Friday, January 20, 2017

Last of the U. S. Steel Ore Bridges Comes Down

Right before Christmas I received an interesting email from Mr. James Shedron of New London, Ohio, about ore bridges – those large, distinctive looking cranes used for loading and unloading ore. You can see them in the two vintage postcards above.

James wrote to me about the waning days of the ore bridges at U. S. Steel.

He wrote, "I am a retired steelworker from “the Mill" in Lorain. I spent most of my time at the blast furnaces and ore-unloading docks. I want to share with you these old pics of the last of the ore bridges (No. 6) which was taken down on December 17, 1994."

Here are his photos.

“No. 6 ore bridge was the last of the ore bridges demolished, “ he explained. He noted that No. 6 was built some time around 1960, and had more capacity, as well as updated electrical systems. "No. 4 and No. 5, which were much older, were taken down sometime around 1977. These machines became obsolete with the advent of self-unloading Great Lakes ore carriers,” he added.

According to James, there were many changes on the docks beginning in the 1970s.
"During 1975-76 a new conveyor-belt unloading system was built at the USS docks to accommodate those self-unloaders. The Hulett machines, which dropped their buckets into the hatches of the old-style ore-carriers, also became obsolete and by 1982 they were no longer needed.
"Many jobs were eliminated; by the mid to late '80s, there were two guys remaining at the Docks operating and maintaining the self-unloading system.
“I was fortunate to board those ore-carriers when they would come to Lorain to unload their cargo. We had walkie-talkies at the docks, and we would communicate with the vessels out on Lake Erie as soon as they got near the breakwall. We could unload 23,000 tons, a typical boatload, in about 6 hours."
But the No. 6 ore bridge continued to hang on until the 1990s. Why?
As James explained, "The company kept No. 6 to handle odd jobs in the ore storage yard until 1994 when it was demolished."
“One more thing of interest about these ore bridges, “ he added. "That tornado that hit Lorain in 1924 damaged the dock area. An ore bridge was destroyed."
In closing, James couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful about the mill.
He noted, “It’s too bad that the mill is pretty much down and out. Fresh out of Admiral King High School in 1970, I started employment there. My father-in-law worked there along with many of my close family. I had forty years of service when I left in 2010. Those years went by in a flash!”
Thanks to James for sharing his reminisces and photos.


Matt Weisman said...

Dan, A really nice and informative article by Mr. James Shedron. Great photos of the bridges being dynamited also.

Dan Brady said...

I thought it was great too, it’s always nice to get the story from someone who was there!

Anonymous said...

Dan and James,
What a very nice remembrance of the mill and the ore bridges. I of course remember seeing those cranes from the 21st Street Bridge as a kid. I and many family members worked at the mill and I too recall that the self-unloaders rendered the bridges obsolete. Thank you for sharing the pictures of the last bridge, it brought back memories of the good old Lorain days.
Chuck Short
Jackson MI