Coal was brought into Duluth-Superior on lake boats, and reloaded into
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railroad cars. And there was a steel mill in the same vicinity. I don't
know how much coal was brought into the area in the STMFC era.
Actually, only partially true, at least as far as the statements about the GN. In 1950, the GN owned almost 3000 GS gondolas, and just less than 700 50 ton twin hoppers, AAR class HM. The vast majority of the thousands of AAR class HM hoppers the GN owned were 70 ton ore cars. Given their low cubic capacity, I doubt the ore hoppers were ever used in significant numbers for hauling coal.
The ore hoppers, (or jennies, if you prefer), however, were used in the seasonal sugar beet rushes, mostly because they were available at the time, as sugar beet harvest coincides with the end of the lake boat ore shipping season. Another reason they were used is the short duration of the sugar beet harvest. Called "campaigns", these lasted about 6-8 weeks, and were short hauls from the beet dumps to the sugar beet refineries. The GN AFEs related to the purchase of the 300 Hart ballast hoppers in 1953 mention the seasonal beet campaigns, but beet traffic alone did not justify investing in specialized cars. GN beet trains would have ore cars, hoppers, GS gondolas, and the longitudinal hoppers, AAR class HK. (The Atlas Hart ballast hopper).
Lest you think of GS gondolas as a western phenomenon, there is documentation of these cars going all over the United States, as befitting their general service classification.