Smelters for off-line ores

Discussion in 'Freight Operations' started by WindsorSpring, Jul 10, 2009.

  1. tferk

    tferk Member Supporter

    I know this thread is a year old, but I wanted to correct some information in it for purposes of historical and technical accuracy. I was employed by the US Bureau of Mines in Rolla and had the fortune of visiting some of the mines, mills and smelters in the Missouri Lead Belt. I also worked for Noranda in New Madrid.

    First, while the Noranda Aluminum smelter is located very near the Frisco (directly east of the station of "Marston"), it is actually served by the UP (ex-SSW) off what is left of their Malden-New Madrid branch. When the City of New Madrid developed the New Madrid Industrial Park in 1969, Cotton Belt built a spur south from their branch into the park.

    Next, I do not know what specifically the pinkish rock is loaded in those gondolas (photos above), but it is definitely not lead ore. Lead ore (galena) is very grey, as is the lead concentrate. I am not aware of anyone ever attempting to ship unconcentrated lead ore out of the New Lead Belt. Shipping ore is a very expensive proposition, since the actual metal content is very low and you are paying to ship the waste rock portion also. That is why mills/concentrators were located near the mines on the Lead Line. The mills processed the ore into concentrate which was then shipped out via Frisco to be smelted into metal. Because the New Lead Belt ores also contained zinc and copper, Frisco trains hauled three types of concentrates: lead, copper and zinc. Concentrates are so heavy that you would not see the load above the car side.

    Regarding the smelter located at Boss on the Lead Line, it was indeed active during Frisco times, as it was owned by AMAX-Homestake and not St Joe Lead. There were several firms operating mines and mills along the Lead Line, so here is capsule history.

    St Joe Lead (later Doe Run) had several mines and mills, shipping lead concentrate via Frisco-MP to their smelter at Herculaneum. The St Joe mines near Viburnum (#27, #28, #29) fed the Viburnum mill, served directly by Frisco. Mine #28 was on the same site as the mill. St Joe's Brushy Creek and Fletcher mines each had their own mills, trucking their concentrate to the end of the Frisco branch at Buick where it was transloaded to railcars. All St Joe mills produced 3 separate concentrates: lead (shipped to Herculaneum), zinc (shipped to domestic zinc smelters) and copper (to domestic smelters or exported.)

    The Buick mine/mill and Buick smelter were a joint venture between AMAX and Homestake, and were located near the small burg of Boss, MO. The Buick mill produced only two concentrates: lead-copper and zinc. The lead-copper concentrate was smelted at their Buick smelter, the zinc concentrate was shipped by rail to the AMAX smelter at Sauget, IL. A by-product of the Buick smelter was sulfuric acid, also shipped out by rail. In 1986, Homestake bought out AMAX’s interest in the Buick operations, then Homestake and St Joe merged to form Doe Run. The Buick smelter operated as a primary lead smelter until put on standby in 1986, then in 1991 Doe Run converted it to a secondary lead smelter to recycle lead scrap and lead waste (mostly car batteries.)

    The Magmont mine/mill was a joint venture between Cominco American and Dresser Industries. It also produced three types of concentrate. Lead concentrate was trucked over to the adjacent AMAX-Homestake Buick smelter. Zinc concentrate was sent by rail to the AMAX zinc smelter at Sauget, IL. Copper concentrate was shipped out by rail to either domestic smelters or for export.

    So, during the Frisco era of the Lead Line, outbound local 5131 from Buick to Cuba, and local 5110 from Cuba to Lindenwood, could be found to be hauling:
    --St Joe lead concentrate (gons) for interchange to MP at Crystal City for the Herculaneum smelter
    --Refined lead (boxcars), copper matte (gondolas) and sulfuric acid (tank cars) from the Buick smelter
    --Copper concentrate (gons) from St Joe and Magmont for various destinations
    --Zinc concentrate (gons) from St Joe, Magmont and AMAX for various destinations

    As an aside, silver was contained in these concentrates, and was removed at the smelters. So, yes, in a way Frisco did move some silver.

