Oct 2009

P&EBR Workflows: Hauling Stone

Hauling stone and products made from that stone is the primary purpose for the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge Railroad. The functions of the railroad discussed in previous workflow posts would not necessarily require the use of a railroad at all. But moving extremely heavy soapstone boulders and large quantities of finished products would be too much for the unimproved rural roads in the area.

Green tracks indicate shipping points, red tracks are receiving points.

As can be seen on the trackplan, moving stone involves working tracks in just about every operational area of the railroad. Moving stone is the basic, foundational work of the railroad, having the highest priority relative to any other freight that needs to be delivered.

The stone workflow on the P&EBR follows several routes, but all stone related shipments trace their origins back to the quarries.

Quarries at Cove and Meridian

Soapstone is cut and lifted out of the quarry, and loaded onto railroad cars. The quarried stone falls into two categories: commercially viable blocks that can be cut and assembled into fixtures at the mill in Piedmont, or stone that for any number of reasons is not suited for cutting. Waste stone from the quarries is ground into soapstone powder at the Dust Mill.

When the quarry has commercial stone blocks ready to be shipped, the P&EBR will provide flatcars for loading.

Piedmont Mill

The loaded flatcars will then be delivered to Piedmont Mill for stockpiling until it is needed at the gangsaws.
At Piedmont Mill the stone will be sawn, polished, cut, and assembled into a wide variety of products. The products are then crated for shipment. If the product is part of a special order, it will shipped directly to the Transfer Warehouse in Winwood. Most of the production of Piedmont Mill is not special orders, but items from the company catalog that have not actually been sold yet.

Piedmont Warehouse

Products that are built at the Piedmont Mill that are not ready for immediate shipment are moved by the railroad from the Mill to the Piedmont Warehouse, where they go into inventory.

Once orders for items in inventory come in, the railroad delivers boxcars to Piedmont Warehouse for loading.

Scale House and Track

The loaded boxcars are set off on the Scale Track to be weighed. It is company policy that all freight cars loaded with finished products must be weighed. The cars are pushed one at a time over the scales, and the yardmaster records the weight of the car.

Winwood Transfer Warehouse

The weighed boxcars are then assembled into a train bound for Winwood. There they are spotted at the Transfer Warehouse, and their contents is loaded into standard gauge boxcars for shipment on the C&O Railroad.

The above summary applies to commercial stone shipped from the quarries, but much of the stone coming out of the quarries is not commercial grade due to fractures, impurities, fissures, and other problems.

When the quarry has accumulated enough waste stone, the railroad will deliver side dump cars for loading.

Piedmont Mill also generates waste stone through cutoffs, breakage, and make ready test pieces that are not useable.

The railroad will also spot a side dump car at Piedmont Mill to serve as a dumping point for waste stone.

When side dump cars at the quarries and Piedmont Mill are filled with stone, the railroad delivers them to the Dust Mill.

Dust Mill

At the Dust Mill, the carloads of waste stone are pushed up the elevated back track and spotted over a storage bin where they are emptied. The stone from the bin is processed through a series of mills until it has been reduced to a very fine powder, which is basically talc. The talc is transferred to a bagging plant where it is loaded into sacks, and palletized for shipment.

Once the Dust Mill has made up an order, the railroad delivers boxcars for loading.

Scale House and Track

The boxcar loads of talc will have to be weighed. Just as the boxcars of products from Piedmont Mill and Warehouse were previously, the yard crew at Shops will spot the boxcar on the scales, and its weight will be recorded.

Winwood Transfer Warehouse

Once weighed, boxcars of talc are ready to be forwarded to the Transfer Warehouse at Winwood, where they will be transloaded onto boxcars for shipment on the C&O.

Stone related shipments utilize the entire P&EBR. Moving cars through the associated workflows requires using many tracks, some of them multiple times.

Keeping all aspects of the stone workflow organized and moving will be the job of an Agent/Dispatcher, who will be responsible for providing train crews the information necessary for them to keep not only stone, but supplies, fuel, and lumber all moving over the line.