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Auto Parts Box Cars (APBC)

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Auto Parts Box Cars (APBC)
Posted by MP173 on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 4:51 PM

I enjoy watching railcars more than the locomotives.  For me it is a matter of what commodities, origin/destination pairings, revenue per car, etc.  Plus the old E and F units, Geeps 7/9, and other first/2nd generation locomotives are mostly long gone.

It is understood the large, high cube boxcars (86 ft perhaps?) carry auto parts for assembly.  My guess is these are body stampings, due to the nature of the cars which lends to low density nature.

NS runs quite a few of these cars daily on the Chicago line.  Typically the 37E and 37M for Belt Railway will have these moving west and the 34G will have eastbounds.

Any idea of the origin/destinations of these cars?  I am not that familier with the stamping plants, nor the assembly factories.  

I have internally nicknamed these cars "whales" as these are huge box cars.

Thanks,

 

Ed

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 5:58 PM

I have no idea of NS traffic patterns or the auto plants they serve.

'In the day' the B&O (C&O/Chessie/CSX) served any number of parts manufacturing facilities in Michigan as well as getting frames from A.O. Smith in Milwaukee.The frames were stacked on 89 foot flat cars to the maximum clearance height for their route, to both Baltimore & Wilmington as well as going South to the GM assembly plant outside Atlanta. 

B&O served the assembly plants at Lordstown, Baltimore and Wilmington.  Lordstown was created to build the Chevrolet Vega in the late 60's/early 70's.  Baltimore and Wilmington were assembly plants dating from the 1920's putting together various GM products.  With financial downturn in the mid 2000 decade GM closed all three plants.  There have been attempts for 'startups' to restart some form of vehicle manufacture at both Lordstown and Wilmington.  The Baltimore plant has been torn down and the land reclaimed for industrial development.

Train service had the B&O/Chessie operating train out of Walbridge (Toledo) to Lordstown and the empties would return back to Walbridge to be sent back to the various manufacturing facilities.  Baltimore and Wilmington were serviced by train 396 that, up to the time cabooses were eliminated, was operated out of Walbridge with a caboose defining the last of the Wilmington Auto Parts on the head end of the train and the start of the Baltimore Auto Parts on the rear of the train.  Train was normally between 80 and 130 cars.  Upon arrival at Bayview Yard in Baltimore, a yard crew would make a cut behind the mid-train cab and the new crew would head on to Wilmington.  The yard crew that made the cut would then couple up to the set off and proceed down to Penn Mary where the GM plant was located, switching out Ordered cars as necessary, the cars that weren't Ordered would then be taken to Grays Yard at Sparrow Point, where the GM cars were held and switched when ordered.

Empties would head West out of Baltimore and Wilminton to Cumberland where they would be switched into a Cumberland-Walbridge train identified as the Detroiter.  This train would also be in the 80-130 car range.  

None of this business currently exists.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 6:38 PM

Were the ones with eight doors assigned to specific plants or did they carry certain types of parts? 

As auto parts traffic has shifted away from boxcars some of the 'whales' have found other uses.  As an example, for a while it was common to see a few of them carrying peat moss from a plant at Carrot River, Saskatchewan.  Dried peat would cube out well before it weighed out in a regular size boxcar, so the larger cars were perfect for it. 

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 6:40 PM

One would have to take a look at where the various plants are for each manufacturer - might be easier than discerning train movements.

As I recall, Deshler sees truck (?) frames northbound daily, and empty flats with the frames used to secure said vehicle frames headed back south.

I can recall seeing gons full of vehicle frames northbound on the C&O back in the day.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 7:17 PM

I remember 86' box cars was the subject of another thread.  It seemed they stopped making these cars in the 1970s.  I think there was consolidation of auto plants and parts plants.  Also I think a lot of parts are now imported in containers.  It seems a lot of those big box cars will be comming up on their lifespan this decade.

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Posted by Ulrich on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 7:22 PM

Still see a fair number of them here in Ontario.. no surprise, alot of our industry is tied to automotive. 

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Posted by ns145 on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 9:26 PM

MidlandMike

I remember 86' box cars was the subject of another thread.  It seemed they stopped making these cars in the 1970s.  I think there was consolidation of auto plants and parts plants.  Also I think a lot of parts are now imported in containers.  It seems a lot of those big box cars will be comming up on their lifespan this decade.

 

Many of the 86 foot hi-cubes are over 50 years old and are now in restricted AAR interchange status.  Many recent Union Pacific repaints have a large "R" next to the car number, along with a superscript "AGE".  I read somewhere that the AAR has increased the interchange age limit up to 65 years for certain car types.

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Posted by ns145 on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 10:22 PM

If you want to see hi-cubes in action check out The AutoArtery group on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/groups/theautoartery 

The group shares photos taken along NS' former Wabash lines from Detroit to Kansas City and St. Louis.  Many of the trains operating on these lines move autoparts and finished autos and trucks.  Online auto plants include GM's Fort Wayne assembly plant (Chevy Silverado's and GMC Sierra's), Suburu in Lafayette, IN, Rivian Automotive in Normal, IL (electric SUV's), GM's Wentzville assembly plant west of St. Louis (Chevy Colorado's and Express vans, GMC Canyon's and Savanna vans), and Ford's Kansas City assembly plant (F-150's and Transit vans). 

