Re: Older Iron Range freight cars

Daniel A. Mitchell

I’d like to make a quite general comment here … Iron ore is NOT all one color.

Nowadays, with taconite making up most all the shipments, the color is rather uniform. The individual taconite pellets vary considerably in color, but they are rather homogeneously mixed resulting in a more uniform bulk color.

But in earlier times, especially during and before WWII, they were shipping raw ore. The color of raw ore varied from mine to mine, and even within the same mine. It ranged from a dark yellow through all shades of reddish-brown, to a nearly purplish-black. Both the chemical composition and concentration of iron in the ore varied.

Steel mills required a particular mix of raw ore, depending on their capabilities and needs. The big ore-yards would sort the cars of various ores to meet the requirements of a particular steel mill’s order. Then the sorted cars would be sent up to the ore docks for loading in a ship to transport to that mill.

So, if all the ore coming from a particular mine traveled over a dedicated track, then that track would acquire the color of that ore. The mainlines, however, would carry ore from many different mines, resulting a rather uniform mixture of colors.

It is also true that the “rust” color was pervasive. It got into everything, and coated everything. Back in the 1960s my dad was filming in the Minnesota mines and we spent considerable time driving about on the active haul roads. Long after, YEARS later, every time we washed his old suburban we got red mud washing out. My mom could not put any item of ore-contaminated clothing in the laundry with anything light-colored or white ... or everything turned pink.

I also recall that the LS&I, who had been painting their locomotives a rusty-red color, tried painting them a bright green. After a few months of service they were again red from the cab windows down, covered in ore-dust. Later they went back to painting the locos red. The DM&IR also painted their Diesels rusty-red. It really didn’t matter what color you painted them, they all turned red in a few months anyway.

Dan Mitchell

On May 29, 2021, at 7:58 AM, Eric Hansmann <eric@...> wrote:


The cars and layout are Bob Hanmer’s work, not mine. I can’t comment on the rail color. 

Eric Hansmann
Murfreesboro, TN

On May 28, 2021, at 8:50 PM, Jim Betz <jimbetz@...> wrote:


  Very nice build!  Shouldn't the rails be essentially the same color as
the ore cars?  I've read that all the houses along the right-of-way had
rust-colored whites - didn't matter what color is was it was going to
end up being a rust colored piece of wash on the clothes line out
back - due to the iron ore haul going by.  I've seen pictures of the
track when it had rained and the track would "run orange" (newly
formed rust).  I can't imagine the track would be any other color
than "iron ore rust".
                                                                                  - Jim

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