Exception to the rules: PRR hoppers

In recent posts (like this one), I’ve written about the dominance of home road (in this case, CNR) rolling stock on branch line trains in Canada. This makes a lot of sense when one considers the rules for car handling. Here are a couple of the rules, roughly put, that apply to this posting:

– An empty car from any railway is to be returned directly to its home railway, retracing the route that it took while loaded. This makes sense when you consider that empty cars earn no revenue. So, each railway that earned money to move the load shares the cost to move the empty.

– Anywhere along its journey home, an empty car from any railway may be grabbed and used for a load providing the load is heading in the general direction of home. So, a Maine Central car could be loaded in Port Rowan and sent to Toronto (or Kingston or Ottawa or Montreal) since it’s likely the MEC car was routed from the MEC to St. Johnsbury VT, then via the CPR to Montreal. But that MEC car could not be loaded in Port Rowan and sent to Detroit, or Winnipeg, or Vancouver, or even Halifax, since that would take it too far off its route home.

But sometimes, those car handling rules are bent. I suspect that the photo below illustrates an example of this:
Two PRR hoppers of gravel photo PtR-PRR-Hoppers_zps65d9e8a3.jpg

It’s September of 1955 and The Daily Effort has arrived in Port Rowan. In the consist is a Pennsylvania Railroad hopper car loaded with gravel. What’s it doing there?

Hopper cars from American railroads were not uncommon in southern Ontario. Most of them were carrying coal to Canada’s industrial heartland – either for factory boilers, steel making, or to coal dealers. Even locomotive coal came from the United States.

But this car is not carrying coal. It’s carrying gravel. Ontario is full of gravel – who would import it?

As Ian Wilson‘s excellent book about the line from Hamilton to Port Rowan and Port Dover points out, there are large gravel pits at Hagersville, Ontario. For those unfamiliar with the railway, this map should help:
The line between the lakes photo ProtoMap.jpg

As should be clear by how I’ve modelled it, Port Rowan has the word “Port” in its name but the railway terminal is nowhere near the water. It’s at the north end of town – well away from Lake Erie – and obviously there’s no railway/marine intermodal stuff happening here. That PRR car isn’t going to get loaded onto a ferry to cross the lake.

It’s also unlikely that the PRR car was loaded in Hagersville, and then picked up by The Daily Effort and hauled to Port Rowan, just so it could be hauled back to Hamilton and then head towards home. Not only would that be a fair bit of back hauling, but the CNR time tables for the era note that in addition to the mixed train, a freight extra runs six days per week from Hamilton to Simcoe and back. In addition, Ian’s book notes a Jarvis Turn (freight extra from Hamilton to Calendonia and back, with a run to Jarvis as needed), and two Hagersville Turns (running Hamilton to Hagersville and back – one in the day, one at night). It’s far more likely that a freight extra would handle gravel loads out of Hagersville – and in any case, that any loads would be picked up on the return trip north.

So it’s safe, I think, to assume that this load is destined for Port Rowan – and Ian’s book notes that the coal dealer allowed his elevated track to be used to unload crushed stone.

My best guess – complete speculation at this point – is that two loads’ worth of gravel was needed in Port Rowan, and the PRR car was one of two available so the CNR sent it to be loaded.

Will I actually model a PRR car carrying gravel to Port Rowan? Probably not, although I do have a PRR hopper weathered for coal service that makes an appearance:
Coal hoppers photo CoalHoppers-Finished.jpg

I find it’s better to model the typical and the plausible – the things that do not have to be dissected and explained with speculation to make sense. So any crushed stone loads for Port Rowan will arrive in CNR cars…
CNR hoppers in stone service photo CNR-StoneHoppers-Finished.jpg

6 thoughts on “Exception to the rules: PRR hoppers

  1. Thanks Trevor, I wasn’t too sure of the geography of all these old branchlines. I’m a child of the ’80s and a lot of these minor branches were abandoned and torn up when I was still in diapers (or even before I was born).

    You never know where customers get stuff shipped in from sometimes (even when there’s a nearer source of the same thing) but’s it’s also not completely implausible for a CN agent to snag a PRR car for loading even if it’s going the wrong way. Technically a violation of car service rules, but if there’s a shortage of other cars a resourceful agent will make do. I’m sure lots of interesting violations happened quite frequently. And besides, PRR still gets per diem payments for every day the car is away from their own lines.

    Lots of interesting discussion of a post about 3 new weathered boxcars!

    • Hi Chris:

      “Lots of interesting discussion of a post about 3 new weathered boxcars!”

      It sure is – I’m glad it came up.
      By the way – nice blog! I’ve added it to my list of interesting links and will spend some time reading through the archives.
      I remember an article on the ACR in the August 1994 issue of Railpace Newsmagazine that made me want to model that line. Really glad somebody is.

