Fredonia, KS Cement Plant Closing

Discussion in 'General' started by mvtelegrapher, Oct 20, 2011.

  1. mvtelegrapher

    mvtelegrapher Member

    Lafarge cement has announced that they will be closing their cement plant in Fredonia, Kansas by March of 2012. This plant has been in operation since 1907 and is located on the former Frisco Wichita Sub. and created a lot of traffic for the Frisco then the BN and now the South Kansas & Oklahoma who currently own this line.

    John Chambers
  2. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter

    Well, as of the fall of 1980, my beloved Frisco became history and now 32 years later the major industry on the portion of the RR that I’m modeling is also following suit. Both Tony LaLumia (Friscotony) and I model this portion of the Wichita Sub but in different eras, Tony in the '50's and myself in 1980. Both of us are including the plant on our RR’s. Tony supplied me with photos that he acquired on a visit to the plant several years ago which I used as a basis for constructing the track layout using the wonderful Walther’s Cornerstone Valley Cement as the model for the plant itself.

    Having said that, I did wonder how I would work the plant switching into my operating scheme. Then about 3 months ago while researching another project I was given the name of the Engineer who actually ran that job in its final days. He also said he convinced the BN to keep it intact because of its viability. Little did I know how important the job that he referred to as the “Fredonia Switcher” would be to my plans and how close I had come in laying out the track plan.

    According to him, the “Fredonia Switcher” in the 1980 era would leave Neodesha which was the nearest division point about 12 mile east of the plant in the morning with a Geep, 40 cars, and a caboose. Upon arriving at the plant there were 2 tracks on the west side of the main. Waiting were 2 plant employees whose job was to bang on the side of the hoppers thus cleaning out old cement residue. After picking up cleaned cars and dropping off more, the next move was to exchange them with filled ones at the plant which was on the east side of the main. The train then proceeded across Fredonia to an area where there was a spur on the far west side of town (the plant was on the east side) where 4 Frisco gondolas (he said 53’ ones) were being loaded with high quality clay topsoil that was used in the process of making cement. These cars were shuffled back and forth between the pit and the plant in a cyclic basis as many as 4 times a day. He said that they also did the interchange switching of cars destined for the plant from the Missouri Pacific and Santa Fe. There were also other industries to switch including Co-Op’s and a large soybean processing plant. Knowing the whole area I asked him where they put all of the cars and he said they had them “strung all over town”. At the end of the day the train went back to Fredonia. All of this means that in the final years this plant didn’t have its own dedicated switcher and contracted the work with the Frisco. One interesting side note that he also shared with me was that the plant purchased junk oil from a refinery in California to use to power the kilns so tank cars will also be justified. He said that the oil was basically given to them and all they had to do was pay transportation costs.

    At the entrance to the plant are a neat little 0-4-0 tank switcher and 2 side dump cars that were evidently used in the early years. I hope that John can possibly start an effort on behalf of the Heartlands group in Carona to get these preserved and relocated there if the city of Fredonia doesn’t want them for their park.
  3. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Wow... when is this going to stop? (Can it be stopped??)

    Everywhere you look there's established plants/mfg'ers closing their doors for good. Fort Smith just received word that another company is closing, 93 jobs gone... and Whirlpool is meeting behind closed doors with the city officials... most everyone agrees they're leaving town next year and this meeting will confirm it.

    These are terrible economic times.

  4. mvtelegrapher

    mvtelegrapher Member

    A total of 73 jobs will be lost in Fredonia when the plant closes. Most of these employees have worked here all of their lives. Lafarge has two cement plants nearby, one in Tulsa and the other in the Kansas City area where these employees can transfer too. I wonder how many will retire early since moving from a town of around 5,000 to Tulsa or KC would be hard for many of them. There is another facility across the tracks to the south called Systech which is wholly owned by Lafarge. Systech receives carloads of chemical waste and that is what they burn in the cement kilns. Haven't heard yet whether they are going to close it as well.

