Thursday, May 29, 2008

Coal Cars-Part 3 Dedicated "Packerland" Trains

The third category of coal cars commonly seen passing through the Wadena area are the solid sets of leased cars that serve various Wisconsin power plants. These include trains serving the Weston 4 powerplant near Weston, the Alma Station near Alma, Wisconsin, operated by Dairyland Power Cooperative, and Columbia Energy Center near Portage, Wisconsin.

The unique things about these trains is that they normally operate with almost solid sets of identical cars. The other trains passing through the area, as we have seen in previous posts, usually have mix of cars, even if they carry the same or related reporting marks. Occasionaly you will see a Becker train with a pretty solid set of newer BN cars but most of the MERC trains are a dog's mix nowdays.

The newcomer to this area in this group are the WPSX cars. I am speculating to some degree but I do know that Weston 4 is a new Wisconsin Public Service-owned power plant, recently put into service, and that coal demand at that complex has therefore increased. Apparently this is the most economical route to feed this enhanced demand as the trains are now a regular visitor on the Staples Sub. These cars are of various ages but they all are a similar style. Here is an older one:

And a couple that appear to be newer. By the looks of the reporting marks, the first one might have carried someone else's initials at one time.

Pretty boring. Not much variety there, is there?

Well, for a lack of variety, no train can beat the DAPX trains that serve the Alma powerplant. These blue-ended gons operate in solid sets, with only one exception that I am aware of. Here is a shot of one of the Dairyland cars.

Even with the lack of variety, they are still one of my favorite trains. As much as any train I see, they have a defined purpose. They exist to haul coal to a given power plant, period. With all the wondering you can do trackside it's nice to know for sure where something is going sometimes.

And there is one small bit of variety. They aren't all exactly the same. A few, I don't know how many, but a few of these cars are equipped with rotary couplers on both ends. I have one shot that I pulled from a video I got at Frazee earlier this year.

The quality is not very good but hopefully you can see the blue bands on both ends of this car. It's the spot in a train where the cars switch from having rotary ends one way to the other way. There must not be quite enough to satisfy the need, though, because the lone interloper I have caught in these trains is a DEEX car with double rotary ends, seen here.

The final Wisconsin bound trains are the COLX trains that serve the power plant in Portage. They are normally pretty much solid COLX cars, although you will see more variety both in cars that carry those marks and in other cars on these trains than the other two. Here are some examples of COLX cars.

Not a lot of variety other than different number series and amount of weathering. But it's enough for these trains to win the "non-uniformity" award for any of the "Packerland" trains.

Next time-the oddball cars.


1 comment:

Kelly said...

Jim, All the DAPX cars have rotary couplers on one end as the only way to unlad the coal is this shed here in Alma that grabs the whole car and tips it upside down! It's quite a process, and I could tell you more, if you want more info.

Kelly Herold