Friday, March 13, 2020

Weird cargo and rare cars

The thing I love about railways is there is an escapism about them. Granted today, we know more about railways than ever before, but I still like to watch a train go by and wonder where everything will end up. Sometimes, you have an idea of where a certain car came from and where it's going. Then again, sometimes you take in a sight that makes you scratch your head. I love those moments when you see a rare car or a piece of rolling stock with mysterious cargo. With that sense of escapism and mystery in mind, here is a gallery of some interesting pieces of rolling stock and unique pieces of cargo.

The first photo is courtesy of my brother, who was trackside in Sarnia late last year when he spotted a long line of windmill blades heading west toward the Paul Tellier Tunnel beneath the St. Clair Tunnel. That would have been a sight to behold, seeing these impossibly large and long pieces going into the tunnel. I would like to know what type of planning and engineering goes into moving these things over such a long distance.

Here's one of my favourite shots from a 2017 visit to London. I was on a side street next to CN's yard along the Dundas subdivision when I spotted this heavy duty flatcar, which amazingly had almost nothing in the way of freight on it. Still, three sets of trucks on either side, which suggested to me that this car was made for large bulky loads. So, why then, was there so little strapped down to it on that day?

This hopper might not look like much of an oddity, but it's rare enough. It's one of the type of covered hoppers that delivers what it known as carbon black to companies like Cabot in Sarnia's Chemical Valley. This product is a powdery substance used for rubber products as well as for pigment purposes in plastics. It's a messy product, to be sure, which would explain why it is carried in black covered hoppers. The plant in Sarnia once had a full fleet of of these hoppers, with ribbed sides, stationed on a three track spur. All of the cars sported a Cabot logo. I wish I had a picture of those old cars.

You don't see these yellow tank cars very often, so I was happy to capture this one in 2013 in Ottawa. These cars were once patched with a Safety Kleen logo and are used for what is known as fluid recycling services. Some of the liquids this company recycles include oil, coolants and antifreeze solutions. So it's anyone's guess what was in this car on that day.

This is one of my favourites. At first site, it's not much to look at, since it is a tired looking CN gondola, with its markings barely visible. But on closer inspection, you can clearly see that it is a side dumping gondola that looks to me that is used for ballasting and maintenance of way purposes. Given how little is done to secondary parts of CN's system, seeing such MoW equipment in Ottawa was always a rarity. This car was captured in 2013 as well.

I saw this piece of equipment on a mixed freight barelling west on CN's Strathroy Subdivision several years ago. At the time, I remember asking if anyone knew what this was. No one knew for sure. It bears some resemblance to a piece of HVAC equipment, but there are too many small components and pipes for this unit to be that, to my uneducated eye. So I will throw it out there again to those more knowledgeable than me. Does anyone know what this is?

This last shot isn't necessarily a rarity, at least not in Southern Ontario, but it is rare elsewhere. It's not uncommon to see a long string of these underframes making their way from a parts supplier to an automotive manufacturing plant somewhere in the heartland of the province. I have often seen these strings of cars in the Sarnia area when I visit that area. I saw this string on an eastbound train crossing Camlachie Road, just outside Sarnia's eastern city limits.

I've often mentioned in this blog that railfanning isn't just about getting shots of locomotives. To me, that's boring. There is always something else to see on a train. In some ways, it's better to be train starved like me, because it makes you appreciate everything you do see. And it motivates you to take a few extra shots.


Canadian Train Geek said...

That's a great collection of oddities! I love that side dump car - with the Branchline Rehabilitation Program logo on it.

I have never seen any of those auto frames on them. Every place has its own unique cars, and only we railfans notice them. It's our little secret. ;)

Eric said...

Freight cars rule, Michael. Thanks for sharing these.

The grey thing is either a transformer of some kind of just an RBT. (Really Big Thing).


Jan said...

The grey object is some sort of high voltage transformer, as Eric mentioned.

The 8 square flanges on the side -- which appear to be covered by plates for transportation -- are for radiators which are installed at the job site. One square flange is the outlet and another is the inlet for antifreeze. Thus, there are 4 radiators to be affixed to the camera side of the transformer. The radiators may be in a nearby boxcar or trucked in.

The rest of the tubes and pipes appear to be housing electric wire, as specified by the customer.

Thanks for the engaging post.

Chris vanderHeide said...

The KRL heavy duty depressed flatcar is in fact, empty. The little bits of stuff on it looks like steel blocking material that will help support and/or secure the heavy thing that will go on it. (Usually very large power transformers and industrial thingamajiggies - big brothers of the transformer on the TTX flatcar near the end.

The truck frames are manufactured in St. Thomas and shipped to assembly plants in the US. So they're seen on a daily basis between London and Sarnia but not much east of London.

Canadian Pacific used to run a dedicated frame train from St Thomas to Oshawa, but the truck plant there was discontinued years ago.