    Ted Ferkenhoff
    Flagstaff, AZ
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  2. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Ted, superb information! Very thorough and good for the Frisco historian or modeler to know. Thanks very much for contributing to the thread,
  3. JohnFoster

    JohnFoster Member

    I recall see the gon with a grayish /white 10 to 12 in deep in each of car of gon. The gon sometimes leak outcontents of car to the ground. We would walk across the tracks at work and see small piles gray/ white laying on ground. One time it was so intersting see the small piles sample was taken. Asked a fellow employ what he though it was (lead) now I know the rest of the story.
  4. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter

    Good stuff, Ted.

    My mineralogy professor, Crazy Irwin, the Mad Mineralogist, Mantei did some consulting work for St Joe Lead, and we got to make a couple of trips underground with him and the St Joe geologist. He told us that the Old Lead Belt lead ore contained more silver than the New Lead Belt ore. He claimed that he could look at a galena (PbS) cube and tell from which Belt the ore came. Silver is almost always present in Galena, the silver atoms will also bond with the sulfur atoms. Since the silver atom is smaller than the lead atom, the mineral cubes with high silver content will have slightly concave crystal faces.
    Unfortunately, our mine trips didn’t include observing any of the post-mining processing or observing the Frisco.
    Attached is a cross section and index map that from my class notes that depicts the geologic setting of the New Lead Belt. The mineralization occurs primarily in the reefs (dark blue) in the cross section) which formed around the igneous islands in the Cambrian sea. The reefs are very porous and vuggy which allowed for relatively high concentrations of lead.
    Also shown is a sample taken during one of our trips. The galena cubes can be seen on the marcasite, FeS2 Marcasite is a dimorphous form of pyrite, also FeS2.

    Attached Files:

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  5. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    Tferk mentioned: "Next, I do not know what specifically the pinkish rock is loaded in those gondolas (photos above), but it is definitely not lead ore. Lead ore (galena) is very grey, as is the lead concentrate."

    This made me review the original collection of pictures. There definitely is a pinkish cast to the rock pile in the second gondola (TILX 3197) in the first picture. The sky was cloudy, so that may account for shifting the color. The lighting for this picture makes the ballast a bit more blue and pink than it shows in the other two posted photos. There definitely is some pink granite in the ballast. The gondola loads in the other postings, taken on a separate day are light gray in color, though not as dark as Karl's galena specimen.

    The added information about the mines, smelters and movements was very helpful. I knew sulfuric acid production occurred in Sauget, but did not know the origin of the ores. Also, someone modeling the train can include a tank car placarded UN 1830 for the sulfuric acid.

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  6. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    Ah Karl! I love it! Thanks - always good to know the technical view of what we see on the rails.

    I never went down a lead mine, but have gone down both coal and trona (soda ash) mines in Wyoming. Different world down there - I prefer the surface!

    As George suggests - sulfuric acid (H2SO4) has a role to play in many metal ore processing operations, as a co-product or as a raw material. But - the stuff is very heavy, about 1.8 times the density of water. Don't placard a tank car larger than 8000 gal with UN 1830 designations!

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2011
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  7. Seems when I was studing some Sanborn maps of Fort Smith, Arkansas, I noticed that a zinc smelter was located on the south side of town sometime between 1890 and 1920. In addition, there was also an oil refinery located in the same area about the same time.
  8. tomd6

    tomd6 Passed Away February 11, 2018

    The Fort Smith zinc smelter was called Athletic Mining and Smelting. It was located near today's Fort Smith Airport and was still listed in a circa 1937 Frisco Shippers guide that indicated there was more than one smelter in Fort Smith. The city had the benefit of both adjacent coal and gas fields that were useful for smelter operations.
  9. rjthomas909

    rjthomas909 Member Supporter


    Giving this thread a bump with John's notes from earlier (2009?). I am interested in traffic of Zinc ores to the smelters in SE Kansas in the 1900-1920s timeframe. While I can find several Sanborn maps with the smelters, (example for Cherryvale below, one of the largest), I have not been able to find information on traffic flow or types of cars used (wood gondolas? specialty cars?) and how processed product was shipped out. It seems that the Zinc was being brought to the coal and gas regions for fueling the smelters in Pittsburg, Weir, Cherryvale, etc. areas.

    Example of Cherryvale KS Zinc Smelter (on the Frisco) and history (a good read) with maps are attached.

    If you have knowledge or photos, I would greatly appreciate them, and would gladly give credit. I am hoping to make this a future clinic topic for modeling purposes.


    -Bob T.

    Attached Files:

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