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Ore Train to Lake Ship

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Ore Train to Lake Ship
Posted by ChuckCobleigh on Monday, January 22, 2024 1:49 PM

Stumbled across this short video on loading a taconite cargo on a Lake Ship at the Duluth CN6 dock. Soo locks are shut down now until mid-March, so a lot of these ships are in winter layup in various harbors, but they are plenty busy the rest of the year. Some nice footage at the end of a string of empties heading back to the mine areas. Lots of rail action on the Duluth/Superior cams as well, even though they are concentrating on the ships.

Hat's off to Tree for pointing me to the addictive harbor cams sites and the Soo Locks cam.

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, January 22, 2024 2:17 PM

Thanks.

Watching the lakers ply their trade is fascinating, to say the least.  There are numerous web cams around the lakes, including the aforementioned Duluth and Soo cams.  The St. Clair River has at least four at various points, including two in Port Huron.

There are sites that pinpoint the locations of ships throughout the system (marinetraffic and boatnerd).  The AIS system they use includes destinations.  Wish we had something like that for the rails.

A wonderful part of many of the cams is the accompanying chats, where you'll find people who know what's up and often provide information on the boats (Great Lakes ships are generally referred to as "boats," although lakers range in size from 700' to over 1000').

There may be a few lakers still moving, but as Chuck points up, most all of them are now in winter layup.  All of the locks are closed.  The last boat on Lake Superior arrived in Superior, well coated with ice, on Saturday.

One fun part of watching ships is the salutes - one long, two shorts for the "Captain's Salute" and three longs and two shorts for the "Master's Salute," as evidenced by the famous "Barker's Bark."  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzIZbEynCK8&t=124s

The James R. Barker is 1004' long...

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Posted by Backshop on Monday, January 22, 2024 3:34 PM

Just a few more things---For those on Facebook, there is a very good group on there called Boatnerds of Facebook.  I'm a member.

There are still four chemical/gasoline tankers operating out of the Sarnia refineries.  They seem to mainly go to Nanticoke on the NE shore of Lake Erie.  There are also 3 bulk self-unloaders operating out of the salt mine in Goderich, ON, the world's largest.  Most of the winter production seems to go to ports on Lake Michigan.

I used to be a lot more interested in the Duluth rail traffic before CN absorbed the DMIR and WC and the CP the Soo Line.

What's interesting is that while most still think of the Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh area of being the center of the steel trade, the south shore of Lake Michigan has been much larger for at least the last 40-50 years. There's the old Inland Steel at E Chicago (now Cliffs), US Steel at Gary and Bethlehem Steel at Burns Harbor (also now Cliffs).

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Posted by MP173 on Monday, January 22, 2024 3:46 PM

I have probably related this story a couple of times, but the most interesting experience in my career was being on two Lakers - The Indiana Harbor and the Burns Harbor.

A bit unnerving walking up a ladder (about 40-50 ft) to get to the bridge, but quite an experience.

Ed

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, January 22, 2024 3:50 PM

ChuckCobleigh
Stumbled across this short video on loading a taconite cargo on a Lake Ship at the Duluth CN6 dock. Soo locks are shut down now until mid-March, so a lot of these ships are in winter layup in various harbors, but they are plenty busy the rest of the year. Some nice footage at the end of a string of empties heading back to the mine areas. Lots of rail action on the Duluth/Superior cams as well, even though they are concentrating on the ships.

Hat's off to Tree for pointing me to the addictive harbor cams sites and the Soo Locks cam.

I know from ore being handled at the Curtis Bay Ore Pier in Baltimore that when loading ore into normal coal hoppers that have been inspected and approved for ore service, the cars are only partially loaded as the ore 'weighs out' before it cubes out.  With that being the case and boats in ore service on the Lakes being designed for that service - do the ore boats have their holds loaded to 'full visible capacity' or are they also partially loaded account the weight capacity of each hold?

I find it to be curious that the boats have to shift their position at the dock so that the loading conveyors can dump into adjacent holds.  Thought the conveyor assemblies should move to the different holds.

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Posted by Backshop on Monday, January 22, 2024 4:47 PM

Balt--here's a few answers.  No, they don't load to the top of the holds. Many of the "footers" (thousand foot boats) also deliver coal to DTE's St Clair and Monroe power plants.  Service to St Clair will be ending quite soon as it shifts over to natural gas.  There are  two kinds of loaders.  The older ones have chutes.  Those require the boat to move while loading because the dock hoppers don't hold enough for today's bigger ships.  They were built in the days of 500-600ft boats.  The "shiploader" docks with a traveling conveyor belt normally doesn't require the boat to shift along the dock.

* all ships on the Great Lakes are referred to as "boats".