      • Thanks Trevor. It’s fairly new. I’ve been collecting information for a long time, and tinkering on projects here an there, but I don’t have a layout yet. “Hunter Hughson” is a mutual friend and I’ve been following his blog over the last year, and decided to do one on my own site as a place to share some of the projects on my table, slanted towards my ACR goals. (And having the venue to share, hopefully encourage me to make some progress on some things!)

        Next week I’m riding the Tour of the Line with a friend, so should have some new prototype photos and posts to share.

  2. Trevor,

    From the Port Rowan abandonment file, here some exceptions for loads of gravel from Paris Jct. to Port Rowan, probably for road construction (CN, MC and NYC ignored):

    August 8, 1930:
    DLW 10203, 61571, 63928, 65765
    DH 37406, 37284, 37738

    September 3, 1930:
    RDG 27695
    CO 100454

    September 5, 1930:
    P&R 26247
    NP 27068

    September 7, 1930:
    DLW 66149

    September 8, 1930:
    ERIE 19306
    PRR 258109

    September 9, 1930:
    RDG 29726

    On October 18, 1930 there was a single carload forwarded from Hagersville to Port Rowan (I suspect the reporting mark is a typo on the original, likely RDG):
    DRG 23097

    The 1935 listing (doesn’t give dates) shows all carloads of stone and gravel to the Port Rowan Subdivision were handled by company rolling stock except one load of stone to Vittoria, which was handled by RDG 28261.


  3. The PRR had about a tenth of all freight cars in North America in the 1950’s. They were very used to their being a defacto supplier of rolling stock to other railways. CN cars were often kept captive in the US for some time, the US roads sometimes preferring them to what other US roads’ cars (or their own) that they could get. The Steam Era Freight Cars list has a 1950’s letter from CN president Donald Gordon to his counterpart at one of the US roads citing the number of CN cars on that road as of a certain date, and asking for them back.

    Empty US roads’ hoppers and gons show up in use for stone loading on CN at a few locations in 1950’s photos. Lindsay, Kirkfield, and Durham come to mind. US cars could be sent back to the US empty, and CN cars sent in from elsewhere for gravel loading. But it costs money to get the CN cars from Mimico, Sarnia, or Turcot to the quarry at Hagersville. So now you’re using home road cars, but incur substantial expense in moving them empty from a far off yard to the Hagersville quarry, when you have perfectly usable foreign empty cars nearby that had been emptied of coal. In some cases, it’d be cheaper to pay the per diem and even demurrage on foreign cars than to move empty CN cars hundreds of miles to where they are needed.

    “Information technology” on CN in the 1950’s as far as car distribution went were the morning yard check and Railway Service Telegrams. Suitable cars were supposed to be distributed at terminals by the car distributor, but sometimes train crews did the “freight car distribution” of the better cars to favoured customers–for appropriate bottled or other recompense, of course… This practice died hard on the railway, and was the bane of a clerk’s existence at times. (So, you thought that a pie or two got favours from railway staff! ) The local agent-operator could request cars from divisional HQ by Railway Service Telegram (“Be Brief”), but that may have depended on the car distribution pecking order in the division. Port Rowan, or even Hagersville and Cayuga quarries would take what they could get, whereas more renumerative shipper Stelco would get the new 52′ gons, etc.

  4. Sorry I am a bit late to this one, but I needed to remember where I had seen what I am about to tell you! The answer to that is in Tony Koester’s “Realistic Model Railroad Operation”, which being a newbie to taking North American trains seriously, I bought and devoured earlier this year. Page 55 to be precise.

    To quote from the text:
    “To avoid moving a lot of empty cars around, which would hurt efficient car utilization, another CSR [Car Service Rule adopted by the AAR] says that a railroad should load a foreign-road car if (1) the load is heading back toward, to, or beyond the Home District [of the foreign railroad].”
    Note that: toward, to or beyond. Not just to.
    Page 55 of this tome includes a map, which I think would be against copyright to publish here (but, hey Tony, if you are reading this, maybe you could grant permission?) but in the context of this discussion, Canada was split into two home districts: Western and Eastern. The division seems to occur as a vertical (N-S) line round about Sault Sainte Marie, but it is quite reasonable that if some PRR hoppers had made a delivery of who knows what to somewhere in Home District 22 (Western Canada) on any railroad in that district, then a couple of car-loads of, say, gravel from Alberta for Port Rowan would fall under “heading back toward” the PRR, which was resident in four Home Districts in the North East, so there is no reason for those cars not to be used.

    What it does mean, though, is that I can have common freight cars (i.e. not restricted to specific operating patterns and “return to” instructions) for any of the competing roads in my layout’s home district, in my case Disctrict 21 (Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia). Just as well, as I have a couple of SAL B7 “turtlebacks” on order from Smokey Mountain Model Works, as well as some ACL and Southern box cars.

    Not sure quite what happened when they reached their home district, once unloaded. For example, if an ACL car arrived on the CofG, did they hurriedly unload it and then send it empty to the nearest interchange? Quite a few Southerners viewed the ACL as a “Yankee-owned” incursion into Dixie…


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