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Hydra: 1901

Buffalo, New York, circa 1901. "Unloading ore from whaleback carrier." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Buffalo, New York, circa 1901. "Unloading ore from whaleback carrier." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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The lighthouse survives! It's surrounded by a Coast Guard base, soon to become a public park.

More Bang for your Photo

Wow, this shot has quite the juxtaposition of the historic! The rail cars are at the beginning of air brakes and the MacDougal whaleback steamer is at the end of their production. The unloading machines days are numbered (frankly, I’ve never seen this type) however the Buffalo light house that was built in 1833 is still there.

[The "beginning of air brakes" was 30 years before this picture was taken. - Dave]

All wood and amazing.

I'm struck by something this large relying on timbers for strength. It is easy to imagine much creaking and groaning during operation.


An ad for an air bra avant-la-lettre?

Could have been an ore jennie ;-)

After all I better vote for a "railway air brake:"

The man behind the curtain

Where is the operator? In the tower at the far end of Hydra?
I would love to see more pictures of this hoist if you can find them.

Buffalo Main Lighthouse

The lighthouse in the background is Buffalo Main dating to 1819.

Still, they are a wonder to me

No, so many times I can not gather what they do exactly or understand how they work. But, somehow, I find it all so wonderful. Thanks so much.


That's also one very unique and beautiful lighthouse in the background.

Car Gender

Those little ore cars had names--I've seen them referred to as ore jimmies and ore jennies in various railroad publications. Whatever their gender, the name is always lower-case. These cars carried just as much weight as a larger coal hopper, but are smaller because the equivalent weight of iron ore takes up less room due to its density.

Interesting Ship Design

Whalebacks were Great Lakes freighters constructed between 1887 and 1898. Only a total of 43 were made. When loaded, they rode low in the water, with only the curved top showing above the waterline. The last whaleback was retired in 1969 after a long and varied career. It has been docked as a museum ship on display in Superior, Wisconsin, since 1971.

Six-Rig Excelsior Hoist

What a marvelous steampunk contraption: a train of giant rolling cranes made from timbers and cast-iron gears. I can't at all understand how they are powered.

It's from an earlier generation of technology compared to the steel Brown Fast Plants pictured in A Chorus Line: 1905.

Blue Book of American Shipping, 1901

Railway Terminal Facilities for Ore
and Coal Traffic on Lake Erie

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Co., (Docks in Erie Basin), Six-rig Excelsior hoist, built by Excelsior Iron Works Co., Cleveland; capable of unloading 2,000 gross tons in 10 hours. All rigs can be worked on vessels having hatches of 24-ft. centers or less. No Storage Room.

Hard work

Presumably, there were men down in the hold shovelling coal into the buckets. Nasty job.

The Limit of Wood

One can easily understand how steel construction for such machines soon supplanted wood. Notice, that despite the hefty staybolts, and cross bracing, the wood beams are seriously cracking under the strain.

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