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, January 22, 2024 6:04 PM

The lake boats will load by weight - essentially by the Plimsol Line.  

They also have to consider where they are going and how they are getting there.  Many of the channels and ports are only maintained to a +/-30 foot depth, so there's that.

To go along with Balt's point on the loading of hoppers with ore.  For a long time the "taco train" (AKA "iron maiden") - loaded with taconite -  through Deshler ran with standard hoppers.  As Balt said, they were loaded over the trucks and oftimes you couldn't see the taconite even from the downward view of the cams.  They are now running ore jennies and those are loaded much higher.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, January 22, 2024 6:22 PM

Backshop
Balt--here's a few answers.  No, they don't load to the top of the holds. Many of the "footers" (thousand foot boats) also deliver coal to DTE's St Clair and Monroe power plants.  Service to St Clair will be ending quite soon as it shifts over to natural gas.  There are  two kinds of loaders.  The older ones have chutes.  Those require the boat to move while loading because the dock hoppers don't hold enough for today's bigger ships.  They were built in the days of 500-600ft boats.  The "shiploader" docks with a traveling conveyor belt normally doesn't require the boat to shift along the dock.

* all ships on the Great Lakes are referred to as "boats".

In dealing with the Curtis Bay Coal Pier, at the time I was involved, the dredged and maintained depth of the channels in Baltimore Harbor were 39 feet.  Vessels would come to Curtis Bay and generally take on 50K to 60K tons of coal and then sail down the Chesapeake Bay to Newport News where the maintained channel was 55 feet or more.  The vessels would load another 90K tons through the C&O's coal pier and then head across the ocean with about 150K tons or more.

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Posted by NKP guy on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 9:46 AM

tree68
The lake boats will load by weight - essentially by the Plimsol Line.   They also have to consider where they are going and how they are getting there.  Many of the channels and ports are only maintained to a +/-30 foot depth, so there's that.

When I was a lowly deckhand on the Str. Reiss Brothers in 1967, one of the Mates kept his eye on the Plimsol mark as the boat was nearing its fill.  One Mate, referring to the Plimsol mark, said to me, "See that line, kid?  That's as important to this boat as a couple of tools are on a wedding night."  He explained that the mark was there to make sure the boat wouldn't hit or scrape the bottom of the lock at Sault Ste. Marie; that was more important, apparently, than the depth at a dock.

I sure miss the old 600 footers.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 9:58 AM

Why don't they automate or mechanize the gate opening on each ore car?    Seems to me that paying someone to drive alongside the train in a go cart and flip open each gate on each car is potentially more expensive than having it automated via one control point.

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 10:25 AM

CMStPnP

Why don't they automate or mechanize the gate opening on each ore car?    Seems to me that paying someone to drive alongside the train in a go cart and flip open each gate on each car is potentially more expensive than having it automated via one control point.

The ore docks and cars predate such a capability.  Adding it to hundreds of cars would be prohibitively expensive.  The ROI probably isn't there.

As it is, I believe most of the ore docks have a certain storage capability, so a train of ore cars can dump and be gone, ship or no.  Some may also dump directly from the cars to the boats, but still through the chutes.

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 11:14 AM

The now-closed Erie Mining Co. / LTV Steel ore cars were automated in a way. Their ore dock was built parallel to the lake shore, and trains ran through it as part of a big reverse loop. The cars had rubber wheels on the side. If a rail was raised to contact the wheel, it opened the car's trap and allowed the taconite pellets to dump out. IIRC a wheel on the other side of the car could be actuated by a raised rail to close the door.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QdO6XBXjGY&t=293s

 

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Posted by ChuckCobleigh on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 11:19 AM

tree68
As it is, I believe most of the ore docks have a certain storage capability, so a train of ore cars can dump and be gone, ship or no.  Some may also dump directly from the cars to the boats, but still through the chutes.

Watching the action at the CN6 dock, trains dump with or without boats there. It could be that the taconite is sent over to the big pile on the northeast side of the dock or held in the dock for the next boat. Most of the times boats are loading, trains do not seem to be there, so either the taconite was at the dock or it is coming from the pile.

Oddly enough, I just checked one of the Duluth cams and an ore train has been sitting at the dock, stopped before going over the chutes, since about 2 this morning (it's 11 as I write) and has not shoved back onto the dock itself yet. The taconite pile seems about half its full size, to it will be interesting to see how much or if it grows during layup time. The interesting thing about the train there now is that there was no steam coming off the cars, as opposed to the more usual case when I have caught a train coming in.

