Posts Tagged ‘Iron ore trains’

January Treat in Conneaut

January 23, 2018

A southbound taconite pellets train slowly makes it way out of Conneaut. The view is from the U.S. 20 bridge over the valley of Conneaut Creek.

I’ve photographed the former Bessemer & Lake Erie in Conneaut in every season except winter. Now I can cross that off my to do list.

On a cold but mostly sunny mid-January day, fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I trekked to Conneaut with little time to spare to catch a southbound Canadian National train finishing its work in the yard and heading out of town.

I was driving and Peter was monitoring my scanner as we neared Conneaut on Interstate 90. He reported hearing a lot of chatter on the B&LE radio frequency.

That was good news because it meant the crew was either disassembling or assembling its train.

It turned out to be the latter. As we arrived at the CN grade crossing on Old Main Street, the train was coming out of the yard in its final move before stopping to wait for the conductor.

Peter jumped out and bolted for the bridge over Conneaut Creek, having in mind getting an image of the train along the ice-covered river.

I wanted to get that, too, but couldn’t get into position as fast as he could because I had to park and then gather up my camera.

I also wasted time getting an image from the west side of the tracks of the train coming out of the yard. By the time I got onto the bridge, the lead unit was past the open area and obscured by brush.

I was hoping that the crew had more work to do that would require a back-up move and I’d have a second chance at the shot I had missed.

But they were done with working in the yard. We made some images of the train sitting there and the engineer got out to fix something on the third unit as we waited to see what was next.

Down Main Street came a CN block truck and it was time to get into position for our next series of images.

Those would come from atop the U.S. 20 bridge and we got into position there just as the train began moving.

The ditch lights of the lead unit were already flashing as we scrambled into position. Days of snow plowing had left heavy snow on the bridge’s sidewalks. Even with boots on, walking through that snow and slush was like walking through heavy sand.

This vantage point yielded my favorite image of the series. Illinois Central SD70 No. 1038 is about to pass into the shadow of the bridge as the train slowly ambles into the horseshoe-shaped curve it goes around leaving town while grinding upgrade.

Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, my second favorite image was made from the other side of the bridge. It is not often that a going-away shot captures my imagination as this one did.

I’ve photographed trains from this vantage point before, but not during winter. The snow makes the bare trees and hillsides come alive in a way they don’t during the other seasons.

There is a sense of the train going somewhere as it motors its way through a river valley, even if it is a modest one.

The remainder of my images are pleasant winter photographs. IC black contrasts well with that white snow. Of course, so does CN red and, no doubt, would Bessemer orange.

This was my second favorite image of the CN train leaving Conneaut.

I missed the along the river image I wanted to get because I stopped to make this image. Maybe there will be another opportunity later this winter to get the one that got away.

CN to Close Escanaba Iron Ore Docks

March 22, 2017

The Escanaba, Michigan, iron ore docks will close at the end of April, Canadian National has announced.

It will mark the end of 165 years of ore shipping from the Michigan Upper Peninsula port on Lake Michigan.

Shipments from Escanaba had been slowing since Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources closed its Empire Mine 65 miles north of Escanaba in August 2016.

The Lake Carriers Association said that about 3.5 million tons of ore was shipped from Escanaba in 2015, but CN said no iron ore has moved to the docks since October 2016.

CN said it will keep open its Escanaba yard to serve local rail customers.

Escanaba had been the only iron ore port on Lake Michigan that in recent years has moved raw materials to industries in Chicago, Indiana and other points in the Midwest.

Indiana Iron Ore Pellet Plant to Close

October 18, 2016

A Minnesota Company that had shipped iron ore by rail to a plant in Indiana has closed as part of a bankruptcy settlement.

IndianaMagnetation had a facility in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, that extracted iron ore concentrate from old mine waste sites in Minnesota’s Mesabi Range.

The ore was transported by rail to a pellet plant that Magnetation built in 2014 in Reynolds, Indiana.

Iron ore pellets were made in Reynolds for AK Steel facilities in Ohio and Kentucky. CSX moved the ore to Reynolds and transported the pellets to the AK Steel plants. BNSF had handled the ore between Minnesota and Chicago.

