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Ore Train to Lake Ship

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 4:27 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  scenario.   But that has to take up a lot of land plus the issue with runoff from the piles?

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 4:31 PM

If you go to Google Maps and search for "BNSF Allouez Taconite Facility", you'll see there isn't much of anything around it. BNSF has owned the land around there since the 1800s.

Runoff could be an issue, but pollution at the taconite producing plants is a much bigger environmental issue.

Stix
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Posted by JayBee on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 6:25 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.

 

That photo shows them stacking ore on the ground which they do while the shipping season is closed for the winter. As I said in a previous post BNSF does unload their ore cars on ground level. Then converyor belts take the ore either to silos or during winter to ground storage.

This photo shows how CN does it at Duluth Dock #6 the only active dock in Duluth even though Dock #5 is still standing just to the southwest.

CN loading a boat at Dock#6

You can see the ground storage to the left. There are two separate piles because they store different grades of pellets.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 7:36 PM

JayBee

 

 
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.  

 

 

Your reply jogged my memory of touring the Empire Mine (Michigan) 50+ years ago about the magnetic separators, but I also remember the flotation tanks.  Cliffs' website confirms they are still using flotation at the adjacent Tilden Mine.

https://www.clevelandcliffs.com/operations/steelmaking/iron-ore-facilities

 

 

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Posted by Backshop on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 7:52 PM

The Empire was shut down several years ago.  The Tilden is the last iron mine on the Marquette Range.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 7:52 PM

Another type of ore loading operation used to happen at the C&NW ore dock in Escanaba, Michigan (it clossed in 2017 when the second to the last mine left in the Upper Peninsula closed).  Their last timber ore dock apparently needed replacing, and a new low profile design was used.  Ore is unloaded landside into storage piles.  Them a reclaimer puts it on conveyor belts to a low pier to a tower that raises it to ship level.  Short YouTube video:

https://www.google.com/search?q=escanaba+ore+dock&oq=escanaba+ore&gs_lcrp=EgZjaHJvbWUqBwgAEAAYgAQyBwgAEAAYgAQyBggBEEUYOTIHCAIQABiABDIICAMQABgWGB4yCAgEEAAYFhgeMgoIBRAAGAoYFhge0gEJMTM1NDRqMGo3qAIAsAIA&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:0e0daa0c,vid:cGIM2tccjpM,st:0

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 9:40 PM

Another variation is the Northshore Mining (ex-Reserve Mining) railroad operation in Minnesota. Most iron mining companies locate their taconite mills in the iron ranges, and then haul the pellets to the lake ports.  Northshore hauls the raw ore 40+ miles to their taconite mill along the lakeshore in heavy duty gondolas and empties them with rotary dumper two cars at a time.  After processing at the mill, the pellets are loaded directly to the boats without need for the typical pocket ore dock.  The line was featured in a Trains article in the 1960s.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Silver+Bay,+MN+55614/@47.2858488,-91.2700636,1809m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m6!3m5!1s0x52a8ad7b84aacb8d:0xbf43b29014d8efd!8m2!3d47.2943647!4d-91.257386!16zL20vMHc0aGM?authuser=0&entry=ttu

 

One of the problems with this setup, is that the ore tailings were getting into Lake Superior, containing things like asbestos.  They now backhaul tailings a few miles to an inland tailings pond.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, January 26, 2024 10:17 PM

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

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Posted by ChuckCobleigh on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 1:17 PM

dpeltier
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.

I've been saving some screen grabs from the Duluth Western Habor cam that looks down on the CN6 dock, and the taconite pile to the north-east of the dock is growing dramatically. There will be plenty of taconite ready when the locks open in March.

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, March 4, 2024 8:15 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.

 

 
Just to clarify, ore cars are made to have their hopper doors opened manually, using a very large heavy wrench. However, over time, the mechanism could get stiff and make it very difficult to open. The "go cart" / "golf cart" (which is actually about twice as big as a real golf cart uses an electric motor (older ones used gas engines) to open the car doors much quicker and easier than the dockworkers could by hand. 
 
Given that an ore dock is around a half-mile long, with hundreds of ore pockets where the ore cars dump, setting up some system to automatically open the doors of each car would be pretty difficult. Having a couple of mechanized devices that can be quickly moved around to open and close the hopper doors really is much more efficient. 
Stix
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Posted by Backshop on Monday, March 4, 2024 8:54 AM

Also, most ore cars are very old (too old for interchange) and it wouldn't be cost-effective to retrofit them.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, March 4, 2024 6:47 PM

Also the dockworkers are needed to lower the ore shutes and open the pockets, and scores of them must be raised and lowered, as the boat moves back and forth, and the load must be balanced.  It can be quite choreographed.

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