CP replacing grain hopper fleet

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Canadian Pacific plans to invest more than a half-billion dollars in nearly 6,000 new high-capacity grain hopper cars, and expects to place more than 500 in service before the end of 2018, increasing capacity of its unit grain trains. National Steel Car, Hamilton, Ont., has received CP’s initial order for 1,000 units.

Over the next four years, CP plans to order approximately 5,900 hopper cars, completely replacing all its older, low-capacity hoppers, including all Government of Canada cars. The investment is made possible by changes to the Maximum Revenue Entitlement formula through the Canadian government’s passage of the Transportation Modernization Act, C-49, which provided CP “the certainty needed to place the order,” the railroad said. “CP will be the first Class I railway to receive hoppers as a result of the Act’s changes.”

The new car design is shorter (56 feet vs. 59 feet, about 5%) and lighter, but with 15% greater cubic volume and 10% greater load weight (102 tonnes vs. 93 tonnes), than the cars being retired from CP’s fleet. These cars, of 5,431-cubic-foot capacity, feature a three-pocket design that can be loaded and unloaded more efficiently than the old four-pocket government cars. Shorter frames enable more cars in a train of the same length. The cars “will feature newly manufactured components that are more reliable, significantly reducing maintenance-related delays,” CP said.

Dedicated to Grain: CP plans to invest a half billion dollars in new, highly efficient hopper cars. (CNW Group/Canadian Pacific)

The order comes as CP is working toward an 8,500-foot-long, power-on consist model for its unit grain trains. Under this model, CP’s unit grain trains will increase from the current 112-car maximum to 118 within the current 7,000-foot length, “creating efficiency and capacity within the grain handling system.” This will add approximately 16% more capacity per train.

CP said it will eventually be able to fit 147 of the new cars within an 8,500-foot train design, a 44% increase in size. “This translates into more opportunity for the movement of grain in the future, supporting the anticipated continued growth in crop production across the prairies,” CP said. “The future of grain at CP is one of increasing efficiency that will benefit grain shippers, farmers, port terminals and CP’s network.”

“For more than 100 years, grain has been embedded in CP’s DNA,” said CP President and CEO Keith Creel. “We know farmers depend on us to transport their product efficiently, safely and reliably to market. It’s the largest sector of CP’s business by revenue, and we’re committed to continuous improvement for the benefit of our customers and the North American economy. These new railcars will revitalize our fleet and help cement our status as an industry leader in grain transportation for decades to come.”

“CP continues to add employees and locomotives to meet the needs of our customers across North America,” Creel noted. “More than 700 new employees are now in various stages of training system-wide, and 100 locomotives will join the fleet before summer’s end. These include remanufactured high-horsepower General Electric locomotives. CP continues to deliver for the Canadian agricultural industry, with total volume of the 2017-18 crop year delivered through early June at nearly 22 million metric tonnes, or 1% ahead of the prior year’s pace. I applaud Parliament for its passage of the Transportation Modernization Act, which supports this supply-chain innovation. It’s a bill notable not only for this grain enhancement, but for enabling the use of data from locomotive voice and video recording equipment as a proactive measure to improve railway safety. This act is truly a step forward for efficiency and safety in Canada’s rail sector.”

Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay (right), with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“CP’s investment in new hopper cars will directly benefit Canada’s farmers, grain shippers and the economy as a whole,” said Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay. “This investment results from the positive conditions recently brought in by Act C-49. It will improve the efficiency of the freight rail network in Canada, which will help ensure farmers are able to reliably get their products to market.”

“With our growing network of facilities capable of handling 8,500-foot trains, this highly efficient hopper car capacity will benefit our supply chain and support the growth in volumes that we are pursuing in the competitive western Canadian marketplace,” said Andrew Paterson, President and CEO of Paterson GlobalFoods.

“This newly designed and manufactured equipment will provide huge benefits to CP, our economy, and the entire grain delivery supply chain,” said said Gregory J. Aziz, Chairman and CEO of National Steel Car. “Our history with CP dates back to the founding of our company in 1912, when CP placed the first order ever built by National Steel Car. We are certain that our founders celebrated then almost as much as our team members today. As a result, we will have the opportunity to hire and train several hundred additional personnel who are seeking permanent long-term careers, in a variety of disciplines. Thank you CP for extending, yet again, our 106-year partnership in progress.”

Workers at National Steel Car in 1912, the year the company was founded.

CN on May 25 announced it placed an order with National Steel Car for 1,000 5,431cf grain hoppers, also as a result of Act C-49.

National Steel Car 5,431cf three-pocket, high-capacity grain hopper. NSC photo.

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