Calumet & Hecla RailroadRails and RoadsScrapbook

Scrapbook Fridays: C&H Rails Edition

Paul Meier was copper country exploring long before copper country exploring was cool. In his case, however, it wasn’t ruins that he was documenting. Instead Paul was photographing a copper empire still alive in well – if not on its last legs. While a walk along the old C&H industrial corridor today reveals nothing more then a few old buildings and a collection of abandoned and overgrown rails, the same walk taken in the late 60s would bring one face to face with an honest to goodness functioning railroad. The existence of the railroad is no surprise to those of us who study the Copper Country’s past, and seeing it in operation is something else entirely. Thanks to Paul we can all share in that discovery, with this collection of photos he took in and about Calumet between the years of  1965 and 1967. Joining the photo tour will be Paul’s own words, annotating his adventure. Make sure to click on the images to see them full size and un-cropped!

Here are some photos of the C&H tracks and rolling stock in Calumet.  These yards served the Osceola and Centennial shafts while the original H&TL line was used to go down to the mill. It was somewhat easier to hang around there since the natives often walked through and were ignored.  If I didn’t stay in one place too long and wasn’t too obvious with the camera, I was able to trespass with a fair amount of impunity.  At this time I had an Argus C-3 35mm camera.  The C-3 was a strictly manual rangefinder camera with a 50mm lens.  No metering, no auto focus, and advancing the film was done with a knob and an indicator dial, you needed to twist the knob until the indicator did one full revolution plus one notch.


This is behind the carpentry shop.  The tracks used to go out to the Tamarack and Red Jacket shafts.  Note that rarity of a C&H boxcar on the left.  Also the plow, spreader, and pilot plus.  Last but not least is a motor “speeder” riding the tracks.rails4

One of the Baldwin locomotives moving through the yards.   I was in the wrong side of the complex when this happened; had to run to get this.  Note the steam lines, parked cars, and overall clutter of what now is a “park”.


The GE 70ton switcher in the roundhouse.   This normally lived down at the mill and smelter.


Here is another shot of that GE 70 ton switcher, this time in action moving around Calumet.  This particular photo was taken after the shutdown and they were probably doing clean-up work before everything was scrapped:


Another view of the switcher, this time from the backside.


C&H’s rock cars came largely in the form of 40 ton wood-sided and steel-framed cars built by American Car and Foundry out of their Detroit and Chicago plants. Several of these can be seen here near the foundry, painted in orange with black stripes (no idea what the stripes were for).  The car on the far right is a mineral car used to move concentrate from the mill or reclamation plants.   Concentrates from the old Hela and Calumet mills were moved to the smelter via a 3ft interplant railway.


Many of the 40 ton cars were still in the simple “boxcar red” paint, while the whole car isn’t in the photo, you can see the trucks and drop-bottom doors:


In the later years C&H didn’t need as many rockcars either due to reduced output or because of quicker cycle times.  They added extensions on some of the 40 ton cars and dedicated them to coal service.  While as built the cars could hold 40 tons of rock, they were limited as to how much of the less dense coal they could haul so the cubic capacity was increased so 40 tons of coal could be hauled.   Some kept their wood sides while others received steel sides or sheathing.  As I remember all were orange and were stenciled “coal” or “stoker coal”.


The 50 ton steel cars seen above were originally built for the Mineral Range in 1913 and 1916 by American Car and Foundry.  C&H got some of them when the Traprock Valley line effectively destroyed the Mineral Range.  The cars worked well everywhere the Mineral Range had served but were too tall to fit under the chutes at the Red Jacket shaft and, I suppose, the few remaining Calumet Conglomerate shaft houses and the C&H Osceola shafts.


Looks like a steam locomotive tender frame was the foundation for this oil car which was parked on the line to Centennial #2.  The hooks on the frame are left over from a retailing frog and a polling pole.  I shot it from the cab of #29 while on the cab ride in 1969.  Don’t know what kind of oil this car carried, lube or fuel.  Usually fuel cars were either stenciled “fuel oil” or “diesel” on normal railroad, but C&H was not normal:


This spreader looks to be a C&H home built affair rather than a Jordan product.  Here it is parked in Calumet.


Finally, a 40 ton rocker without sides outside the shops.  The drop bottom doors are open and the brake reservoir and cylinder are visible, these were K brakes which were not legal in interstate haulage by the ‘60s.  A skip is among the other “stuff” in the photo: 


Moving northward from the Calumet yard we take a look at C&H’s northern operations. This is the  Allouez yard, which  served the Ahmeek, Seneca, Allouez-Douglas, and Iroquois mines along with the Goodman Lumber mill in Mohawk.  Before the building of the Traprock Valley line this was a Mineral Range operation.  During the steam loco era the yard had a water tank and a coaling tower.   The building in the scene scene above is the engine house where the Torch Lake was stored. A string of loads is in the background, while an L-4 pulls a string of empties into the yard.
L-4 was purchased from the US Army and was not repainted C&H orange.  It have the modern C&H script herald on the cab sides.  Presumably, the “Copperrama”  sticker on the radiator was not an official C&H application.   I have no more here since I was asked to leave – by that time uninvited guests were not as welcome as they used to be.
Thanks for the tour Paul! 


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  1. L4 was painted red like the 210 eventually, I picked up a slide of it in nice fresh paint. It was renumbered 204. Its still has the red on it sitting out in the E&LS bone yard along with the 201-202 in orange.
    From what I remember out of a C&H News and Views, the stripes were put on the cars to help see them at night when C&H started running two shifts, seems people would run into the trains. I can’t see that it would help. Oranges cars had Black stripes, black cars had orange stripes.

  2. That oil car, it is possible it was for spraying weeds back so many years ago when people didn’t know better.

    1. Could be, the hose visible at the pump housing is way too small for fueling locomotives. I don’t see any nozzles in the photo and it was gone not too long after that ride. Spraying oil used to be a common way to kill weeds. Maybe if there are some old timers left out there, they could tell us.

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