Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Tank Car History

This photo reminded me that before the advent of railroads, commodities were transported on water --- rivers, Great Lakes and canals --- using sacks for gain and barrels for liquids.
Carl Venzke posted
Loading wooden barrels in a CNW boxcar
[This picture appears to be taken long after tank cars were invented for the transport of oil. The barrels are probably carrying "food quality" liquids. Lining the inside with glass to make a "food quality" tank car probably happened later.]
Railroads quickly developed flatcars and covered flatcars, i.e. boxcars. Railroaders learned to "pour" grain into boxcars so they no longer had to pay for the labor of carrying sacks of grain. But you cannot pour liquids into a boxcar. So they continued to ship liquids with barrels.

With the discovery of oil, so much liquid (oil) needed to be shipped that
the Densmore brothers got the idea of putting tanks on a flatcar because you could pour liquids into them. Vat cars continued to be used for pickles. The railroad suppliers were experienced in making wooden tanks held together with steel straps, they were called water towers and were used to refill a steam locomotive's tender. For example, Kinmundy and Centralia.
Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
Many farmers even in South Dakota where this photo was taken grew more than grain crops. Here small cucumbers are being loaded on a "pickle car" which will be hauled into Chicago by the C&NW to be made into pickles. The photo was made at the request of the C&NW publicity department some time in the 1930s. "Squire Dingee" had pickling plants all over the Midwest in those days

Ted Curphey posted
Halliburton Drilling Mud cars near Kirk, OR in 2017

The railroad industry learned how to make metal cylinders for the boiler on a steam locomotive. So someone left the decking off a flatcar and mounted a cylinder on the car's frame. They added a dome on top to allow for expansion of the fluid and to provide a flat surface for the access hatch and safety valve.
Dennis DeBruler posted
A 1943 Jack Delano OWI Photo: "Chicago, Illinois. An oil train from the Southwest leaves an Illinois Central Railroad yard for the Pennsylvania railroad to be sent on to the east"
[I just discovered that the Library of Congress does not create permanent links. Bummer!]
This clearly shows that the tank was made with sections that were riveted together. Basically, they could use the same machine (plate bending rolls) and techniques that were used to make the boilers for steam locomotives. If you look carefully on the left side of the dome, you can see that it was riveted to the body with two rows of rivets.
Dennis DeBruler posted
A 1942 Jack Delano OWI Photo taken in an Illinois Central yard in Chicago.
As the length of the rollers in the machines that bend steel plate got longer, they no longer needed to rivet sections together --- they could fabricate the body as one rolled sheet. If you look near the bottom of the tank, they still had to rivet the longitudinal seam were the ends of  the rolled steel met. They also have to rivet the end caps on.
Excerpt from a 1943 Jack Delano OWI Photo, LC-DIG-fsa-8d24311
This photo shows the strength of the riveted seam because that was not the point of failure.
1943 Jack Delano OWI Photo, LC-USW3-019332-D
With the development of welded joints and thicker steel plates, the tank was strong enough that they no longer needed the center sill (frame). A switch to unibody construction also happened with other vehicles such as covered hoppers and automobiles.
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Two of the photos posted by Richard Werner Jr. with the comment: "Septa Wayne Electric Car Shop    
Philadelphia, PA 05-01-2017     BLT 05-1957." It is new enough to be welded, but old enough that it still has a frame.


Tank car designs evolved to be longer and offer different types of linings so that more liquid products could be shipped by tank cars. A contemporary tank car can easily carry the max weight allowed on tracks, 286,000 pounds, because the reason now for making the steel plate thicker is to prevent punctures when there is a derailment or failure when it has been setting in a fire for a while. The tank car pictured above is an intermediate safety design because it has a half-height head shield. The newest design no longer has a head shield because the end cap is made of thicker steel plate.

