Smelters for off-line ores

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

  1. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    Karl's album "3-Footers" led me to a sigh of relief.* It is acceptable to have a fascination for the Colorado narrow gauge lines, even on this bulletin board.
    Now, to bring it on topic.
    Where were*smelters on the Frisco system?
    Did any of these process ore from off-line?
    Specifically, did any smelters on the Frisco system process ore from points in Colorado like Gunnison, Silverton, Georgetown, Telluride*or the other iconic narrow gauge terminals?
    Did any receive partially-processed minerals?* Here, I am mostly*thinking of ingots of mixed metals, or refined ores of mixed metals, because some of the mines yield zinc, lead, silver and a few other metals.
    That odd Colorado & Southern or Denver & Rio Grande Western box car (or covered hopper) just may have a place on a Frisco layout after all!
  2. mvtelegrapher

    mvtelegrapher Member

    I know many smelters were located on the Frisco in the Southwest Missouri, Southeast Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma area's. These were smelters for refining lead and zinc and depending on the time frame used coal, natural gas or oil as the fuel for the refining process. Pittsburg, Kansas had three smelters around 1900 and all of them were served by the Frisco and were coal fired. The first zinc smelter in southeast Kansas was located at Weir City and was served by the Frisco. At one time Cherryvale, Kansas had the largest lead and zinc smelter in the world and it was located on the Frisco. It was known as the Edgar Zinc Works and used natural gas. I'm not sure if the Frisco ever had smelters to process silver or gold located on line.

    John Chambers
  3. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    I'm not sure, someone with better knowlege can correct me, but the Noranda Aluminum Smelter in at New Madrid, Mo may have been serviced by the Frisco when they came online in 1968.
  4. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    Thanks to mvtelegrapher for an answer to the question of where smelters were located on the Frisco. It certainly makes sense they would be located near the active mining area of the western Ozark plateau in SE KS, SW MO and NE OK. I still wonder whether the zinc or lead operations could have received concentrates or ore from Colorado mines. There could have been periods when economics for shipping would beat the capital cost of building a smelter.

    Did the River Division have a lead smelter? I know there was a shot tower in Herculaneum, but that was on Missouri-Illinois (part of M-P) not on Frisco. Lead ore from Viburnum comes through Lindenwood (past my house), but what is its final destination?

    Uranium is another metal that enters consideration. It came from an area to the west of that shown in Karl's "3-Footers" album, but successive processing steps happened in areas very distant from the mining sites. The Weldon Spring plant in St. Charles County, MO was served by a spur off the MKT.
  5. There was suppose to be a smelter at Smelterville, Mo. (south Cape) that would have been on th SL-SF or Mop. I think buildings were built but I dont know how much was ever shipper. Would have had in and out bound traffic I think. The Frisco had an agent for the steel mill at Blythville (spelling?) knew him, great guy. RHT
  6. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    George -

    What cars do they haul the lead ore in?

  7. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    I posted "lead ore from Viburnum passes by my house." Meteor910 asked what kind of cars.

    It is carried in gondolas. They carry what looks like a pinkish, gray-white, fine gravel in a pile over each truck. There does not appear to be anything carried in the middle of the car.

    They are generally black cars, but I have not paid too much attention to car markings, so I am not sure which rail line owns them.

    It frequently passes by in the eastbound MWF-afternoon local. If I recall correctly there was about one shipment per week, maybe two. I do not recall seeing any lately, however.

    This is another reason to look up from weeding or mowing the lawn to pay closer attention to the train! (...and also have the camera handy.)
  8. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Based on Sanborn maps I have for Cape Girardeau, Mo beginning in 1893 through 1931, there was never a smelter or any industry in what was commonly called Smelterville. The area referred to as Smelterville was a shanty town populated by very poor people of multiple races located south of the Frisco yard, east and north of Hely Crushed Stone and the cement plant.

    I had forgotten there was and has been a lead smelter at Herculaneum, Mo on the River Division.

    Other smelters were located in Boss, Buick, Glover and Viburnum, Missouri.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2011
  9. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    Smelters at Buick and Viburnum certainly would have processed locally-mined lead. Economic conditions may not justify keeping them active and that could explain the eastbound Cuba Sub shipments.
  10. The Southeast Missourian (Cape Girardeau, Mo and surrounding area ) runs a section called "Out of the Past". For the 100 years ago: May 9, 1906 they report "The first buildings of the great Southern Metal and Manufacturing plant were practically completed Saturday,and what is to be one of the largest lead-manufacturing plants in the United States is rapidly taking shape just south of Cape Girardeau." There is mention of this plant and the various railroads in the Cape area from time to time. The only people that could have shed some light on this for me are deceased. I dont know if the news paper or the museum could help us out.|-|
  11. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    The River Hills Travler has suggested a good resource in the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian. Thanks are due.

    I checked their website for the "Out of the Past" feature Unfortunately, the log of their records only goes back to May 16 (two months from the current date), so I could not access the one for May 9 readily. This will doubtless slide forward daily. Adding this to an "Internet scan" (after lingering at does look like a way to pick up the occasional historical news bit about rails and other business activities in the area.
  12. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    I just discussed the smelter issue with my dad, who grew up in Cape. He said that at one time a group began to start a smelter business in "Smelterville" but apparently the business venture may have been under capitalized and failed without any significant business being done. He said he never saw anything of the business, nor much evidence of buildings of any consequence in that area when he was a boy in the early 30's.

