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Western Railroad Discussion > Ballast Sources/Transportation


Date: 07/10/11 09:58
Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: Conrail7659

Hello…

I am working on a research project for a logistics/business class that details current origination sources and transportation of ballast mainly west of the Mississippi River. This project details the various hard rock quarries that currently supply ballast and how the railroads transport the material to a site. It does not include slag, limestone or “soft rock” ballast.

With that being said, I have complied the following list of quarries that supply such hard ballast. I know utilizing the search feature on this site that the subject of ballast has been discussed before…but I am trying to find specifics regarding the actual quarries or quantities that these quarries produce (i.e. train and carload count over a given time). Also, where is the originating source for most of the Powder River Basin ballast? It seems besides Granite Canyon there are a scarcity of sources in that area.

If you see any errors or have some insight, your help is much appreciated.

Thanks!

West to East

- Missile Base, Sprague, WA (BNSF)
- Castle Rock, WA (BNSF)??
- La Grande, OR (UP)??
- Oroville, CA (Elsey) (UP, BNSF)
- Newberry Springs/Barstow, CA (BNSF)
- Pipestone/Whitehall, MT (MRL, BNSF?)
- Granite Canyon, WY (UP, BNSF)
- Vaughn, NM (BNSF)
- Iron Mountain, MO (BNSF)
- Dresser, WI (CN)??
- Rock Springs, WI (UP)??



Date: 07/10/11 10:02
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: Out_Of_Service

railroad ballast also comes in different sizes from Z ballast (smallest used almost like stone in asphalt)) to 4 inch rock ... i've found that 3 and 3 1/2 inch ballast seems to be the preferred size



Date: 07/10/11 10:08
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: rcbh_and_w

BNSF also gets ballast from a large granite quarry in Waite Park, MN.



Date: 07/10/11 10:10
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: TomPlatten

You mean to tell me that the tracks aren't nailed into the ground? I thought ballast was just for decoration. You guys have been deceiving me all of time!



Date: 07/10/11 10:11
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: fbe

Some ballast I noted on Donner Pass this spring was certainly green. Does anyone know where that is sourced?



Date: 07/10/11 10:15
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: fbe

BN used to load PRB ballast at the Lien Pit just up the Deadwood branch out of Edgemont. They also loaded at a quarry north of Guernsey at the east end of town.

Ballast from Pipestone going to the MRL and BNSF ships by rail in unit train quantities.



Date: 07/10/11 10:24
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: Out_Of_Service

TomPlatten Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You mean to tell me that the tracks aren't nailed
> into the ground? I thought ballast was just for
> decoration. You guys have been deceiving me all of
> time!


the main purpose of ballast is for:

1 drainage the most important thing in track structure

2 surface to hold the track structure while under load from trains ... it accomplishes this by the interlocking of the ballast as it's compacted from MW work equipment (track stabilizers) and the trains themselves which Stabilizers act as trains under load

3 it also when compacted tightly prevents the track structure from moving laterally and keeping it in place ... track is like electricity it wants to find the weakest spot to move when in compression

4 and to a lesser extent when neatly compacted and broomed off it provides a smoother and safer walking area for employees in the discharge of their duties



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/10/11 10:25 by Out_Of_Service.



Date: 07/10/11 10:30
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: fbe

OOS

With regard to your item 4. Ballast has been piled so high in many locations on the railroad there is no longer a flat walking surface for employees. The repose angle of the ballast is indeed the only surface to walk on these days.



Date: 07/10/11 10:35
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: truxtrax

Is BNSF still mining ballast at the quarry at Mesa WA?

Larry Dodgion
Wilsonville, OR



Date: 07/10/11 10:35
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: Out_Of_Service

fbe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> OOS
>
> With regard to your item 4. Ballast has been
> piled so high in many locations on the railroad
> there is no longer a flat walking surface for
> employees. The repose angle of the ballast is
> indeed the only surface to walk on these days.

then the key word in that statement would be WHEN as you can see from your experience ;-)



Date: 07/10/11 10:48
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: fbe

I get a chuckle of the old pre WWI photos of the row with the trees and brush cut back to the fences, the ballast raked to a line just off the ends of the ties and a nice graded walkway on both sides of the ballast. What a nice safe working area. You can trade that off with top mounted brake wheels and retainer valves up high in the winter and storms.



