Smelter/slag dump ideas

Discussion in 'Logging, Mining and Industrial Railroads' started by nachoman, Apr 24, 2008.

  1. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I am building a small HO copper smelter, circa 1915-1920. The concentrates will arrive via a HOn30 (used to represent either a 20 or 24 inch gauge) railroad, and the blister copper will be exported via a 36" gauge railway, probably in boxcars. I am learning that smelting is a complicated process that was performed using many different methods. Obviously I have many questions :mrgreen:.

    First, what kind of raw materials came into a smelter, and how were they shipped? Of course the concentrated copper, and I assume most smelters would use coke as a fuel. Anything else I am missing here?

    Second, what was the output of the smelter, and how was it shipped? What would blister copper have been shipped in? Would the smelter also export things like sulfuric acid?

    And last - the waste :mrgreen:. I was planning on having a slag train and a slag dump. I am debating whether to use a 36" or HOn30 gauge railway for the slag train. How big would the slag cars need to be? Is HOn30 too small for this?

  2. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    If you want 20" gauge, Z track would be more appropriate. It would be HOn22, though I've never heard it called that. The only name I know for it is the European one, HOi. (They call HOn30 HOe.)
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    There used to be HO slag cars available, I think they were for steel mills.
    There was a fairly large support structure on the end, making the bucket seem like 1/3 or 1/4 the length of the car.
    At the nickel mine in Sudbury, watching the slag dumping at night was a local attraction. It probably looks most like the lava from a volcano. That would be a tremendous set piece for lighting and effects; you might not even need the train.
  4. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Yes, it would be an impressive sight. And it is much the same as lava, as it should both glow and steam/smoke as it is poured. The steam/smoke may be hard to simulate, but I have thought about simulating the glowing slag by embedding red and orange LEDS into a small pool of envirotex resin. I would paint below the resin with black paint, and try and frost/texture the surface of the resin in such a way to simulate the slag surface and to diffuse the light from the leds. Maybe some careful blotching of black paint on the top of the resin so that the glow only comes out in select places...

  5. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    From my experince, based on Upper MI copper mining practices, Copper was usually shipped by ship, is ~25lbs "ingots". I'm sure ingots are still used, but it depends on the final output of you mill. They could make copper slab, or wire rolls, ect...
  6. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Watching "How It's Made", it appears that copper is usually shipped in ingot form to a manufacturing plant where it is then turned into sheet, wire or what-have-you. This would most likely be the practice for the time period being modelled, and electric wouold be the smelting "fuel of choice".

    I'm curious: Why two separate gauges? Practical economics would seem to suggest that the factory would keep it's rail needs as much as possible within the same standard to simply operations and keep costs down.
  7. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Mountain man: not necessarily. If there was a complete change of product (Raw ore going in, refined metal coming out) they might find narrow gauge cheaper to build in rough territory.
    Crewe works in England had a 2' gauge railway servicing the plants where they built and serviced standard gauge rolling stock.
  8. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    The prototype I am modeling used 20" gauge feeder lines. These lines conected the individual mine adits with the ore-processing operations. They didn't use a larger gauge due to terrain and similar constraints. I am wondering if 20" gauge is large enough for a slag train, or if they would have bumped up to 36". The slag train would not have had the same terrain constraints as the other lines.

  9. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Hi....Funny you should be contemplating a copper smelter...I've had that in the back of my mind (wwaaaaaayyyyyy back) as a possible "major" industry for my RR. I did a brief stint as an auditor for Alex Stewart Assayers in a copper smelting operation in San Luis Potosi (Mexico) at one of the few surviving smelters of ASARCO. The slag dumping, as has been mentioned, was a major attraction, particularly at night...It was like lava flowing down. The finished product was shipped out via rail (box cars) in large ingots. There was also a secondary product...GOLD...!! I was never able to find out how that was handled....for obvious reasons.
    There was also a saddle tank engine rusting away out in the back, and now that I think of it, I believe it was a narrow gauge, as it was fairly small...Sadly, I've gone back to look for it now, and it's gone.
    There are a number of web sites dealing with copper processing (Google "copper smelting"), including many related to the massive "clean up" that has been undertaken to get former smelter sites in step with EPA guidelines. There was a fair amount of lead in the slag....

    Keep us posted on your project...I might want to steal some of your ideas....fair & square....:mrgreen:
  10. slagpot

    slagpot Member

    Hello Kevin,

    Raw materials...

    1. Ball barings for the crusher mill.
    2. Chemicals for the leaching of the ore {to help release the copper ore from the rock}
    3. Coupla furnace brick as this was the main way of melting the copper ore.
    4. A whole host of other materials.


    1. I think back in those days there was only two ways to ship copper.Anode plates,usually the plates where very heavy,so no one person could steal them,Secondly,thin electro plate,yielding almost 99.9% pure copper,banded with steel straps.

    Slag dump...

    1. This I don't really know that much about. My best quess is slag trains were standard gauge slag cars.These can be Walther's steel mill slag cars.

    Hope this helps. Kevin heres a link to the library of congress HABS/HAER web-site.Inside many pictures,drawings ect.

    Dragon River steel Corp {DRSC}
  11. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member in the Rockies it was all narrow gauge from the get-go, so that problem didn't arise until later. The only narrower lines were the small mine trams that trundled the stuff out of the mine proper to the loading tipples.
  12. gtspcp

    gtspcp New Member


    I am looking for Smelter slag. Do you know any larg mount of smelter slag?

  13. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Do you plan on using real slag on your layout?

    If so,as a precaution read this first.

    Smelter slags may be a hazard: 1/6/99
  14. Interesting.

    Will Bruder is a well known architect in Phoenix - one of his his buildings, I believe it's called the Deer Creek Rock Art Center, is built of tilt-up concrete panels with a deep burgandy slag aggregate finish. The slag all came from the mine / smelter at Superior, AZ.

    Nachoman, I just saw that you're in Arizona - a weekend excursion out to Superior might yield some good ideas for your model - it's beautiful mountain country that quickly gives way to open desert, for those not familiar with the area.

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