Because it took a while to develop the linings needed to protect steel, some products used wood tank cars long after oil had moved to metal cars.
Don Gerdts posted
HJ Heinz in Muscatine would have received these.
Standard Brands (SBIX) Vinegar tank cars had long lives, surviving into the late 1960s. The entire tank was made of wood, which was unusual for cars past 1900, but the nature of the vinegar dictated it be the case.
David Hill Saw many wooden wine haulers at a warehouse on the Minnesota Transfer railroad in the 1960s.

A recent development in liquid transportation is containerization. Dennis DeBruler posted two photos with the comment:
In a westbound intermodal train on BNSF in Downers Grove, IL, on 5-29-17 I saw my first container compatible tanks.They were in the piggyback part of the train instead of the double-stack deep well part. The second tank had a placard: 1993: 131 Compound, cleaning liquid (flammable)
One can tell the containers are compatible with international shipping, 20' and 40', because they don't fill the spine car, which is designed for trailers and domestic 53' containers.
20170530 8836

Either the lining is unique to this product or they don't want to bother to clean it for another product because the placard information is painted on. I can't figure out what that picture on the left is supposed to be telling the first responders.
Another innovation was "funnel cars." These are built with a deliberate "bend" in the bottom to help thick liquids such as corn syrup to drain out.
Dennis DeBruler posted
I normally ignore black GATX tankers. But I noticed GATX has let the paint not only fade, but peel, on this car. This is the first time I have seen significant rust spots on a tanker in interchange service. And the rust is happening in the top middle where the compression stress would be the highest. Steel's failure mode is buckling under compression stress. Furthermore, the spots are near the top where holes further reduce the strength of the tank.
It last qualification date was 2007. That means it is due for requalification in 2017. It is DOT 111A100-W-1, which I think means it has the old safety design. (However, many of the recent oil tanker derailments that had problems were using the new, "safer" design.) So I suspect they plan to scrap this car in 2017 anyhow.
I just noticed it is directly coupled to the engine (no buffer car) and the placard diamond is empty. (Edit, per a comment, I realize I had a brain burp. Not all GATX cars carry hazardous materials. Since the placard is empty, there is no need for a buffer car or "safer" cars.)
In an eastbound TP&W east of Gilman, IL on Nov 22, 2016.
Ralph Baker Dennis - I'd agree with you, but first is it accepted that this car is NOT the funnel type for thick hot liquids ?? GATX cars are leased to many firms where the contents are not singularly identified, so I can't judge the matter based on the rust effects. The car does APPEAR to be the funnel type....
Dennis DeBruler I take pictures of tank cars because I'm trying to learn about them. What is a funnel type? You reminded me that not all tank cars carry flammable liquids. In fact, this car does not have a placard, so the contents should not be a hazard. There is no need to carry corn syrup, etc., in "safer" cars.
Ralph Baker Funnel tank cars are intentionally constructed with the center being lower than the ends. Thick liquids like motor oil, corn syrup, etc., are slower to drain than water, liquid chlorine, etc, so are best transported in funnel-bodied tanks.
Hunter Wilson This car was built by trinity industries and looks to be a 23 under frame which would make it around a 90-99 built car. I highly doubt they would scrap this car. It is a jacketed car with fiberglass insulation. The rust spot is just jacket corrosion not on the actual tank. Easily repairable and if it's the one spot only about a $500 fix.
Jerry Jackson posted
How many weeks until plantin' begins? A friendly farmer waits for the DPU on this eastbound train to pass, Chadwick, IL Spring of 2013.
[Jerry must have edited his comment based on Tony's comment.]
Tony Creamer Those aren't oil tanks...... they're ADM food-grade cars....... I'm thinking FAK [Freight-All-Kinds] train.
In this 2x closeup, you can see the middle is slightly below the sidebar. So it is a funnel car, probably carrying corn syrup.
2x Digitally Zoomed
Brian Wilton posted
NATX 260 004 76' 4 comp. 25,611 gal. Couldn't find any more info on it,build date,etc,etc.. at Calgary Ab 1/26/19
David Luyster Xylene placard

Jerry Jackson updated
This was shot in the Milwaukee Road (Bensenville) yard in Franklin Park, IL at Franklin Ave and Wolf road. About 30 years ago.

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