Date: 07/10/11 10:55
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: Out_Of_Service

fbe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I get a chuckle of the old pre WWI photos of the
> row with the trees and brush cut back to the
> fences, the ballast raked to a line just off the
> ends of the ties and a nice graded walkway on both
> sides of the ballast. What a nice safe working
> area. You can trade that off with top mounted
> brake wheels and retainer valves up high in the
> winter and storms.


ballast back in the day was mostly cinders from steel plants ... they were pourous and were good for drainage but they didn't interlock together as well as ballast rock does



Date: 07/10/11 11:04
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: fbe

The MILW was lacking in steel mills out west and with electric and oil burning locomotives faced a dearth of cinders and slag. Their ballast was pretty much washed (rare) and unwashed (common) river rock from nearby pits. There was not much interlocking of these rounded stones. I like some of the crushed slag I find sometimes along the old D&RGW. The stuff weighs a ton! This must provide a very stable roadbed.



Date: 07/10/11 12:22
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: ironmtn

Iron Mountain, MO is on the UP (ex-MoPac, DeSoto Subdivision). If by BNSF you mean that BNSF is the final customer, then you're correct. But the quarry location (formerly a deep underground iron mine) is on the UP, ex-MP.

The quarry there is the Iron Mountain Trap Rock Co., which I note (with surprise) from its website is now a division of Fred Weber, Inc., a longtime and major regional construction company (particularly highway construction), and which is headquartered in St. Louis, about 75 miles northeast. When I lived and worked in that area, Iron Mountain Trap Rock was an independent company, and locally owned. Don't know when Weber bought them, nor why they did. I know of no use for that type of stone as aggregate for highway concrete in Missouri, where limestone or hard chert river gravel has been virtually universally used, at least in the past. I've seen granite aggregates in roadways elsewhere, and it's especially noticeable as the roadway surface wears and the hard, dark aggregate stone becomes more visible. But I can't ever recall seeing granite highway concrete aggregate in Missouri. Maybe Weber just decided to diversify, and get into a profitable stone market for other sectors. They've been in the quarry business for a long time for their own needs (and I presume some outside sales too), so they know how to run one.

Iron Mountain's trap rock is very hard rhyolitic granite, and is dark purple in color, like a lot of the very old (about 1.8 billion years) rhyolites of the Saint Francois Mountains of southeast Missouri. Really, really tough stuff. It would make excellent track ballast. It is from the the quarry's home town of Iron Mountain, Mo., the mine/quarry, and the former MoPac predecessor St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern that I take my Trainorders login name, ironmtn.

Missouri Pacific (and at least for a while after the merger, UP also) had another ballast quarry of its own ownership further south on the DeSoto Sub at Gad's Hill, Missouri, about 90 miles south of St. Louis. I do not know if it is still operating, and if so, if owned and operated by UP. I seem to recall that it was sold (or leased) to an outside contractor, but I think it still supplies UP. The stone there is different, and is known to geologists as Gad's Hill Granite. It is more of a pinkish color than the purple rhyolite from Iron Mountain. Still very good track ballast, just different. The MoP spread an awful lot of it over the central part of the system for many years, as did UP in the years following the merger.

The Saint Francois Mountains of southeast Missouri have a range of granites in many colors and mineralogical compositions. One, which is a close cousin to Gad's Hill Granite, is the so-called "Missouri Red", which is an outstanding red granite for use as dimension stone. It polishes beautifully, and has long been prized for cemetery headstones. For many years, granite from that formation near Graniteville, MO (also home of the very impressive Elephant Rocks State Park --worth a visit if you're in the area) was used as curb stone lining streets in St. Louis. A lot of it is still around, and valued in older neighborhoods of the city. The same stone makes up the pavement stones of the levee along the Mississippi River beneath the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Those very stones date back to the steamboat era on the river (the iron mooring rings are still set in the pavement), and witnessed more history than one can imagine. Not the least of that history was the arrival by steamboat of the first steam locomotive west of the Mississippi for the MoPac's earliest predecessor (and one of UP's very earliest constituent companies), the Pacific Railroad of Missouri.

