CP joins CN in rejuvenating grain hopper car fleet

New-generation hopper cars are shorter, 
carry more grain, and are faster to load and unload

This CP Rail graphic shows how new hopper cars and longer trains will eventually up the capacity of a unit train by nearly 45 per cent.
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CP Rail says it will spend more than $500 million on new high-capacity grain hopper cars.

The company announced last month it has ordered 1,000 new hopper cars and expects to see more than 500 of them in service by the end of the year.

“These new rail cars will revitalize our fleet,” said CP Rail president and CEO Keith Creel.

Over the next four years, CP plans to order approximately 5,900 hopper cars and take all of its low-capacity hoppers, including ones owned by the federal government, out of service.

The new hopper cars are lighter, shorter, and carry 15 per cent more grain.

That means a 7,000-foot-long ‘unit train’ will consist of 118 cars (up from the current 112 cars) and have 16 per cent more capacity. But the railway is working towards having 8,500-foot-long, “power-on” grain trains. A unit train of that size would carry 15,000 tonnes of wheat — nearly 45 per cent more than the 10,400-tonne capacity of today’s shorter trains (with old hopper cars).

The modern hopper cars can also be loaded and unloaded more quickly.

“The new cars feature a three-pocket design that can be loaded and unloaded more efficiently than the old four-pocket government cars,” CP said in a news release.

The head of Paterson GlobalFoods, which has terminals and elevators in all three Prairie provinces, called the investment exciting and significant.

“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.

CN Rail has also ordered 1,000 new-generation hopper cars. Both railways said the recent passage of the Transportation Modernization Act paved the way for these investments. The act changes the maximum revenue entitlement (MRE) — the amount of money railways can earn shipping grain — because each railway’s investment in grain shipping capacity will now be accounted for on an individual basis.

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