EDIT: So I came back from lunch and on the rewind of the cam that shows CN6, the train that was on the dock lead since 2 this morning pulled out at about noon. Then 3 CN units show up at quarter to 4 with a string of steaming ore cars heading up the lead to the dock. At 4:15 pm it's still stopped short of the dock.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 11:43 AM

Notice that Taconite trains fresh from the loading plant 'steam' when the air is cold.  I feature somewhere in the Taconite manufacturing process water is involved.  If a Taconite train is left to sit for several day in below zero weather - do we end up with a Taconite ice cub block.  

Frozen coal is an issue at coal unloading locations in the winter time, I suspect frozen taconite would be an issue IF the lake boats operated during the Winter.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 12:56 PM

wjstix
The now-closed Erie Mining Co. / LTV Steel ore cars were automated in a way.

H-h-h-h-m-m-m-m, so if the railroad is owned by private concern outside of the railroad industry, then it spots areas where improvement can be made. Cool

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 1:52 PM

CMStPnP

 

 
wjstix
The now-closed Erie Mining Co. / LTV Steel ore cars were automated in a way.

 

H-h-h-h-m-m-m-m, so if the railroad is owned by private concern outside of the railroad industry, then it spots areas where improvement can be made. Cool

 

Remember that the cars in question were in captive service on a private intraplant railroad and that there was no other type of service on the road.  The same situation applies to the Pilbara ore haulers in Western Australia.

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Posted by Backshop on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 4:26 PM

CMStPnP

 

 
wjstix
The now-closed Erie Mining Co. / LTV Steel ore cars were automated in a way.

 

H-h-h-h-m-m-m-m, so if the railroad is owned by private concern outside of the railroad industry, then it spots areas where improvement can be made. Cool

 

Not really.  NSM is owned by Cleveland Cliffs and the DMIR was fully owned by US Steel for most of its existence and they both do things the old fashioned way, which works just fine. It only takes around 4 hours to load the boat and much of the reason for that is that it has to be loaded in a certain pattern to keep from overstressing the hull.

The Ore Docks In Marquette, Michigan | The Presque Isle Dock (travelmarquette.com)

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 5:00 PM

Backshop
It only takes around 4 hours to load the boat and much of the reason for that is that it has to be loaded in a certain pattern to keep from overstressing the hull.

There's at least one port that requires that the boat be taken out and turned around to complete the loading.

Here's a video of an ore boat being loaded at an old school ore dock.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLU3l0Fwcoo

Of note is that the boat in the video, the Lee A. Tregurtha, is a decorated World War II vet.  She has her awards displayed on the pilot house.

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Posted by Backshop on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 5:34 PM

tree68

There's at least one port that requires that the boat be taken out and turned around to complete the loading.

That is Marquette. It's really not a big concern because most of the production of the nearby Tilden Mine goes to the old Ford Rouge Steel plant, now Cleveland Cliffs.  Due to the twists and turns of the Rouge River, it is always delivered by one of four Interlake boats, the Lee Tregurtha, Hon James Oberstar, Kay Barker or Herbert C Jackson.  The only boats that require turning are the occasional "footers", due to their increased beam.  The loading chutes aren't long enough to reach the centerline of the hold.  Since they only visit a few times a year, it's not cost effective to retrofit longer chutes.

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Posted by JayBee on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 6:10 PM

BaltACD

I find it to be curious that the boats have to shift their position at the dock so that the loading conveyors can dump into adjacent holds.  Thought the conveyor assemblies should move to the different holds.

 
The reason that the boats have to shift to load at adjacent hatches, not holds, is that the boat's hatches are 48' on center, while the chutes on the Ore Docks are 24' on center. So first they empty every other chute and pocket, then move the boat exactly 24' to line the boat's hatches with the other set of chutes. This all goes back to the raw ore shipping days were the ore cars unloading hatches were 24' apart with the train coupled. Now the docks have storage pocket between the bottom of track level and the beginning of the chute. But the pockets quickly became too small so loaded ore cars were positioned on the two tracks over the pockets that were going to be used to load the boat.
 
The reason that the boats don't have their hatches on 24' centers is that this would result in an excessive number of hatches, all of which have to be sealed watertight. This takes time for the cranes to move the hatches, crewmembers to secure the clamps around the perimiter of the hatch, and of course maintenance costs. It is just easier to shift the boat. 
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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 6:15 PM

JayBee
...secure the clamps around the perimeter of the hatch...

This is one of the theories behind the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald - that the hatches may not have been properly dogged.  

Of course, it's all speculation at this point.

 

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Posted by dpeltier on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 6:30 PM

BaltACD

Notice that Taconite trains fresh from the loading plant 'steam' when the air is cold.  I feature somewhere in the Taconite manufacturing process water is involved.  If a Taconite train is left to sit for several day in below zero weather - do we end up with a Taconite ice cub block.  

