Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Re-use of empty coal cars as ore carriers?

2767 views
8 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    May 2015
  • 199 posts
Re-use of empty coal cars as ore carriers?
Posted by jhugart on Monday, December 8, 2003 11:53 PM
I'm planning on modelling the copper mining region of the upper peninsula of Michigan. I've visited the museum at the site of one of the larger mines, and acquired a book showing maps of the surface plant over time. One thing I can't determine from the book is whether or not the mines would re-use empty coal cars as copper ore cars.

It would seem to be a cost savings, since you wouldn't have to run the empties back to the eastern US (or wherever they came from), but maybe the coal dust would contaminate the ore?

What is the practice at any kind of mine, let alone copper?
  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 10,908 posts
Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, December 9, 2003 8:09 AM
I cannot speak to copper mines but I believe at certain times of car shortages they would use coal hoppers as well as gondolas to haul iron ore. BUT (and this is a big but) they would not fill them up. they would put what looked like a surprisingly small pile of iron ore directly over the trucks. This is because coal hoppers have high sides (coal is relatively light) and if they filled that up with iron ore it would crack or crystalize the frame. Ditto for gons. Iron ore is very dense and heavy compared to almost any load. But yes it has been done as you surmise in some mining industries. I do not know about contamination. I guess they could send a man down to make a hopper at least "broom clean."
Dave Nelson
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, December 9, 2003 12:00 PM
I second what was said above, I would not worry so much about ehipment of emptys, I would use ore cars for your ore. You can run hoppers but they will be better off in coal.

Think of it was a variety in your fleet and perhaps a operating challenge.

Good Luck!
  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: WV
  • 1,249 posts
Posted by coalminer3 on Tuesday, December 9, 2003 1:11 PM
A lot of folks don't realize how important copper was to Michigan's economy. I remember reading somewhere that at the turn of the 20th century (around 1907) more than 21,000 people were employed in Michigan's copper mining industry. Copper companies, like iron mining operations, in time became vertically integrated, IOW they owned mines, mills, railroads and boats to get their product to market. It was a dangerous business and there were some God-awful accidents that occurred in copper mining due to fires, explosions, inundations, etc. Not just in Michigan, either. Was not a lot of copper smelted pretty close to where it was mined and then shipped?

Two roads I can think of that used coal cars to carry iron ore at different times were the PRR and B&LE. It's a matter of equipment usage as dknelson mentioned. Also - you don't want to fill them up. In recent times, I remember seeing taconite being carried in coal cars on the C&O; always eastbound. Many of these cars were offline, and again not filled up very much - heavy stuff that iron ore! What operation(s) are you going to be modeling.

Interested to hear more. BTW, have you looked at the book Cradle to Grave?

work safe
  • Member since
    March 2002
  • 170 posts
Posted by DTomajko on Tuesday, December 9, 2003 3:28 PM
Conrail commonly carried coal east from south of Pittsburgh to power plants and export docks in Philadelphia or Baltimore and brought iron ore back in coal hoppers for the steel mills in Pennslyvania,Ohio,and West Virginia.I don't know if NS still does it this way too on the former CR lines.I think the PRR,PC,& CR had a similar operation between Weirton,WV and Ashtabula,Oh also.Also,Conrail also used the old PRR / PC ore jennies for Pittsburgh ore service at the same time,I think it was due to what cars were available at the time.By the way,the iron ore is about twice as heavy as coal and would only fill a 3-bay coal hopper halfway.I don't know how copper ore would compare,but I'm pretty sure it's heavier than coal.As far as modeling goes,why not use dedicated ore cars when available and hoppers as needed when the jennies aren't available.Good luck and good modeling.
  • Member since
    August 2002
  • From: Corpus Christi, Texas
  • 2,377 posts
Posted by leighant on Tuesday, December 9, 2003 5:47 PM
Photograph of conventional hoppers (commonly used for coal) "half full" of ore (by volume) but FULL (by weight) on Santa Fe, Model Railroader Apr97 p.30

No mass produced ore cars in N scale are correct for Santa Fe for I use 2-bay Microtrains hoppers for iron ore. They are filled about 1/3 full, just over the extra weight in the bottom of the car. Since you can hardly see the load, I use the same cars to represent both loads and empties!!! Depending on which direction they are moving.

Santa Fe was not heavily into iron ore. I imagine a Michigan line would be somewhat more specialized in its use of equipment, and anything other than standard ore jimmies would be unusual.
  • Member since
    September 2002
  • 7,100 posts
Posted by ndbprr on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 8:06 AM
Ther are only two answers to your question:
1. If it is your railroad do what you want and it has been done as stated above
2. If you are modeling a prototype than you need to do some research to see if they did it and follow the prototype practice. I would suspect that nearly all roads except the dedicated ore carriers did.
  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: US
  • 1,300 posts
Posted by Sperandeo on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 3:55 PM
That photo in the April 1997 MODEL RAILROADER doesn't show a conventional hopper car at all, but a Hart selective ballast hopper (like the HO models Atlas is releasing). And while it's true that the Santa fe was never a big iron ore carrier, it did regularly haul ore as shown in that photo from about 1944 through 1947.

The ore came from the Vulcan Mine near the desert community of Kelso, California, on the UP's former Los Angeles & Salt Lake main line, and was going to Kaiser Steel's Fontana Works a few miles west of San Bernardino on the Second District of the Santa Fe's Los Angeles Division. The UP hauled the ore as far as Barstow, where it was interchanged to the Santa Fe. The Santa Fe took it over Cajon Pass and made up "Kaiser Turns" in San Bernardino to deliver the ore to Fontana, along with coal that came from mines on the D&RGW in Utah.

That Santa Fe ore movement ended in 1948 when Kaiser opened its own Eagle Mountain Mine and the Southern Pacific began running ore trains over Beaumont Hill – its tracks also served the Fontana Works. The Santa Fe continued to haul coal for Kaiser until the mill shut down – I think in the late 1970s.

Happy holidays,

Andy

Andy Sperandeo MODEL RAILROADER Magazine

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 8:26 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by jhugart

I'm planning on modelling the copper mining region of the upper peninsula of Michigan. I've visited the museum at the site of one of the larger mines, and acquired a book showing maps of the surface plant over time. One thing I can't determine from the book is whether or not the mines would re-use empty coal cars as copper ore cars.
The railroads of the UP formed closed loops between the mines and the concentrators/smelters. Once the oar was processed it would be too valuable and too perishable to be further shipped in open cars. Since most of the smelters were located lakeside, most of the refined metal was shipped by boat to the industrial cities with the facilities for further processing. Indeed, the Coal to fuel the mining and smelting machinery came from other places, but the hoppers would return empty.

A lot of information on the UP copper industry can be found in older issues of Narrow Gage and Shortline Gazette.

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!