    John Chambers
  5. tferk

    tferk Member Supporter

    Missouri Pacific ran a Fredonia Traveling Switch Engine from Neodesha to Fredonia and back. I believe the cement plant figured heavily in the Mopac traffic, but it would mean either Mopac was allowed to serve the plant directly, or the Frisco-MP interchange took place at Fredonia vs. Neodesha. Anyone know how the Mopac side worked?

    Ted Ferkenhoff
  6. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Is/was this a "portland cement" plant where they would have shipped products in covered hoppers or in bags via boxcar? Trying to determine how it would have fit into my Northern Division operating scheme c. 1943.

    Bob, the operational detail you describe is fascinating, not only just from a history standpoint, but also from a model railroader's operational standpoint. Thanks for sharing!

    Best Regards,
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2011
  7. mvtelegrapher

    mvtelegrapher Member

    It was Portland Cement and in 1943 would have been mostly shipped in boxcars but it transitioned into covered hoppers as they became the main means of transporting cement. As far as the Mopac is concerned, depending upon what time frame you are looking at the local originated at either Coffeyville or Durand and ran down the Mop main line to the Fredonia branch that started at Roper or after it was torn up they used the Santa Fe from Benedict to access Fredonia. I will have to look again at the Frisco track plans we have here at work but at one time either the Mop or the Santa Fe had their own spur that ran parallel to the Frisco out to the plant. After that was torn up I have some early Mop Santa Fe and Frisco Employee timetables that show that all three roads ran over each others track in Fredonia to serve the cement plant as well as the ADM soybean mill. Towards the end I believe each road had to interchange their cars to the Frisco who would actually spot and pull the cement plant. Fredonia is a very interesting town and would make a good study on railroad operations and track layouts over the years.

    John Chambers
  8. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter

    It is both mine and Tony's uinderstanding that this plant only shipped bulk cement, not bagged.
  9. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter

    Ted and All:

    From the time period that I can remember starting in the late '60's the MP had trackage rights from their mainline at either Altoona or Benedict. They had a brick depot that is still there and serves as a gift shop. I can remember seeing a chop nose Geep and a caboose tied up at the depot.

    Fredonia for a town of 5,000 people was fascinating as far as railroads were concerned. The MP and the Santa Fe crossed from northeast to southwest and the Frisco from southeast to northwest. There was a very large ADM soybean processing plant that sat on the MP and Santa Fe. Also northeast of town was a large ADM elevator that I believe was served by both RR's.

    As far as the Frisco was concerned, they had the cement plant, an alfalfa plant, a ready mix plant, a bagged feed storage shed for the local Co-Op, a bulk oil distributor, and a brick plant. The brick plant was owned by the Lusco family in Wichita and was very near the topsoil pit that I mentioned in the previous email. We have determined that Lusco did have a retail facility in Kansas City and the engineer confirmed picking up boxcar loads of brick and tile destined for there. One can assume they were interchanged at Columbus.

    I will try and determine how the cars from the other two railroads got to the cement plant.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 21, 2011
  10. Friscotony

    Friscotony Member

    One of the items given me of the plant was a blueprint of the silo area. There are indeed "packing" houses at each end of the silos. I am not sure if they were or are still in use for the bagging of product. If not, I again do not know when the practice may have ended. For my time frame, (1960), I intend to use both bulk and bagged shipments.

  11. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter

    I will check with my engineer contact but I do believe he said that in the 1980's time frame that they only shipped bulk cement. I do agree with Tony that they probably did ship bagged cement in earlier times. One interesting sidebar to this discussion is that in the mid '60's when the Interstate highway system was being built I can remember tank type trucks loading in and out of there. They looked somewhat like a airslide train hopper. They were of course able to pull right up to the highway site and unload into the cement mixers there.
  12. rc2477

    rc2477 Member

    Hello everyone, I haul cement for mid continent concrete and the type of trailers we use for cement are called dry bulk trailers. They look kinda like a small triple bay covered hopper, we pressurize the trailer from a blower driven by the trucks engine and blow the cement up into the silo. Just a little info.....
  13. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    Sad to here that. I just got to thinking, I know that they ship out the bulk powder cement, but what do they ship in to make the cement?