Yes, absolutely. Just like a ballast train. I don't know whether it has anything to do with the manufacturing process. At the BNSF Allouez facility (Superior, WI) they have various kinds of heaters installed at the car dumper, but even then, it's important to get the train dumped in a timely manner. I don't know as much about how the CN does things over in Duluth.

Frozen coal is an issue at coal unloading locations in the winter time, I suspect frozen taconite would be an issue IF the lake boats operated during the Winter.

The trains don't necessarily stop during the winter - although they might slow down, or be paused for critical maintenance at the unload site. But mostly the ground stacks just get bigger over the winter.

Dan

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Posted by JayBee on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 6:53 PM

CMStPnP

H-h-h-h-m-m-m-m, so if the railroad is owned by private concern outside of the railroad industry, then it spots areas where improvement can be made. Cool

 
That would be the Erie Mining Co. dock at Taconite Harbor, MN. The mine, dock, and railroad are now closed. The newest dock in Two Harbors, MN was built in 1916, while the newest dock in Duluth was built in 1918, the dock at Taconite Harbor was built in 1954, there were a lot of changes in technology in that time. The BNSF dock in Superior, WI unloads the ore cars at ground level using conveyor belts to move the ore up onto the dock and into the storage pockets.
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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 7:45 PM

JayBee
...
The reason that the boats don't have their hatches on 24' centers is that this would result in an excessive number of hatches, all of which have to be sealed watertight. This takes time for the cranes to move the hatches, crewmembers to secure the clamps around the perimiter of the hatch, and of course maintenance costs. It is just easier to shift the boat. 

One of the theories on the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald was the one or more hatches lost their water tight integrity and took on water in the gale.  There are multiple other theories.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 10:36 PM

BaltACD
Notice that Taconite trains fresh from the loading plant 'steam' when the air is cold.  I feature somewhere in the Taconite manufacturing process water is involved.

Iron ore is ground finer than talcum powder in ball mills, than introduced into flotation tanks where soap-like polar solution is bubbled up, which captures the metal and floats over the tank side.  The concentrate is mixed with clay and lime binder in a 2000 degree kiln to form the taconite pellets.

BaltACD
If a Taconite train is left to sit for several day in below zero weather - do we end up with a Taconite ice cub block.  

Some ore yards near docks have long infrared heated sheds to defrost strings of ore cars.  In the old days, steam would be introduced into the cars.

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Posted by JayBee on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 12:54 AM

MidlandMike

Iron ore is ground finer than talcum powder in ball mills, than introduced into flotation tanks where soap-like polar solution is bubbled up, which captures the metal and floats over the tank side.  The concentrate is mixed with clay and lime binder in a 2000 degree kiln to form the taconite pellets.  

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Posted by Backshop on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 7:05 AM

Although taconite can freeze in the cold, because of its round shape, it's nowhere near as bad as the old natural ore.

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 8:41 AM

[quote user="tree68"]

The lake boats will load by weight - essentially by the Plimsol Line.  

[\quote]

Somewhat true. Loading of vessel has to take into consideration, weather, water temperature, tide, and salinity which both effect draft. This can cause changes in, freeboard, airdraft and draft of a vessel as well. Which need to be considered when loading a vessel.

Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 9:57 AM

The largest Mesabi range iron ore / taconite operations like DMIR/CN and GN/BN/BNSF found it easier to create conveyor systems so the taconite pellets would be unloaded 'on shore' and stockpiled there. The pellets could then be sent through the conveyor onto the ore dock and put into whatever pocket was desired for loading into the ore boats. That also had the advantage of allowing the ore trains to operate as true unit trains; the trains didn't have to be broken down into separate shoves of ore cars up onto the dock and back.

https://cdn.forumcomm.com/dims4/default/ed50859/2147483647/strip/true/crop/3524x2316+0+0/resize/1622x1066!/quality/90/?url=https%3A%2F%2Ffcc-cue-exports-brightspot.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com%2Ffccnn%2Fbinary%2F0bplup85pwxrwdbxzwd4ntnms3c_binary_796472.jpg

 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 4:26 PM

wjstix
The largest Mesabi range iron ore / taconite operations like DMIR/CN and GN/BN/BNSF found it easier to create conveyor systems so the taconite pellets would be unloaded 'on shore' and stockpiled there. The pellets could then be sent through the conveyor onto the ore dock and put into whatever pocket was desired for loading into the ore boats. That also had the advantage of allowing the ore trains to operate as true unit trains; the trains didn't have to be broken down into separate shoves of ore cars up onto the dock and back.

Thats interesting.   That is more efficient and gets rid of the guy on the golf cart at least.   But that has to take up a lot of land plus the issue with runoff from the piles.

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