Autoparts move in 86 foot hi-cubes, 60 foot hi-cubes (engines and transmissions), 89 foot flats (truck frames), and Roadrailers for Ford's KC plant.  Here are some search links for two particular trains that primarily moved loaded 86 foot hi-cubes to Kansas City:

1) Train #145, the BIG train from the late 80's until PSR took over in 2019: https://www.flickr.com/search/?group_id=1967130%40N25&view_all=1&text=145&sort=interestingness-desc

2) Train #181, the current autoparts train to Ford's KC plant post PSR: https://www.flickr.com/search/?group_id=1967130%40N25&sort=date-taken-desc&view_all=1&text=181

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Posted by MP173 on Thursday, December 29, 2022 9:24 AM

Thanks all for the info.  NS145 - great links.  

BTW - NS 37E - Elkhart to BRC Clearing Yard this morning had 10 whales.  

A few years ago there were issues with flooding at Hannibal (if I recall correctly) and the whales were re-routed via Chicago to BNSF and there were often 30 - 40 whales for a short period of time.

I am unfamiliar with the assembly plants and have no idea where the whales via BRC are going.  The jeep plant in Belvidere, Il is closing, but I wouldnt think those would be moving thru BRC as there is a direct Elkhart to Proviso UP train daily.

BTW, does anyone know the schedules for the two remaining Roadrailers?  I have seen them a couple of times while driving on I57 near Tolono...seems like mid morning if memory serves me.  

Interesting that the Roadrailers still service that Detroit - KC lane.  Must be considerable amount of auto parts in Michigan which either do not have rail service or perhaps there is a consolidation terminal in which parts are assembled for Roadrailers.  Anyone know for sure?  What is the typical count for those trains?

Ed

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Posted by ns145 on Thursday, December 29, 2022 12:40 PM

The 86 foot hi-cube re-routes may have been Ford KC cars when NS lost their Grand River bridge near Brunswick, MO - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaWKSr7p1Fw

When the Springfield/Hannibal District is closed due to flooding on either the Mississippi or Illinois Rivers, NS can detour trains to Moberly, MO via St. Louis.  The Grand River bridge was west of Moberly so there were no NS detour options.  I believe the parallel KCS line was also closed at the time.  BNSF's former CB&Q Brookfield Sub connects with NS' KC line at Maxwell, MO just east of the Ford plant.

Ford insisted that NS keep train 255 running to its KC assembly plant when the rest of the Triple Crown network was killed off in late 2015.  Train 256 was added to move the empty trailers back to Detroit.  Current schedule has 256 running thru Springfield, IL Mo-Sa between 6-9 AM and 255 Tu-Sun after sunset.  The two trains usually meet somewhere on the Lafayette District between Decatur, IL and Peru, IN - https://www.flickr.com/photos/kylekrinninger/51669337510/  Even before PSR, NS was maxing both trains out to 150 trailers.  The trains tend to run a little shorter early in the week.

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Posted by rrnut282 on Monday, January 2, 2023 3:50 PM

IIRC, Triple Crown trains were limited to 75 when they first appears as they used the highway-sized air lines for both highway and railroad braking.  When they switched to bypass hoses, they gradually were allowed to extend the length to 150 trailers.  Early in 2022 I was track-side for work and noted not one longer than 125 (if they went by at all during that time.)

As to 86' box cars, NS runs a daily train from the Marion Stamping plant on the former PRR Panhandle line via the former NYC Elkhart-Anderson Marion Branch to the GM Roanoke Assembly plant.  A large percentage of the cars carried are 86' footers. The entire run is around 50 miles one way and a local agreement lets one crew take it all the way.

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Posted by CatFoodFlambe on Monday, January 2, 2023 10:59 PM

tree68

As I recall, Deshler sees truck (?) frames northbound daily, and empty flats with the frames used to secure said vehicle frames headed back south.

I can recall seeing gons full of vehicle frames northbound on the C&O back in the day.

 

tree68

One would have to take a look at where the various plants are for each manufacturer - might be easier than discerning train movements.

As I recall, Deshler sees truck (?) frames northbound daily, and empty flats with the frames used to secure said vehicle frames headed back south.



Just about every day on Queensgate-Walbridge/Rougemere Q208 , with the returning empty flats and tiedown fittings returning southbound on Q209.    Both usually pass Deshler in the late afternoon or evening.   

 

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Posted by CatFoodFlambe on Monday, January 2, 2023 11:11 PM

SD70Dude

Were the ones with eight doors assigned to specific plants or did they carry certain types of parts? 

As auto parts traffic has shifted away from boxcars some of the 'whales' have found other uses.  As an example, for a while it was common to see a few of them carrying peat moss from a plant at Carrot River, Saskatchewan.  Dried peat would cube out well before it weighed out in a regular size boxcar, so the larger cars were perfect for it. 

 



The Detroit, Toledo & Ironton had quite a few of these back in the 1970 and 1980.  For a while, some of the 86' cars were painted different colors to reflect assigned service to specific assembly plants - these cars often had semi-permanent racks or tie-down frames fitted to racks/bins for specific products.      However, this practice was discontinued after a few years as demand levels flucuated among plants and the size/specs of the parts themselves changed.  

The DT&I would also divert the carsinto  other uses - I loaded a few of them with straw and hay at the Washington Court House (Ohio)team track as a kid. 

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