  14. Friscotony

    Friscotony Member

    In the case of Fredonia, what I was told by the manager was that everything they needed was "on site" with the mining of the limestone. It contrained the iron needed and to the west of the town, there was a clay pit that gave them the balance of the matereial. In the time frame I model, the dirt if you will was loaded into gondolas and moved to the plant. During the 40's and into the 50's, natural gas was not a reliable fuel due to supply and they did indeed bring in loads of coal. One could hope this came from mines in the area and would provide another load for the Frisco. During the time of packing the cement into bags, I am sure they would have brought those supplies in as well.

  15. mvtelegrapher

    mvtelegrapher Member

    They currently ship in gypsum in covered hoppers from mines in southwest oklahoma currently owned by Harrison Gypsum at Cyril, OK which is on the former Frisco Lawton Sub. The SLWC brings the cars to Tulsa and gives them to the SKOL to take to Fredonia. Something similar could have happened back when it was the Frisco except they would have taken an all Frisco route. The number of cars shipped today is small, maybe four or five a month. The only outbound carloads of cement the SKOL is currently handling from this plant are destined to Wichita.

    John Chambers
  16. UnclePete

    UnclePete Member

    I worked as a Mop brakeman at Fredonia in 1962 and 1963. We switched the ADM soybean plant twice a day along with the alfalfa plant and elevator out North of town. Our engine was an SW1 painted Mop blue but sublettered SJB. We interchanged cement cars to the Frisco for loading. The Santa Fe also interchanged to the Frisco. Only one occasion do I remember us handling other than Mop cement hoppers and that was when the Santa Fe ran short of empties, and the Mop agent arranged for us to give the Santa
    Fe a Mop hopper. In a few days after that, the Santa Fe gave us one of theirs. Out Northwest of town was a brick plant and they had a goodly number of Frisco 80-cap cars used for brick loading. I remember our brakeman had released a handbrake on one the cars the Frisco had given us and while he was holding onto the grabiron at the top edge of the car, it pulled out of the wood and the brakeman fell to the ground. He landed on his feet and was not hurt at all. We switched on very rare occasions, a brick plant North of Roper on the main line. I got a lot more stories about Fredonia and I am glad that the Missouri Pacific was called the Mop and not the Mopac.
  17. Friscotony

    Friscotony Member

    Would love to hear more about the town. I always found it interesting that there were 3 railroads through the town. I know that there was a dirt pit out by the brick factory on the Frisco, but what about on the north end of town? I have maps that show what look to be dirt pits there as well. Not sure if they would be on the MOP or Santa Fe. Would be interested in finding out if they shipped to the cement plant as well.

  18. Does anyone know what they plan to do with the little 0-4-0 saddle tank engine and cars? I think this would be a cool display. This engine may have swapped cars with Frisco & Mopac engines in the past. If the Heartlands Group gets them that would be cool. It would be the first steam engine to be on display there.
    Ship it on the Frisco!!!

    Murphy Jenkins
  19. mvtelegrapher

    mvtelegrapher Member

    We are looking into it, they maybe keeping them since they have not said if they are going to keep part of the plant as a distribution center. I will let everyone know what's happening to them when more information becomes available. As to steam engines at Carona, we are currently working with the city of Pittsburg and may end up with the KCS 0-8-0 #1023 that is currently in a city park.

    John Chambers
    Heartlands President
  20. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter

    Murphy and All:

    I posed the same question on an earlier post in this same thread, but it sure doesn't hurt to ask it again. My first thought would be that it would be donated to the city to be placed in one of the two parks that are there. The easiest one and possibly the one that makes the most sense for railroad purposes is the city park and fairgrounds that are adjacent to and due west of where the Santa Fe and Frisco crossed. There is an area behind the entrance that would in my opinion be perfect. If one were standing on the location of the joint depot it would be looking right west across the Frisco main. If it can roll on tracks, Watco could easily pull it into town and get it very close to where I am referring to.
    The ther location would be much trickier as there is a small park and lookout tower on South Mound that actually overlooks the plant. The road going up there is very winding. For vandalism sake, the first option would be the best in my opinion.

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