Mmories from Tom Sharland

LS&I Railroad information - Tom Sharland

A few things I can jot down while they are still relatively fresh in my mind. As to the rail cars used for iron ore, I remember several types: First, the 9000-9300 series we called "Standards," used primarily for hauling pellets early on. These cars were manufactured around 1905 - 1910 or so, and were 50-ton capacity units that did not lend themselves well to long trains where slack in the couplings moved in and out during braking and acceleration. The draw-bars were smaller than those in later-built cars and would frequently break - either the knuckle, or the draw-bar would pull out entirely. This was referred to in the trade as "getting a lung" or "getting jewelry," or simply, "pulling a draw bar." They were phased out as pellet loads needed to be moved more efficiently and in larger cars. As new stock was purchased, the 9000-series were sold for scrap (probably in the mid - late 1960's).

Second-oldest were the "Clarks," built in the 1910's, and used mainly for crude ore hauling from the mines to the Marquette dock, and later, after pellet plants opened on the Marquette Range, for hauling crude ore from (usually) the Mather B, Bunker Hill and Tracy Mines to the Eagle Mills Ore Improvement Plant or to the Eagle Mills Pellet plant for processing into pellets. I believe the Eagle Mills pellet plant was the first one in operation on the range, around 1960 or slightly earlier; the Ore Imrovement Plant - a very dusty, muddy place to work, opened around 1956 or '57 and refined the often-times rocky crude ore by means of crushers and separators into a finer series of "Groups" for shipment to steel mills. The Clarks, like the older Standards, eventually gave way to newer cars, both for their increased tonnage capacity and simple wearing out. The Clarks were numbered generally, as I recall, in 3-number series, with a few later on showing up with four numbers, probably in the area of "1100" or so. It was common to have to fill the bottoms of these older cars with hay before filling with the refined, non-lumpy ore to avoid leakage on the way to the dock in Marquette.

Newer (built during the 1930's) were the "Balloons," heavier-constructed hoppers with more advanced dumping systems, more durable, heavier-gauge steel, and, for brakemen most important, an improved handbrake - the Ajax, supplanting the old "stemwinder" we disliked, with a wheel at the top of a long vertical rod that used a chain to pull the brake mechanism. Often we needed a brake bar or other wooden bar to effectively apply the brakes on the Clarks and Standards, but the Ajax was a more efficient, easier-to-apply wheel mounted on a horizontal plane with self-adjusting pawl on the ratchet and a small handle that allowed realease without using one's feet to kick the manual pawl out while standing on an often-slippery, narrow plank.

Later models of more high-capacity cars came during the - I'm thinking 1950's to 1960's - they were called "Jumbos," and could hold about 10-20 tons more than the earlier Standards and Balloons, in terms of pellet loads. Their numbers were of the 7000-7400 series. Later in the '60's, "high tops" were added, welded onto the tops of these Jumbos to increase load capacity. They could now hold 70 tons each. Toward the late '60's, two entirely new types appeared: first, the "Big Reds," which were taller and slightly wider than previous models, numbered in the 8500 area, and had a sliding dump mechanism, rather than the double-door method. Second were the black high-top Jumbos, entirely new, with a high top as an integral part of the car rather than bolted or welded on in the case of the additions made to the older Jumbos. If memory serves me correctly, the car numbers in this series were around 7500 and up.

Several hundred iron ore cars were purchased from the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railroad (DMIR) in the mid-'60's chiefly for the movement of crude ore from the local iron mines to the Cleveland-Cliffs Ore Improvement Plant at Eagle Mills. These cars were probably of a 70-ton capacity also, but were of a wider design that didn't lend itself well to pellet loads to the Marquette Ore Dock, which was limited by track and space widths. They worked well for the shorter haulage from the Mather "B" and Tracy Mines in this area.

When I started work on the LS&I in July 1962, most of the old steam engines had been retired; most either sold for scrap, moved to the Marquette & Huron Mountain Railroad (tourist trips to Big Bay), or stood on a siding in West Yard in Marquette awaiting their fate. Occasionally one of the old steam tenders was used as a source of hot water for steam-cleaning the pockets on the ore dock. Many - if not all of the older diesel locomotives were still around: the 1001, 1002 and 1003, used mostly for yard work in Marquette where reduced loads were the norm. Slightly larger were the 1500's and 1600's; I recall the 1501, 1502, 1503, 1504 (later re-numbered 1604, probably after being re-engined), the 1605, 1606, 1607, 1608, 1609. A bit later a 1610 and 1611 were added. Most retained the original yellow & red paint, but some - generally after extensive work - were repainted, usually in a dark red or maroon. The 1800 series were larger yet (numbering system generally referring to the horsepower rating of the diesel engines). Some people think that all the 1800 / larger engines were manufactured with the chopped nose. This is incorrect; the 1801 was the first to receive this radical treatment, perhaps to enable the engineer to better see the road ahead. When it first came out of the shop with its high front end cut down and looking like a bus and repainted in yellow, it was humorously called the "school bus." Other 1800's retained their high front nose through the time I remained there until the end of May 1970: they were the 1802, 1803 and 1804. Larger units - the yellow-painted 2500 and 2501- were purchased new around 1966, and were used mainly for "extra" trains, hauling empty ore drags from Marquette to Eagle Mills, and loaded cars back to the ore yard below the dock. A short time later, two new engines appeared - the 2300 and 2301; of a size with the 2500's, but in what was to become the new maroon paint scheme. More later.

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