marks. Apart from some graffiti on some of the cars, the original paint is in pretty good shape and you can see the Trinity Industries builder’s logo above the middle hopper bay.


There was also a small handful of these interesting little twin bay hoppers, which really stood out from the rest of the train due to both their striking orange colour and comparatively small size compared to the large three bay cars. I photographed at least five of these in this one train.


While the train was primarily leased cars from Helm, rounding out the mix were a few odd CN family cars including a pair of Bessemer & Lake Erie cars like this one, and at least one SSAM hopper as featured in last week’s posting.

All photos in this post taken July 12, 2013 in Sault Ste. Marie, ON.

Freight Car Friday #33 – Iron Ore Hoppers (WC/SSAM)

This posting is a bit of an add-on to last week’s Freight Car Friday.

Mixed in with the leased GATX hoppers featured last week were a number of Wisconsin Central hoppers and even a pair of ex-Ontario Northland AC 8600 series hoppers. This post highlights the various WC series seen. Multiple examples of each series depicted below were seen and photographed, but only one representative will be shown here.


This first car was quite obviously a former Burlington Northern car, built by Bethlehem Steel. From series WC 33000-33199.


This next car represents a series of cars built by Pullman-Standard for Kansas City Power & Light (KCLX). The SSAM reporting marks it now bears are for WC subsidiary Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Co. Series SSAM 33250-33374. At least one of this series was also seen and photographed in my summer 2013 visit.


This second variation of SSAM hopper appears to be a Greenville built car, of unknown origin. (Possibly also ex-KCLX?) Series SSAM 33700-33919.

All three photos August 18, 2004 in Sault Ste. Marie.

Freight Car Friday #32 – Iron Ore Hoppers (GATX)

In the mid to late 1990s Algoma Steel had been acquiring a larger percentage of their iron ore raw materials as pellets from the Tilden iron ore mine in upper Michigan. At the time this was mainly handled by the LS&I from the mine to ore docks and carried to Sault Ste. Marie by ship.

In 1996, Wisconsin Central managed to an all-rail movement of ore from Tilden mine directly to Algoma Steel at Sault Ste. Marie during the winter season. These shipments of pelletized iron ore averaged 40-45 cars daily during the season in 100 ton hopper cars.

When Algoma Ore Properties in Wawa shut down in 1998, WC tried convince the other parties involved to make the all-rail movements year round rather than just winter only, and in the winter of 2000-2001 this became a reality, and this daily movement is still occurring today.

When I visited Sault Ste. Marie in August 2004, the primary cars being used in this service were a mix of WC cars and cars leased from GATX, with GCCX and GIEX reporting marks, and even a couple of AC hoppers were in the mix.

In this post are a few of the variations of GATX leased hoppers that were seen in this service in 2004.


All photographs in this post August 18 2004 at Sault Ste. Marie, ON.

Freight Car Friday #30 – SSAM 208036


When the Algoma Ore Properties mines and sinter plant in the Wawa area shut down in 1998, Wisconsin Central took all of the original AC 8001-8100 series bathtub hoppers and rebuilt them with side extensions and new bottom outlets for ballast service. These cars have sophisticated pneumatically operated door mechanisms that can be operated by remote control (note the lettering identifying each outlet gate A-D and the equipment box and small solar panel on the right hand side of the car).

The cars are renumbered in sequence by adding “20” in front of the original AC number, so this was originally AC 8036.

Once Canadian National purchased the Wisconsin Central in October 2001, these cars really started to spread out across the system and I found this example in Jasper, Alberta on a family vacation in August 2004.