NOTE: I’ve got confirmation that these boxcars are being loaded by Weaver Popcorn for shipment to Mexico, and perhaps other points. I’ve revised the text and will insert in order with the rest of the Peoria Area Rail Users series.
Four years ago, Indiana-based Weaver Popcorn Co. made public its desire to improve its transportation options for export shipments of bagged popcorn.
Our net weight allowed on an export container is currently restricted by the fact American exporters have been obliged to ship the first leg of all of our shipments by dray over the road (“OTR”) to a container ramp. We have used in the past Detroit, Chicago, and Indianapolis. Today the overwhelming majority of our containers from both plants pass through Chicago ramps. This OTR dray/tmck passage for the first 180 miles to Chicago of our products’ passage dictates the net weight we can ship for the entire 5,000,6,000, or 8,000-mile journey! The result of this is significant. Weaver, like other American producers, can ship at most 21 tons on a 20′ export container of bulk popcom. Our Argentine friends, without the same weight restrictions on their own road system, can ship 25-26 tons.This results in, usually, a 20-25% freight subsidy for our Argentina competitors. This freight differential is substantial in a bulk commodity market.
Weaver Popcorn wanted to set up intermodal facilities where containers would be loaded onto railcars at or near its Van Buren, Indiana and Forest City, Illinois plants, thus avoiding the on-highway weight restriction. In May 2012, the Wabash Central LLC (WBCR), which serves Van Buren, was the recipient of $269,273.00 from the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Industrial Rail Service Fund (IRSF) to construct such a facility.
I can find no confirmation that this facility was ever built. I know nothing like this has been built at Forest City. So perhaps it seems that Weaver Popcorn found an alternative in using boxcars. After all, the 50′ cars shown above can hold up to 70 tons, nearly twice that of a single platform with two double-stacked containers. The extra handling is more labor intensive, but the higher volume per unit and lower freight rates might make such movements feasible.
Multiple destinations are possible. The three middle cars seen in the photo above are refrigerated boxcars, indicating shipment to a warm climate, probably Mexico. They carry St. Louis Southwestern Railway markings (“Cotton Belt Route”), which places them in the Union Pacific family. These cars will probably be delivered to UP at Springfield.
The other two cars have CSX Transportation markings, and are actually “XP” type normally used in paper service (but can also hold 50-lb bags of popcorn). These may be destined to a northern climate, probably a northeastern port. Routing may span all three area Genesee & Wyoming Inc. lines (IMRR, TZPR, TPW) to reach a CSXT connection in Indiana.
– David P. Jordan