Riding A, Locomotive As Big As A House
A Geography Lesson
When I tell you that I have been riding the lron Range, it does not mean that I mounted a stove and galloped away. It means that I have been riding the Massabe Iron Range up in Minnesota, on a Duluth Missabe and Iron Range train. Thanks to President P. H. Van Hoven, ol the D.M. & I.R. as soon as I arrived in Duluth I was taken in charge. H. A. Andersen, assistant to the president. quickly whiskd me away in a car. and hustled me out past Proctor and up toward Alborn, where I was to ride an ore train.
But before we get any further, a word about Duluth. and then something about the Duluth. Missabe and Iron Range. Duluth is on the north side of Lake Superior, just across a narrow strip of water from Superior. Wisconsin. Superior is as flat as the prairie, while Duluth is a combination of Quebec City, Montreal, and any other place built on a mountain side. It has been said that Duluth is 20 miles long and a half a mile wide, and it seems on superficial survey to fit those specifications.
Problem For Railways
Because of this mountain side tip which Duluth crawls for a few blocks and then quits, the railways have a problem. No line can get down into Duluth without twisting curves and heavy grades. Luckily, the ore trains all run down hill, and the empties go back up hill.
One of the sights I recalled. when I first went to Duluth 27 years ago. was to see the long ore trains crawl up the side of the mountains with their empty cars. It seemed as if, in those days even, the empty ore cars made trains at least a mile long. Then as now they used big engines with two sets of drives on each side, end in effect, they represented two locomotives in one. It has been said that the biggest locomotives in the States operate on the DM & IR. and I would not doubt it.
President Van Hoven told me, while I was in Duluth. that his railway held at least one tonnage record. He said his line handled an average of 80.000 gross tons per mile. Believed to be the closest to this is the Chesapeake and Ohio, with 50,000 gross tons per mile. Those who understand such statistics will appreciate all this better. But let me suggest that if you have enough heavy, mile-ong ore trains running often enough over your double track rails, you'll pile up the tonnage, because iron ore is heavy.
We picked up W. Zacher, the train master, at Proctor, and continued by car to Albom. about 35 miles from Duluth. It was at this point that I was to board the ore train. Just as we got there, along came a giant locomotive. Reputed to be the biggest in the world. It is 127 feet long, has a tractive effort of more than a million pounds, and handles a train of 180 cars of heavy iron ore. The particular train I rode carried 18,140 tons of ore.
Engine No. 230 seemed as big as a two storey building, and when with oily waste in both hands I climbed up into her cab, I lost track of the fact that this was my 121st railway in the satisfaction I felt in being about to ride the biggest engine and presumably one of the longest trains in the world.
Inside the cab, Engineer Carl Mareski welcomed me, while on the other side of the train was H. I. Soderberg. Head brakeman was R. Goodell, and the conductor, of which more later, was J. W. Ross.
Biggest In World
So you have the picture. I was riding on what I understand to be the biggest locomotive In the world. I was on what I believed to be about the heaviest load any freight train can pull, a total of 18,140 tons - and with 180 cars - I believed it was about the longest train that any railway runs consistently. They hold the engine down to 180 cars, in each direction, but they say she could handle more.
When the engineer started to ease her into action, I noticed he just nursed her along about two miles an hour. Then Mr. Anderson told me that the engineer didn't have his train rolling yet. In other words, while the front end was moving, the back end was not. The engine has to move 180 feet before the caboose starts to move. Finally, over the loudspeaker system Conductor Ross yelled: "You've got 'em all." Then he loosened up, and soon had her going her scheduled speed.
It was the first time I had ever been on a train that had a phone. After some preliminary experiments, I talked to the conductor, 180 cars back. I got quite a kick out of that. I heard the operator at Alborn talk to the train crew, I heard the conductor call up the engineer. It seems almost fantastic to see the engineer, take a receiver off the hook, and talk to the conductor, but that's what happens on the DM & IR.
I didn't want this trip to end. but it finally did. I think the most remarkable feature was saved till the last. They have scales at Proctor, and they actually weigh the train while it is moving. Slowly, at one mile per hour, the ore cars move across a delicately contrived weighing machine.
The way bills are in order, so that the weights of the cars are already known. The weights come on slips of paper just as when you get your weight for a nickel in a slot weighing machine. One by one, the cars go over, are weighed, and then they move into the yards, where older mallet engines hustle them down to the ore docks. The Sorting
As to how they are sorted, as to their being taken down to the spectacular docks where the hematite-colored ore goes into ships, and as to the rest of this fascinating ore movement, I have no space to write here. Sufficient to say that my ride on an ore train was one of the outstanding features of my life.
As to Duluth and its skyline drive. Its Flame Restaurant with its big windows and magniflcient sweep of view, as to its almost unique aerial bridge as to Duluth's many other fascinating sights. I have no room to speak here. I left Duluth vaguely dissatisfied, wishing the day might have been longer. But I also left with an eagerness to return some day again. After all, a visit every 27 years isn't often enough,. What's more. I didn't even get a look at Superior