Hope this is of some help and interest. Good luck on your project.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/10/11 12:29 by ironmtn.



Date: 07/10/11 12:28
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: SP8100

Conrail7659 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hello…
>
> I am working on a research project for a
> logistics/business class that details current
> origination sources and transportation of ballast
> mainly west of the Mississippi River. This
> project details the various hard rock quarries
> that currently supply ballast and how the
> railroads transport the material to a site. It
> does not include slag, limestone or “soft
> rock” ballast.
>
> With that being said, I have complied the
> following list of quarries that supply such hard
> ballast. I know utilizing the search feature on
> this site that the subject of ballast has been
> discussed before…but I am trying to find
> specifics regarding the actual quarries or
> quantities that these quarries produce (i.e. train
> and carload count over a given time). Also, where
> is the originating source for most of the Powder
> River Basin ballast? It seems besides Granite
> Canyon there are a scarcity of sources in that
> area.
>
> If you see any errors or have some insight, your
> help is much appreciated.
>
> Thanks!
>
> West to East
>
> - Missile Base, Sprague, WA (BNSF)
> - Castle Rock, WA (BNSF)??
> - La Grande, OR (UP)??
> - Oroville, CA (Elsey) (UP, BNSF)
> - Newberry Springs/Barstow, CA (BNSF)
> - Pipestone/Whitehall, MT (MRL, BNSF?)
> - Granite Canyon, WY (UP, BNSF)
> - Vaughn, NM (BNSF)
> - Iron Mountain, MO (BNSF)
> - Dresser, WI (CN)??
> - Rock Springs, WI (UP)??

Castle Rock, WA (BNSF) is actually Rocky Point Yard in Kelso, Washington..

Larry, I don't believe BNSF is getting ballast out of Mesa anymore.. Maybe Ted/Brian Ambrose could chime in since he was over there in the last week or so..


SP8100



Date: 07/10/11 13:21
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: SOO6617

Conrail7659 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> - Dresser, WI (CN)??

Dresser, WI is the Dresser Trap Rock Co. and CP is the main railroad customer, CP has trackage rights to access the quarry.



Date: 07/10/11 14:48
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: DeutzHDL

the UP pit around La Grande is Harney Pit located out by North Powder, OR



Date: 07/10/11 15:25
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: supt

The SP got a lot of their ballast that was blue, green color at a quarry located in Ione Ca. The UP does not use that rock preferring the rock at Elsey.



Date: 07/10/11 18:53
Re: Ballast Sources/Transportation
Author: mns019

Back in the mid-80's I was working at the AAR's Pueblo test center (TTC) they conducted a series of tests on the relative merits of ballast from a variety of sources as submitted by the member roads. While I was not personally involved in the testing I recall that the TTC concluded that the overall "winner" was Sioux Quartzite from South Dakota. Several pits mine this stuff, believe the biggest is L. G. Everist at Dell Rapids SD (DAIR ex MILW) and Sweetman Company at Sioux Falls,
SD (Ellis & Eastern ex CNW). The testing was limited to "mined" rock and did not include such processed product as steel mill slag etc. Sioux Quartzite is of a "pink" color, believe the MILW used it extensively in resurfacing the METRA commuter lines in Chicago terminal.

"fbe" mentioned earlier that BN originated a lot of ballast from the Lien pit near Pringle, SD on the old Deadwood branch. There is a lot to this story, the product mined was supposedly actually a hard limestone, worked pretty good on lightly trafficked lines but was pounded to dust under the heavy traffic as the PRB lines "ramped up" in 70's and 80's BN spent a lot of time and money plowing this stuff out and bringing in ballast more suitable to the tonnage. CNW originated and used a lot of ballast from the same or a similar limestone formation at Rapid City, SD.



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