Pulp and Paper Canada

New Technology For CPR’s Boxcars

March 1, 2004  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Designed to deliver large volumes of paper in damage-free condition, Canadian Pacific Railway’s new fleet of high-capacity boxcars for paper rolls is setting a new performance standard in the industry.

Designed to deliver large volumes of paper in damage-free condition, Canadian Pacific Railway’s new fleet of high-capacity boxcars for paper rolls is setting a new performance standard in the industry.

As indicated by president and CEO Rob Ritchie’s remarks during a speech at the Toronto Railway Club last December, CPR is following its agenda “to ensure the productivity and competitiveness of the Canadian economy.”


With approximately 31%* of its freight revenue coming from carloads (many of them for the pulp and paper industry), new boxcars were developed especially for the transport of paper. These cars, with 25% more capacity, were built to meet tough new performance specifications developed after extensive consultation with shippers and receivers. They are the first boxcars designed specifically to handle newsprint and other rolled paper, and are the first modern-day paper cars built with damage-free handling and high load capacity as the main objectives. With their higher capacity, 800 older paper boxcars were eliminated from the fleet last year and replaced with 625 new cars — a net reduction of 175 boxcars — without losing a single ton of capacity.

“We have built a car that has the features shippers and receivers said are most important to them,” said Jim Buggs, CPR’s general manager, Car Management.

The new boxcars have a payload capacity in excess of 200,000 lbs. While other railcars have similar capacity, their design characteristics limit the number of rolls they can carry. They are full before reaching their weight limit and usually carry no more than about 165,000 lbs. CPR’s new car eliminates this wasted capacity and is the only car on the market that can load 50-inch newsprint rolls to the car’s full payload capacity.

Paper damage

Reliable service and damage-free delivery are among the biggest issues in the paper industry. Damaged rolls can upset inventory balance and delay press production.

Currently, the way paper is shipped has meant that damages are sometimes part of the process. Problems with loading and unloading, water damage, torn, chafed and crushed paper due to contact with interior welds and seams — all result in waste papers, which unfortunately have been one of the costs of doing business.

Rex Potts, newsprint manager for The Washington Post Company, said he needs 195,000 tons of newsprint a year to print The Washington Post. The paper is printed on eight presses, each 166 feet long and more than five stories high. “We’re getting 82 50-inch rolls per car,” Potts said. “The more usable rolls we get per car, the fewer shipments we need.”

He said paper breaks on press are at an all-time low, demonstrating a direct link between the rail equipment and pressroom productivity. “What we’re seeing in paper roll quality off the new cars is unsurpassed and what we’re seeing on the press is proof of it. There’s no mistake when we’re seeing the same results from paper supplied by three different mills operated by three different companies and shipped in CPR’s new cars.”

Bowater’s Thunder Bay mill provided valuable shipper advice during the car’s development and participated in inspections as the first cars were being built. The mill, which supplies the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune with 50-inch newsprint rolls, loaded the first prototype car more than a year ago. Bowater’s Thunder Bay mill experimented with loading and unloading patterns to help hone the car’s features and develop best practices and procedures for moving product in and out of the cars quickly and safely. The mill was also actively involved in trial shipments. Darrell Watts, superintendent Finishing, Shipping and Warehousing, said, “We were involved from start to end. Today, I’m getting 100 tons (of 50-inch rolls) in a car now versus 60 tons before.”


CPR’s new boxcars have over two feet of additional inside height and more than one foot of additional inside length than standard paper boxcars. Their low center of gravity allows for the extra height without sacrificing ride stability. With the extra space, loaders can triple-stack 50-inch paper rolls, which have emerged as the printing industry standard, and add another row.

Among the car’s damage-prevention features is longer end-of-car cushioning — a deeper shock absorber located behind the couplers. Improved wheel assembly design minimizes lateral and vertical forces during transit to prevent damage. Skylights provide greater visibility for safer loading and unloading. CPR also worked with airbag manufacturers to design a superior bag that, as it is inflated, moves the rolls into a secure position and keeps them stable during transit. The bag was built to restrain the heaviest of paper rolls.

Since introducing the cars, Buggs said CPR has seen a reduction in lading damage claims. Their bigger load capacity, combined with the improved car velocity CPR is achieving between and in rail terminals through scheduled rail operations, is making a contribution to improved asset utilization.

“This is a huge upgrade,” confirmed Marty Cove, marketing manager for CPR. “Pulp and paper is a major part of what we do.” With 80,000 carloads of business a year, the company has had tremendous success with its new design which now make up 10% of the total cars available and the number is growing.

* Figures are for year ending December 31, 2002 from the CPR website

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