locked Re: The Interstate Coal Fleet: 1960-1966?

George Eichelberger

I suspect the Mechanical Dept people did not think FRA inspectors would venture into the wilds of SW VA very often in the late 70s. Defects were visible on many of the yellow ball cars. If one was wrecked and not interfering with traffic, Southern would let them stay where they were until a contractor could scrap them. (No doubt local houses’ coal heaters had plenty of fuel?)

Southern 72747 was at the far end of one of the Interstate branches just off mine property. When cars were loaded at the tipple, a mine worker would use the hand brake (and gravity) to move the car out of the way. If they started to spin the brake wheel and the car was not stopping, I expect they knew it was time to get off. In the case of 72747, the split switch derail put the car into the ditch before it could continue down the branch.


On Jan 16, 2021, at 1:18 PM, Daniel Bourque <deltabourque@...> wrote:


The Interstate continued to operate generally as it had before Southern’s acquisition between 1960 and 1965 when the Southern shut down its Appalachia yard and moved into Andover (clearing the way for the Westmoreland transloader). So what happened to the Interstate cars was essentially a continuation of what was occurring prior to 1960. 

The Interstate’s hopper fleet was always wide ranging. In fact, the Interstate lived off of per diem for these cars for most of its life. The fact these cars were coming to the end of their useful lives was a big incentive to sell the Interstate. Additionally, the Interstate had agreements with the Southern for empty hopper supply prior to the sale, so the free mixing of Southern and Interstate cars on both roads was commonplace both before and after 1960. Additionally, the Interstate continued to ship coal via its connections with L&N, N&W, and CRR, so you’d see the IRR hoppers just about everywhere until they were made captive to the transloader in the late ‘60s. 

Many cars were repainted in a Southern-style scheme starting in the mid-‘60s, and as Ike said, some were converted to permanently coupled 100T “articulated” hoppers and repainted in cool variations of Southern lettering (like “SOUT” on one car and “HERN” on the other—wish someone would make some decals). 

The Southern started placing older offset hoppers, some with extended sides, into Interstate service in ~’64. This was prior to the transloader, so you could find these cars all over the country as well for a couple years. The transloader changed everything and saw most of the original IRR cars and the donated offsets placed in captive “yellow ball” service by the late ‘60s as you mentioned, so that’s when sightings outside of the Interstate and St Charles Branches would become rare. 

The yellow ball fleet became increasingly eclectic in the ‘70s including most of the Southern’s remaining twin hopper fleet and war-emergency rebuilds (standard and extended height), 50T fish-belly and 70T hoppers from the original NS, a large number of 70T triple hoppers downgraded from mainline service, and even guest appearances from brand-new 100T twin aggregate hoppers in the winter. More than you asked about, but pretty cool fleet of coal cars!

Dan Bourque

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