Saturday, May 24, 2008

Coal Cars-Part 2 DEEX/DETX Cars

In my first coal car post I discussed what I see along the line for BN/BNSF cars. They are probably in a neck and neck race for numerical superiority on the west end of the Staples Sub with privately owned cars carrying DEEX and DETX reporting marks used to service the Midwest Energy Resources coal terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.

Midwest Energy Resources, or MERC as I usually refer to it, is a coal transshipment facility with the capability to handle 25 million tons of coal annually. Basically, they unload unit trains of coal, and load the coal onto lake boats for delivery to end users further down the Great Lakes shipping system. You can learn more about the operation here.

My connection to MERC is as a railfan watching numerous trains traverse the Staples Sub between Dilworth and Staples, where they enter the Brainerd Sub for most of the remaining trip. My own estimate is that there are probably about 4 loaded eastbound and 4 empty westbound trains each day. I have nothing scientific to base that on, just a guess resulting from how many trains I see pass through the area. If it is wrong, it is probably too low.

The trains usually consist of a mixed bag of cars, mostly a combination of DEEX and DETX marked gons, but with a bunch of oddballs thrown in as well. You will see FURX, CRIX, GEMX, MBKX, NCUX, and others as well. I will cover some of these "oddballs" in a future post.

The most common DEEX cars are probably this style car:

I wish I was more familiar with the builders and could give more concrete information. I think that this style car has been built by different manufacturers, and I know that they have been built over quite a long time period as I see many different build dates on them. This particular car is part of one of the newer series, the 060xxx cars that I see fairly often. Here is another older example:

Also, I have no idea what the numbering system is, as I have seen cars of this style marked DETX with very low numbers:

Also, 11xxx is not a complete series. Here is another car in that number series that is of a totally different style. If you look at the "bathtub" on this car you can see it is angled up the middle as opposed to level all the way across. It also looks like the reporting mark might have been changed from DETX to DEEX at some point.

Another "bowed bottom" car.

Now on to another more unique car. This one is often seen in many different trains as it appears many of them were built with rotary couplers on both ends. You can see that both ends are marked with yellow, which I have concluded must indicate they have rotary couplers on both ends. I didn't realize if for a long time but every unit coal train I see has a double ended car in it somewhere and the rotary ends of the cars ahead of and behind it are reversed. I have no idea why, but since I have started watching for this I have never seen a train without this trait. Now I know someone will prove me wrong, but I have not found an exception yet. Sometimes the rotary reversal is very close to the front or rear of the train, but it is always (or almost always) there. So here is the famous car I speak of.

Most of these cars do not have rotary couplers on both ends, through. Here is an example of a more common version. This is a very common car in MERC trains.

Not quite as common, but still not unusual, is the aluminum hopper with rotary couplers. These will be seen running free along with the gons in some trains, while at other times you can find solid sets of them. I believe that the solid sets are delivering to the Hallet dock in Dulth, where they don't have the capability to dump the solid bottom cars.

A couple of intersting points about this car. First, they stick out in the train due to the high ends of the hopper bottoms. I suspect this leads to the second peculiar trait. When you see them loaded in a train of gons, the coal sticks up quite a bit higher. While from the ground you often can't see the coal heaped up in the gons, in the hoppers it is very visible.

As I said earlier, there are quite a few other oddball cars found in these trains. Next time, I will try and cover the unusual or less common cars found in coal trains on the Staples Sub.


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