The many industries that make up the world of freight have undergone tremendous change over the past several decades. Each Friday, FreightWaves explores the archives of American Shipper’s nearly 70-year-old collection of shipping and maritime publications to showcase interesting freight stories of long ago.

The following is an excerpt from the September 1964 edition of the Florida Journal of Commerce.

The world’s largest covered hopper oar was delivered to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad on September 8. A number of new railroading precedents were set.

Not only is the car — christened “Whopper Hopper” by the railroad — the biggest such car on the rails (135-ton capacity), but it is equipped with newly developed six wheel trucks and an automatic wash-out system. The colossus also represents the most advanced design of any freight car fabricated from USS Tenelon stainless steel.

In a single trip it can transport 135 tons of bulk material and enough sugar to sweeten 30 million cups of coffee. The bread which could be made from one load of wheat would fill 200 average size bread trucks.

With a crack of a champagne bottle, the mammoth car was christened Whopper Hopper during ceremonies conducted by W. Thomas Rice, president of ACL, in Jacksonville’s Union Station.

Others participating in the car’s debut included: George L. Green, vice president of marketing, Pullman-Standard Division of Pullman Incorporated, builder of the car; Carl E. Tack, vice president-product engineering, American Steel Foundries Inc., developer of a new six-wheel truck used for the first time; and Bay E. Estes Jr., vice president-marketing, U.S. Steel, supplier of the steels used in the car, including USS Tenelon stainless steel.

In addition, many of Jacksonville’s business and civic leaders were present.

The Whopper Hopper, with a capacity of 135 tons, is designed to carry an almost limitless variety of bulk commodities ranging from foods to fertilizers. “It represents the Coast Line’s latest step in a series of recent leaps forward in providing shippers fast and economical service through freight equipment of the most advanced design,” Rice said.

Speaking for Pullman-Standard, Green said that the “debut of the car should prove conclusively to the shipper and the public at large that the railroads and their suppliers are a vital growth industry in America.”

Tack, American Steel Foundries, noted that the car also illustrates the railroads’ increasing efforts to improve customer service. “It’s an effort in which we are proud to participate,” he said.

U.S. Steel’s Bay Estes pointed out that the pace-setting new car “is an example of the progress which can be made when several companies work together toward a common goal. We are pleased the Coast Line specified USS Tenelon stainless steel since this car represents the most sophisticated use of the material to date in such an application.”

The new car, fabricated at Pullman Standard’s Michigan City, Indiana plant and 10 other new ACL cars will be exhibited at major cities in the Southeast during the next 30 days. The display will include equipment depicting the newest designs in freight cars, as well as the newest type of diesel freight locomotive.

In addition to its Titan size, the Whopper Hopper breaks with a number of other freight-car traditions, Rice declared:

  • It is the first car to use a pair of newly designed roller bearing six-wheel trucks over which the hopper’s weight is distributed evenly. More than three years in the development, they were supplied by American Steel Foundries.
  • The car also features four, easy-access hatches in the roof for rapid loading, in addition to some of the industry’s largest discharge gates, the openings of which can be adjusted to regulate flow from a trickle to a quick dump.
  • One of the most revolutionary innovations in the covered hopper, however, is its interior cleaning device, which includes an automatic washing system inside the hoppers. Once it has been coupled to a trackside water outlet, the system will then flush out the stainless steel interior, making it “kitchen clean” and ready for the next lading.
  • Another of USS Tenelon’s virtues is its tenacious resistance to corrosion. The smooth, hard surface is impervious to attack by most chemicals and will not trap dirt or other contaminants.

Tested by numerous railroads across the country, the original 400-ton USS Tenelon car carried a nearly limitless variety of cargoes — from alkaline materials like soda ash to granulated sugar. One user reported that compared to an unlined car carrying a corrosive lading which required three days to empty, wash out and prepare for a shipment of grain, the USS Tenelon car required only 45 minutes to prepare. Converted into dollars, the user pointed out, this meant that the preparation costs for an unlined car averaged $70 per load, whereas those for the Tenelon covered hopper averaged only $1.50 per load.

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