Farmers gained the right to load their own grain in May 1902 through an amendment to the Manitoba Grain Act, after it became apparent elevator companies and the railways conspired to prevent farmers loading cars themselves. The amendment introduced the “Car Order Book” – allocating cars on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Canadian Pacific Railway flaunted the law, spotting seven cars for platform loading by farmers at Sintaluta, Sask., while the elevators in town received 60. The Territorial Grain Growers’ Association, representing farmers, took the CPR to court and won.
Demand for producer cars peaked at more than 51,000 in 1912-13, but waned in the face of increased competition in the grain business, largely due to the rise of the farmer-owned grain co-operatives, and expanding railway branch lines. By 1942-43, less than one per cent of Canada’s grain was transported in producer cars.
Farmers turned to them again in 1977-78 when elevator companies, congested with non-board feed grain, encouraged farmers to use them. Their popularity later surged as farmers discovered they could take advantage of higher port canola cash prices caused by glitches in the futures market and handling system.
Their use peaked again in 1991-92 at 13,888. It was almost matched in 2008-09. The year average is 12,000.
Producer cars are vital to the operation of several short line railways, including the Boundary Trails Railway Company in south-central Manitoba.
Almost all the grain shipped in producer cars these days is for the Canadian Wheat Board, which will authorize port delivery.