Covered Hoppers

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Sun Mar 19 21:06:50 EST 2006

To answer the gentleman's question about covered hoppers, there were several
bulk commodities transported in covered hoppers such as limestone,
plastic granules, carbon black, feldspar , phosphate, cement, sugar, salt,
and gluten meal to name a few. The majority of covered hoppers were in
assigned service and limited to transporting one commodity in order to
prevent contaminating the car with foreign materials. Thus there was very
back-haul business for covered hoppers. If I may offer a correction to the
writer, contrary to popular belief that locomotive sand was moved in
hoppers, on the Southern Railway, and later Norfolk Southern, we received
locomotive sand in box cars in 50 lb. paper bags of reinforced paper. The
car was placed on the house track at the platform, and the local fuel dealer
who had the contract to fuel and sand the locomotives used the bags of sand
out of the car as needed. We kept five GP-38's on the Gainesville
yard in
order to meet the needs of 24/7 switching duties plus putting three local
freights to work daily, some of which needed two units to handle the tonnage.
Engine sand placed in paper bags and placed in box cars was protected from
humidity and wet wather and stayed as dry as a powder house. Sand had to
be kept dry as at outlying terminals sand is pumped through a rubber hose
height of the locomotive to the sanding nozzle using air pressure from the air
pumps on the locomotive. The slightest bit of moisture would screw up this
process. If truth be known, I would wager that a good deal of N&W sand
made it's way to the sandhouse in paper bags loaded in box cars that were
in assigned service to transport company material, namely, sand. As for
hauling grain in covered hoppers, that whole ballgame began in the early 60's
through the dogged determination of one man, D.W. Brosnan, President of
Southern Railway who took the trucking industry all the way to the U.S.
Supreme Court in order to establish low rates for shipping grain in multiple
100 ton covered hoppers built by Pullman-Standard for Southern Railway
and numbered in the 8000 series with the nickname "Big Johns." Today's
unit grain trains are a direct legacy of D.W. Brosnan. Bill Sellers.

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