    I will make a point of verifying the information at Kent Library at SEMO when I go to Cape to do research in August. It is interesting that the 1908, 1915, 1918 Sanborn Maps do not document what would have been a relatively risky (in terms of fire hazards) business that would have been located there.
  13. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    I just went to the Southeast Missourian's website and searched Southern Metal and Manufacturing, revealing entries from 1906 through 1908. The rest of the story comes to light. My dad's memory was correct - the venture was under capitalized and failed to produce an ounce of lead. The failure of the business by May of 1908 would explain why it does not show up on the Sanborn maps.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2012
  14. Keith, Hope your visit to Cape goes well. From some of the posts in the S.E. Missourian it sounds like some buildings were constructed. If you get a chance the college book store has a book on Louis Houck written by a college professor, if old railroads are your thing you might but it and get him to autograph it. Dwain |-|
  15. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    Here are some pictures taken in July and August 2009 of lead ore loads on the eastbound Cuba Sub local. The load is piled only over the trucks and is barely visible above the car side.

    The link is to a picture of a model of the same kind of load in the HO modeling section in a thread about 1950-era freight cars:

    It showed up as one of the random pictures from clicking "All Aboard" to and it reminded me to post these shots.

    Happy Holidays!


    Attached Files:

  16. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    Man, that lead ore must really be heavy. Any idea of its bulk density? Did you notice if these gons are drop bottom, drop ends, ???

    Those are 100+ ton gons, and they still have to short load them and pile the ore up over the trucks. Wooo!

    I'm thinking of putting a load like this in one or two of my SLSF 61000 series gons (but they are only 70 ton cars!). I'm wondering if the SLSF ever used them in lead ore service. Probably not.

    Looks like limestone rock would be about the correct color.

  17. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    Car type:

    I do not know if the TILX or CEFX gondola cars are drop-bottom or if they have drop-ends. My guess is that they do not. I will have to observe more closely when the loads go by.

    Bulk Density:

    A best guess is that lead ore bulk density is at least twice that of a typical rock ballast or aggregate load. This is based on specific gravities of a couple minerals I found in Simon & Schuster's Guide to Rocks and Minerals (1977).

    Lead ore might contain:

    Cerrusite PbCO3 sp. g. 6.5 or
    Phosgenite Pb(CO3)Cl2 sp. g. 6.3
    Galena PbS 7.2 to 7.6 (Lead ore) or
    Anglesite PbSO4 6.3

    The limestone surrounding rock would have:
    Calcite CaCO3 2.71 or
    Dolomite CaMg(CO3)2 2.95

    Granite aggregate or ballast would consist of:
    Quartz SiO2 2.65
    Biotite 2.8-3.2
    Hornblende 3.0-3.4

    Ballast, aggregate and other rock loads typically do not use the full cubic capacity of a car. A lead ore load would occupy less that half the volume of an aggregate or ballast load based on these assumptions.

    Frisco-lettered cars with this type of load:

    I believe TRAINS magazine had an article about the lead line. It should have pictures. Further, I believe I recall seeing strings of Frisco gondolas with a similar load in the late '70's. That was a long time ago, so I could be wrong.
  18. It's not quite on the Frisco, but the following link, recently posted to the EarlyRails discussion list by Tom Teeple, discusses what was evidently a very large silver-smelting operation at Argentine, Kansas, which received Colorado ore up until October 1901, when the work force was shifted to smelters closer to the mines.

    Offtopic but worth noting: Teeple's "Classic Liberty Street" webpage, describing his 1895-era layout based on the West Bottoms industrial area and his exquisite scratchbuilt and kitbashed period rolling stock, is well worth browsing for historical and modeling inspiration.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2009
  19. pensive

    pensive Member Supporter

    The April 1996 edition of Trains is the magazine that had the article entitled "BN gets the lead out" describing operations on the lead belt line from Cuba MO. The article states "The Viburnum plant is one of three active mills consolidated under Doe Run; they receive coarse crushed ore from six mines in the New Lead Belt." It says that a smelter once occupied the site of the Doe Run recycling center.

    Apparently the local smelter operation ended before the Frisco merged with the BN. On page 92 of Frisco/Katy Color Guide to Freight Equipment by Nicholas Molo, the caption for the series 65300-65499 gondolas states "The assignment "BUICK-HERCULANEUM" was for St. Joe Lead Company that had mines near Buick, MO and a smelter in Herculaneum, MO. The Frisco collected the traffic on the Salem Branch, hauled it to Lindenwood (St. Louis), and then forwarded it down the River Division to Crystal City for interchange with the MoPac. Interestingly, the smelter at Herculaneum had rotary dumpers set-up for dumping standard gondolas." I visited the Heculaneum area about a year ago, and the smelter was still active.

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 29, 2009
  20. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    Thanks, Bradley Scott, for the link to the description of the smelter at Argentine, KS. It mentions processing ores from North and South America and it makes sense some could have originated on the Colorado narrow gauge lines. There was plenty of time between its organization in 1880 and closing in 1901 for standard gauge cars letter for D&RG or another Colorado road to have delivered concentrates.

    Thanks to pensive for noting rotary-dump equipment was available for standard gondolas. That answers Meteor910's question about the car type. I will still look at them to see if an odd drop-bottom, or drop-end shows up in the mix.

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