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Mineral and Material Loads Modeling Information

Our Open Car Loads of Fun™ (e.g. Mineral, Material and Pipe Loads of Fun™) are manufactured in the United States to fit all makes, models, and scales of hoppers, gondolas and flatcars; and flatbed trucks and trailers. Our Loads represent ballast/gravel, coal, iron ore, and pipe prototypes described below. The Load profile or shape will vary depending upon the prototype modeled. Mineral Loads vary from relatively flat; to a gradual hump; to distinct 1, 2, or 3 humps, steep or shallow. Pipe Loads vary according to prototype modeled. All Loads can be made to order. Specify mineral type and color and your profile preference, if any.

Our BALLAST/GRAVEL Loads of Fun™ are flat light or dark gray.

Our COAL Loads of Fun™ are glossy and semi-glossy black for anthracite, flat black for bituminous and sub-bituminous, and are brown-black for lignite. Coal is one of three fossil fuels use for energy production in the United States and world-wide. Oil and natural gas are the other two. Coal is found as variety of types and either surface mined or mined underground. Anthracite or hard coal is 86-97% carbon. It contains a heat content of nearly 15,000 Btu per pound. It constitutes a small segment of the U.S. market. It is frequently associated with home heating. Hard coal is located primarily in the 11 northeastern counties of Pennsylvania. Bituminous or soft coal is 45-86% carbon. It contains a heat content of between 10,500 and 15,500 Btu per pound. This is the most common form of coal found in the U.S. Soft coal is used primarily to produce steam for electric power generation and for coke production for the steel industry. Soft coal is found in scattered locations across the U.S. Subbituminous coal, a lower rank of coal, is 35-45% carbon. It contains a heat value of 8,300 to 11,500 Btu per pound. It contains a high percentage of volatile matter and water. It is mostly used for electric power generation. This type of coal is found mainly in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington and Alaska. Lignite, geologically the lowest ranked coal, is between 25 and 35% carbon. It contains a heat value of 4,000 to 8,300 Btu per pound. This type of coal is used primarily for electric power generation. It is located mostly in the Gulf Coast and Northern plains regions.

We do not have a PEAT Load of Fun™ at this time. However, peat, much used in the gardening industry, is another type of carbon containing material and is a precursor to coal. After considerable pressure, heat and time it becomes coal. Lignite is the first coal level reached after peat is processed by geology. Peat is harvested or “surface mined” by cutting it out of peat bogs. It is then dried and burned for domestic heating and cooking.

The earliest use of coal is unrecorded but it is known that by 1000 A.D. the Hopi Indians of what is now Navajo County, Arizona, used coal to bake pottery made from clay. The explorers, Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette found coal on the Illinois River in 1673-1674. La Salle during his explorations found coal in 1680. In 1701, coal was found by Huguenot colonists on the James River. In 1702, the first formal recorded use of American coal occurred in Virginia, when a French settler was granted permission to use coal for his forge. Up to this time and for some time after, the huge forests of eastern America provided wood, the fuel of choice and easy availability. Nearly half a century later, several Huguenots began mining and selling or trading coal to households and craftsmen for fuel. This marked the first commercial mining and transporting of coal in North America. Most of this coal was surface mined. Coal was important to both sides in the American Revolution for use as fuel and in the making of gun powder (black powder). In the later part of the 16th century several inventions increased the demand for coal. These are the improved steam engine in 1769, spinning jenny in 1770, and the power loom in 1783. These inventions and the expanding use of coal for heating created the ever-broadening demand for coal world-wide. Commercial coal development was well on its way.

The use of coal in the United States lagged behind England and other European countries. However as the Nation grew so did its dependence on and demand for coal grow. By 1840 coal had surpassed wood as the primary fuel for home and commerce. Two important inventions further increased the demand for and use of coal, the railroad locomotive and the steamship. With these devices people could rapidly move large amounts of goods over long distances at reasonable rates. Ships need no longer rely on favorable trade winds to sail the seas. Steam powered trains would eventually haul huge amounts of coal. Coal which they used for power, and coal which the railroads hauled in commerce to towns and cities for home and industrial use.

