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(Photos, left to right: the Pas MB, August 1994; Jasper AB, 1988; Jasper AB, 1988)
Canada’s forty-foot boxcar fleet was aging and was becoming more uneconomical to load and unload. The Federal Government, Canada Wheat Board and the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan each purchased a fleet of cylindrical covered hoppers to be used exclusively in the grain transportation industry. Manitoba entered the scene in July 1985 with the introduction of the prototype articulated grain hopper CN398000.
This car was to be the forerunner of a fleet of similar cars to replace the forty-foot boxcar that was used to and from the Port of Churchill on Manitoba’s Hudson Bay coast. This was the shortest sea route to Europe for Prairie grains. Since its opening the Port of Churchill has been fighting to receive its fair share of grain but it has always received just enough to remain operational but never enough to allow it to show its true value.
CN built the car in its Transcona Car Shops from March to June 1985. The 66.5 foot car rides on three 70 ton trucks (the production models would have used 50 ton trucks at the ends and the 70 ton truck in the middle). The axle loading for a car of the same capacity is 65,7000 lbs. The prototype car reduced the axle loading to 44,000 on the ends and 55,000 lbs. on the centre truck. The capacity of the car is 216000 pounds, has a volume of 4750 cubic feet. Its unloaded weight is 71500 pounds.
Alas, the Government of Manitoba did not see fit to follow through with a fleet of these articulated hoppers. Instead they cost shared with the Government of Canada and rebuilt a number of the forty-foot grain boxcars to continue grain delivery to Churchill. These were known as the Buffalo box cars.
Since its initial testing CN398000 has spent most of its life in storage. For many years it was stored in the yard at The Pas or at the Manitoba Pool Grain elevator at South The Pas. When Hudson Bay Railway took over the Churchill line from CN it was moved to Canora, Saskatchewan. A CN rail employee stated that it had not been in revenue service for a long time.
Text and photos courtesy of Larry Leavens, P.Eng.
(Photos taken near Kingston ON, 10 September 1999, by Eric and Laurence Gagnon)
This is a one of a kind hopper similar in construction to CN 398000. It was constructed in July 1993 in the CN Transcona shops. It is 55 feet long and has a capcity of 4600 cubic feet.
399000 is painted with the standard Canpotex Limited grey and green paint seen on most standard Canpotex covered hoppers. The Canpotex logo and name are on the right hopper section. The CN logo and data are on the left hopper section.