the lake front of the Wisconsin city of Ashland is the old ore
dock. Built of concrete and steel, it was constructed by the
Minneapolis, St Paul and Sault St Marie Railroad (the SOO Line)
in 1915. It was the third such dock to be built in Ashland. The
docks were built to transfer the iron ore mined in the Gogebic
range of the Upper peninsula of Michigan and N.E. Wisconsin to
the steel producing plants of the Eastern great lakes. The ore
was bought to Ashland from the mines by rail and it was here
that the ore was transferred to the great lakes ore boats. A
train of railroad cars filled with ore was pulled on to the top
of the dock and dumped its cargo into the 300 storage "pockets"
underneath the rails. Ships would pull up alongside the dock
and the ore would be loaded onto the vessel through the many
chutes that you can see in the photographs. Because these pockets
were located on each side of the pier, several ships could be
filled at the same time.
When originally built the dock was 900 feet long and had a capacity
of 52,000 tons of ore. However in 1925 it was doubled in length
to 1800 feet long which saw its capacity increase to 110,000
tons. At that time it was the largest ore dock of its type in
the country. The rails that run on the top of the dock are 80'
above the water level and to get to this height the trains loaded
with ore had to travel along a long wooden trestle, most of which
has now sadly disappeared.
The last iron ore was transported from the Gogebic range in 1965
and the dock fell into disuse. But the dock provided shelter
and an anchorage for other vessels and a great place to fish
from for the locals.
The dock provided many jobs for the
city in its heyday and even the school sports teams are known
as the 'Oredockers" In 2002 the city council designated
the ore dock a city landmark, but this designation does not protect
it from demolition and for the past few years this great landmark
has been on the Wisconsin trust for historic preservations 10
most endangered properties list.
In 2007 the Wisconsin Central (the latter day owners of the SOO
Line) announced that they wished to demolish it as it was too
much of a risk and liability. This announcement caused uproar
in the town and several plans have been put forward to save this
structure for posterity. The cost to demolish the structure will
run into the tens of millions of dollars perhaps that money would
be better spent on preserving at least some of the structure
The proposals can be seen at the City of Ashland's website here.
I've been going to Ashland for the
past 10 years and the dock is always a magnificent sight to see.
I do hope that something is done to save at least some part of
the magnificent structure for future generations.
Below are a selection of pictures that
I took on a previous visit to Ashland. I do hope its not the
last time I'll see the ore dock.
Drop me a line if you like this feature. I could always put up
more pictures - ianATiholmes.com