The Indiana plant will close on Oct. 25, putting 160 employees out of work.

The last train was loaded in Minnesota on Oct. 4. Officials blamed the company’s demise on a downturn in the domestic steel industry, saying that iron ore prices have crashed.

Magnetation had sought bankruptcy protection in May 2015, listing more than $1 billion in debt and assets worth less than half that.

The company said it will preserve its Indiana facility  to protect its value for a potential buyer although no would-be buyers have yet approached Magnetation.

Cliffs to Reopen Minnesota Iron Ore Facilities

March 17, 2016

Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources said it will resume by May 15 the production of iron ore pellets at its NorthShore Mining operation in Minnesota.

CliffsTaconite is mined near Babbitt, Minnesota, and taken by rail on the former Reserve Mining railroad to a Cliffs processing plant at Silver Bay.

The iron ore pellet plant, which employs 540, had been closed last November.

The 47-mile railroad serving the mines and production plant will lease two CIT SD9043MACs to pull 156-car raw ore trains.

Cliffs also owns the Hibbing Taconite mine in Minnesota and the Tilden and Empire mines in Michigan. Its United Taconite Plant in Forbes, Minnesota, remains idle.

Michigan Iron Ore Mine About Played Out

February 2, 2016

An iron ore mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is at the end of its useful life and is expected to close.

Cliff Natural Resources said the Empire Mine, which is served by Canadian National and the Lake Superior & Ishpeming, will close within months if not years.

CliffsCliffs will then move that production to United Taconite. “End of life at Empire is a reality,” said Cliffs Chairman, President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves.

Once the Empire Mine is closed Cliffs will move that production to United Taconite.  “We are going to replace the Viceroy pellet at Empire with the new Mustang pellet at United; that will happen this year,” Goncalves said.

After the Empire closes, there will be one taconite plant left operating in Michigan’s UP, which is the LS&L-served Tilden Mine.

The Cleveland-based Cliffs also indicated that two of its taconite facilities on Minnesota’s Iron Range may reopen this year.

The mines, which closed in 2015, are United Taconite in Eveleth and Forbes, and the NorthShore Mining plant at Silver Bay and mine at Babbitt.

Cliffs expects to sell 17.5 million tons of taconite iron ore pellets this year, up from 17.3 million tons in 2015.

Ore Train Derails on ex-B&LE in Pennsylvania

February 27, 2015

No injuries were reported after a Canadian National iron ore train derailed on Wednesday night on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie mainline in Butler County, Pa.

The derailment of 27 of the train’s 71 cars occurred about 9:30 p.m. south of State Route 308.

An online report said the derailment occurred just north of the Oneida interlocking.

B&LE 907, CN 5336 and B&LE 905 along with about 10 cars were sitting near the Oneida Road, the report said.

The train had originated in Conneaut, Ohio, and the ore was bound for a Pittsburgh area steel mill.

Workers were cleaning up the derailment site on Thursday. Steve Bicehouse, Butler County’s emergency services director, said there was no fire and no hazardous materials were spilled.

The accident occurred in a wooded area. Highway traffic was not disrupted.

CN spokesman Patrick Waldron told local media that he did not know what caused the derailment. CN acquired the B&LE in 2004.



1st Iron Ore Train on Way to New Indiana Plant

June 20, 2014

The first load of iron ore concentrate bound for a new Indiana processing plant has been loaded and is on its way to the Hoosier State.

Magnetation Inc., founded in 2006, uses new technology to extract iron ore concentrate from old mine waste sites on the western Mesabi Iron Range. The concentrate is trucked to a loading facility near Grand Rapids, Minn. The loading facility, run by BNSF, uses front-end loaders.

Construction of the processing plant at Reynolds, Ind., on a CSX route (former Monon) began in 2012. After processing, the iron ore is shipped to AK Steel plants in Ashland, Ky., and Middletown, Ohio.

The first 120-car train for Reynolds departed the Jessie Load-Out on Wednesday with a traditional pine tree in the first car to celebrate shipment to a new plant.

Magnetation is leasing 220 new open top hoppers, MGPX 101 to MGPX 220, from Caterpillar Financial Leases Corp.