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Heavy Lifting: 1908

Buffalo, New York, circa 1908. "Brown electric hoist unloading ore carrier." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Buffalo, New York, circa 1908. "Brown electric hoist unloading ore carrier." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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How it worked

The Brownhoist was the first step towards development of the Hulett unloader, the big difference being how you got down into the ship to get the ore.

Over on the left the bucket drops down into the hold, closes on a scoop of ore, and lifts it clear of the ship. Then it gets carried either into the center or all the way to the right; in the center it would get dumped into a waiting hopper car, while on the right it would just get dropped on the huge pile of ore. The pile could be picked up and loaded into rail cars in the same manner.

By 1908 this was already obsolete: the Hulett had a better means of moving the ore around from the bucket to wherever it was going to be dumped, and more importantly its rigidly mounted bucket was bigger and faster than the this one. Huletts were used until around 1990 when self-unloading ships had displaced the old ore carriers. What they did before the Brownhoist was perfectly good Roman era technology: guys with shovels and wheelbarrows, I kid you not.

According to an old railroad friend...

The entirety of the apparatus resembling a bridge on spindly legs is the hoist. The three pointed thing near the left that looks like a church bell with pantaloons is the hoist bucket. It is lowered into the hold of the ship and closed to scoop ore. The bucket is then raised back to its shown position next to the control gondola where the operator resides. Both the gondola and the bucket will them move together toward the right along the boom (the longest horizontal member) to release the contents of the bucket into a waiting railcar.

To assist loading the railcars, is a funnel device shown to the right of the short horizontal member just above where the railcars would be staged. The funnel would be positioned over a railcar being loaded.

Ore can also be piled on the ground by moving the bucket and gondola unit to the far right and releasing the ore onto the ground to be later piled or onto an inclined conveyor (not in the picture) to make the piles shown.

The hoist assembly moves the length of the ship being unloaded on its own railroad type rails. Electric power to run the hoist is provided by power rails beneath the guardrail looking thing near the right legs of the hoist. The power rails and its cover are similar to those you might see in a city subway station.

The railroad tracks are built on shallow hills to allow railcars to be positioned without the need for an engine. The three sets of rails to the right are sloping away from the camera as can be seen along the bottoms of the power rail mounting brackets to the right. The one or two sets of rails to the left are on a raised platform providing a slope toward the camera.

If the cars do not begin to move down the slopes on their own when brakes are released, there is a device similar to a large crowbar placed between a railcar wheel and the rail to give a gentle nudge. Controlling the speed and stopping the railcars can also be done with a similar crowbar device with a shaped wooden block on it placed in front of a moving railcar wheel.

All of it

Well pretty much all of it is the hoist. It works like this: The clamshell digger (like the ones we used to see at carnivals when we were kids except that this operator always got the prize he wanted) drops down into the hold of the lakeboat and lifted out the ore; then the clamshell and its operator would move across and either drop his load into waiting railcars located on the three tracks under the loader, or more likely drop his load in the piles of ore across the tracks and behind their barrier. I'm guessing a bit here but I'm betting that the counter-weight (below the lower platform) moves when the digger moves so that the weight doesn't topple the thing. The whole thing is on rails and can move up and down the length of the boat, or maybe several boats.

Ore hoist

This crane would move on rails that were parallel to the train tracks.The operator was in the small cabin next to the clamshell bucket . The bucket was lowered into the hold of the ship , scoop up the ore , then transit on the bridge , and dump the ore in piles on the dock. If the ore was to be transferer directly into ore cars , the the operator would dump it directly into the hopper seen on the right upright girders . The hopper was positioned over waiting rail cars, and funneled the ore into them. This seems to be a one way , ship to rail operation

Ore carrier

is the boat, but how much of all this is the hoist? Not clear how it works.

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