Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fowler Boxcar, Inside and Out

While at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum in Austin, MB this summer, I explored CPR Fowler boxcar 119462. 

The 36-foot car was built in 1914 as part of an order of 3,000 Fowler boxcars placed by the CPR with the Canadian Car and Foundry Company.

Altogether, the CPR owned a total of 33,000 Fowler boxcars, built between 1909 and 1915. The CNR also owned 33,000 Fowler boxcars; Fowlers were also built for U.S. railroads. 

Fowler boxcars carried various goods, but in Canada were best-known for carrying wheat and other grains to market. 

Some of these cars lasted in service into the 1960s and even the early 1970s when they, and most other grain-carrying boxcars, were replaced by the still-running “Trudeau” cylindrical hoppers.

Designed by CPR master car builder W. E. Fowler, these wood single-sheathed steel frame boxcars had a capacity of 40 tons and a tare weight of 20 tons and 2,448 cubic feet of space. They were outfitted with archbar Simplex trucks. 

Prior to the Fowler design, boxcars typically had wooden structural members sandwiched between an interior and exterior wooden skin. The Fowler car eliminated the exterior layer, producing a cheaper, lighter car that could carry a greater payload.

This design also prevented grain leakage at the seam between the floor and the side of the car. 

The cars were loaded through the door of the car, which was “coopered” with wood planks; a pipe was inserted through the top to fill the car.

Later, the in 1950s, cardboard was used to replace the wood planks.

Since different crops have different weights, lines and the names of the various grains are stenciled on the inside of the car at the Museum—and I assume on all of the Fowler cars.

For unloading, the planks or cardboard sheets were removed so the grain could run out. Men with shovels scooped the remaining grain out of the cars.

The first cars built had wooden roofs and doors, but later cars had stamped steel roofs and corrugated steel doors. Cars were often rebuilt so early cars could appear with steel roofs and doors or any other combinations.

The Museum’s car was donated by the CPR in 1977.

As the Museum puts it on its website: “Doubtlessly, 119462 is a veteran of many a fall grain ‘rush’ with countless trips to the Lakehead, the Pacific, Montreal and into the U.S.”

The car, it adds, has “earned its place at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum” and is “an interesting part of the story” of agriculture in Manitoba.

With information from the Manitoba Agricultural Museum, and the Toronto Historical Railway Society.  Also see OKthePK.

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