CP’s new cars hit the rails

Canadian Pacific Railway’s new grain cars are shorter and lighter and carry 15 percent more volume and 10 percent more load weight than the old Government of Canada hoppers

PASQUA, Sask. — Canadian Pacific Railway’s first 8,500-foot high efficiency product train of next-generation hopper cars pulled out of the G3 Pasqua terminal near Moose Jaw earlier this month, a shiny, graffiti-free model of the future of grain handling.

The cars built by National Steel in Hamilton were among the first delivery of the 500 that CP plans to have in service by the end of the year. Another 500 will be added by spring and a total of 5,900 will be bought over the next four years.

“These new hopper cars will fully replace the old lower capacity Government of Canada hopper cars and this is obviously a massive investment for our customers,” said Joan Hardy, CP’s vice-president of sales and marketing for grain and fertilizers.

The $500 million investment wouldn’t have been possible without the passage of Bill C-49, she said.

The new cars are shorter and lighter and each carries 15 percent more volume and 10 percent more load weight than the old hoppers. For example, the new model can hold 102 tonnes of wheat compared to 93 tonnes in the old cars.

CP’s new grain cars G3 loaded Canadian Pacific Railway’s first high efficiency product train of new high-capacity hopper cars at Pasqua, Sask., Dec. 4. | Karen Briere photo

Because they are shorter, the typical grain train of 7,000 feet will have 16 percent more capacity.

The cars also have a three-pocket design to allow more efficient loading and unloading, Hardy said.

“This also means less maintenance, less lost product due to defective gates and less cost to the company to repair,” she said.

The move to 8,500-foot head-end power (HEP) trains will also increase capacity and efficiency. Companies like G3 are building elevators that can handle the 8,500-foot loop track model.

“The cars come in, are loaded and remain ready for pick up all clear of CP’s main track, which means that trains going past the facility are not affected during the spotting and lifting operations,” Hardy said.

There are six such facilities on CP lines now, another under construction and another recently announced. She said she expects another 10 over the next few years.

The loop track facilities can load longer trains, which can carry up to 15,000 tonnes, in as little as 16 hours. At G3 the first one was loaded in less than eight hours with wheat and canola destined for Thunder Bay, Ont.

Both Hardy and Mark Dyck, G3’s senior director of logistics, said the power-on model they use on the loop track is the true efficiency component of the HEP trains.

“Power-on means that the locomotives at the elevator are left during loading so they’re on site and ready to go when the train is loaded,” Hardy said.

Dyck said the train is aired up the entire time so long trains can run even when it’s extremely cold.

A CP crew brings the train to the elevator, where the crew takes over the locomotive and loads the train. The elevator then calls the crew so it arrives in time for the train to leave.

“It’s a very tightly controlled and managed operation,” Hardy said.

Dyck said the loop tracks can accommodate 134 of the existing hoppers.

“These new cars have vastly superior gates,” he said. “This will allow us to significantly lower the rate of bad orders or cars that are mechanically defective and need additional help to be opened.”

He said as western Canadian producers grow more products it’s critical that infrastructure investments keep pace.

CP moved a record 2.64 million tonnes in October and in November set a record for movement through Vancouver.

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