Dominating 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 -

These are the chutes down which the ore poured from the 'pockets" into the holds of the oreboats.

The ore dock is predominantly concrete and is approximately 80' high. The years of disuse and lack of maintenance are taking their toll.


The timbers on the trestle despite being over 90 years old look in pretty sound shape.
My favourite picture. Not a dilapidated fence, but the remains of the timber decking on the approach trestle photographed from ground level

An almost idyllic view, the fall leaves are almost gone. How much longer will the ore dock last?

All that remains of the timber trestle is this section of the approach to the dock.

On the east side of the dock are the timber piles of an earlier dock.