By Justin Franz
A rare “Whale Belly” hopper built for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and used in cement shuttle service in Maine for decades has been saved. Earlier this month, Dragon Cement donated one of its hoppers used between Rockland and Thomaston, Maine, to the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad.
The CB&Q acquired a fleet of hoppers back in the 1960s and a number of them ended up in Maine in the 1990s when Dragon began shuttling cement between its plant in Thomaston and a wharf in Rockland where product was loaded onto a barge. The shuttle ran for 30 years under several operators, including Maine Coast, Safe Handling, Maine Eastern, Central Maine & Quebec and Canadian Pacific. The service ran until 2021.
Earlier this year, Dragon announced that it was shutting down its Thomaston plant and in recent weeks has been scrapping surplus equipment, including the covered hoppers. With news that the rare cars were at risk, volunteers with the B&ML sprung into action to try and save one. While the car never ran on the B&ML, its ties to railroading along the Maine coast made it an ideal candidate for preservation. Now that Dragon has donated the car, B&ML is raising money to move it. Donations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.