The earliest mines were surface installations in which the coal was stripped from exposed beds and out-croppings. Eventually, miners would follow the surface coal by stripping away more and more overburden or soil covering the coal seam. They also went underground to follow the seams. Underground mining is common in the eastern United States where geography and geology, hills and mountains constrained strip mining. In the mid-West and out-West (far West, prairie and mountain states) strip mining continues on a very large scale. Railroads are vitally important in the transport of coal to domestic and for foreign markets.

The United States has considerable coal reserves, estimated in the late 1980’s to be large enough to last about 300 years at current rates of consumption. Coal is widely distributed throughout the United States, with 45% occurring in states east of the Mississippi River and 55% in western states and Alaska. Coal underlies 13% of the total U.S. land area, encompassing some 458,600 square miles. Measurable quantities are found in 38 states; in 31 of them coal is considered minable, and mining operations currently take place in 26 states. Coal then remains an important commodity for trade and commerce, in fuel production and in the steel industry. Put coal mining, transport and use on your layout! Use Coal Loads of Fun™.

Our IRON ORE Loads of Fun™ represent: hematite iron ore which varies from steely-silver gray to flat iron red oxide Aboxcar red@ to bright red; taconite iron ore which varies from earth-tone gray to dark gray; and taconite pellets (concentrated iron ore) which vary from metallic or steel gray to dull red.

Hematite Iron Ore is mined in the AIron Range@ near Lake Superior in The Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. The Iron Range contains the Vermilion (NE end), the Mesabi (center), and the Cuyuna (SW end) Mountain Ranges. Hematite occurs as natural ore deposits ranging from steely gray to bright red. The ore has sufficient iron content to be used directly in steel mill blast furnaces. Since 1844 mining has taken much of the high grade hematite ore, resulting in the need to concentrate low grade hematite ore, a process called “beneficiation.” The concentrated ore darkens in color during processing when the ore is mixed with a binder to make larger grains for easier handling.

Taconite Iron Ore is the other major iron ore, found primarily in the Mesabi Range. Taconite occurs as extensive deposits of hard, dense, iron-bearing rock, containing only about 15 to 35 percent iron. The ore is colored shades of earth-tone gray, but tends to be dark gray.

Taconite Iron Ore Pellets are made by concentrating low grade taconite ore. A beneficiation process is used to concentrate the ore for movement to and use in steel mill blast furnaces. The ore is crushed, then ground to a fine powder. Next, magnetic separation removes the iron particles from the “dirt.” The resulting black iron powder is mixed with water and clay binders, rolled into round pellets, and baked to hardness in 2,400-degree Fahrenheit ovens. The marble-size Taconite pellets are approximately 65 percent iron. After cooling, the pellets are ready for shipment by rail in hoppers to the steel mills. The pellets are also shipped by rail in ore hoppers to Lake Superior ports for movement by very large ships to the steel mills. Taconite pellets are usually a metallic or steely gray color but can be dull red. Ask me to show you my bag of Taconite “marbles” when you see me at a meet or show. If the steel industry is in your layout planning or already producing steel, and you need a supply of iron ore, use my Iron Ore Loads of Fun™.

We do not have a WOOD CHIPS Loads of Fun™ at this time. Our Load is being researched/developed.

We can change or make the Mineral Load of Fun™ color, profile and railroad car size to meet your mining operation needs. Specify mineral type and color.

Credits and References

Information for the above description of iron ore types and processing came from the 1969 book, The Lake Superior Iron Ore Railroads, by Patrick C. Dorin; and from a number of articles in past issues of Trains and Model Railroader magazines. Facts About Coal, 1988, Published by the National Coal Association, now the National Mining Association.


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