Incorporating a rail line into a quarry and transportation system

By and |  June 9, 2014
Trap Rock and Granite Quarries

Trap Rock and Granite Quarries LLC’s reserves feature Missouri red granite and trap rock deposits.

Missouri was a hotbed of rock formation several hundred million or a few billion years ago. Magma periodically flowed beneath and above the surface of the earth, cooling and hardening.

Today, the southern part of the Show Me State contains vast tonnage of Precambrian granite and trap rock to show for its molten past. Trap Rock and Granite Quarries LLC’s reserves feature Missouri red granite and trap rock deposits. This year, the company will begin to tap the rich groundswell with a state-of-the-art quarry loadout operation.

The plan
Trap Rock and Granite Quarries owns 3,200 acres in southern Illinois and southeast Missouri, with more than 1,100 of those acres situated 85 miles south of St. Louis near Iron Mountain, Mo. The 1,100-acre parcel was purchased three years ago after geologists concluded it contains an estimated 1 billion tons of granite and trap rock. But just as enticing to the company was what lay adjacent to the property: a main line of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Union Pacific has about 1,400 miles of track in Missouri, and some of those tracks skirt the new quarry. Sensing an opportunity because of the tracks’ proximity, Trap Rock and Granite Quarries’ executives began to incorporate the Union Pacific main line into the company’s quarry and transportation system.

“This has been a project in the making for two years,” says Gary Perrey, the company’s aggregate operations manager. “We had to get all the land acquisition and permitting and agreements worked out with the railroad. It has been a pretty good pace to get it all together in this amount of time.”

Integrating the railroad into the quarry operation is not a surprising move for Trap Rock and Granite Quarries. Sam Beelman, president, represents the third generation of his family to oversee commercial enterprises in southeast Missouri and across the Mississippi River in southwest Illinois. For most of the last century, trucking, transferring materials between rail, truck and barge, and marketing rock and ready-mix concrete have been complementary divisions of the company’s work.

Trap Rock and Granite Quarries

Beelman Truck Co., headquartered in East St. Louis, Ill., has five aggregate operations.

Beelman’s grandfather, Frank Beelman Sr., founded Beelman Truck Co. in 1906, hauling ice and coal in horse-drawn wagons. Frank Beelman Jr. led the company into supplying material for interstate construction projects and hauling bulk commodities. By the 1930s, Beelman trucks were hauling limestone from a quarry that, in 2010, the company formally acquired.

Today, Beelman Truck Co., with headquarters in East St. Louis, Ill., operates a fleet of 650 trucks hauling dry bulk commodities into 44 states and Ontario. It has three river barge terminals on the Mississippi and one northward near Chicago, five aggregate operations, and 12 ready-mix concrete plants. The vertical business model still has company quarries supplying aggregate for the trucking fleet to haul.

The newest quarry contains both granite and trap rock – a fairly rare combination that will let the company supply two in-demand rock types from the same operation.

“We don’t know of any other quarry facility with two high-quality hard rock materials, not in the Midwest,” says Sam Beelman. “It is a very unique deposit and strategically located.”

The material’s use
Missouri red granite is commonly used for decorative veneer and monuments, but it’s also a superior aggregate for construction and landscaping. Missouri trap rock, which is a generic term for fine-to-medium durable aggregate, is purple-black in color. It is akin to granite and is employed similarly.

Both minerals are composed mostly of silica and aluminum oxides and can be crushed uniformly for diverse applications ranging from railroad ballast (2 in.) and landscape stone (3/4 in.) to chips for asphalt and seal-coating (3/8 in.) and baseball warning-track material (3/16 in. and smaller).

That a railroad skirts the edge of a trap rock deposit is appropriate because much of the material will be quarried and crushed for the nation’s railroad systems. Railroad ties and tracks rest on ballast that typically is laid 6 in. to 20 in. deep and is packed tight around ties to anchor and cushion them. The irregularly shaped stone tends to lock together, forming a stable foundation. Many tons of ballast material is utilized for every mile of new track, and the rock is regularly replenished.

Trap Rock and Granite Quarries

Missouri red granite is commonly used for decorative veneer and monuments, but it’s also a superior aggregate for construction and landscaping.

The first of the ballast material mined at the new Trap Rock and Granite Quarries property will be utilized on site, because the heart of the quarry’s modern loadout operation is an oblong railroad track loop encircling 70 acres. The initially quarried stone will be turned into ballast for the quarry’s rail system, which ultimately will comprise some three miles of side-by-side tracks and feeder tracks for the Union Pacific main line.

A contractor is moving earth to carve out the private railway roadbed, but only two-thirds of the loop will be constructed in a first phase of operation. A rocky outcrop where the far side of the tracks eventually will be laid has to be quarried to get it down to grade. Some 2 million tons of rock will be carved away in that leveling operation.

In addition, a partial double loop of track will be built in the first phase of construction. When complete, 35 cars at a time will roll across those rails for loading with aggregate before being shunted back to the main track. After the obstructing rock is removed and the full loop is completed, the double track will be able to accommodate two 110-unit trains.

The completed railroad loop will become the focal point of quarrying operations for the remaining 1,000 acres in the tract. Very little overburden will have to be removed before rock in the quarry can be accessed and broken up using standard drill-and-blast mining methodology. Fourteen-yard wheel-loaders will scoop up the loosened material, and 75-to-100-ton off-road trucks will haul it away and dump it near the outer edge of the rail loop. There, initial crushing operations will ensue, with the reduced rock eventually conveyed over the tracks to a point inside the loop for additional crushing, screening and washing operations.

Finally, stockpiled and washed rock will be moved via drawdown tunnels to an overhead bin for dumping into hopper railroad cars. The loading system will incorporate track scales for weighing cars and weighted dumps of material to ensure trains are uniformly loaded. The automated system is designed to load out anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 tph.

A look ahead
Company engineers and management are still designing the new quarry’s crushing and screening operations. Perrey says they will be built around a 1,200-tph jaw crusher with secondary and tertiary cone crushers.

Because the facility will incorporate the latest reduction, conveyance and loadout technologies and will splice seamlessly into the adjacent Union Pacific track, Beelman is confident complete car trains will be loaded faster than usual.

“We will be able to turn trains quicker than most quarries,” Beelman says. “With our trucking background, we understand the costs associated with delayed loading times of rolling stock.”

This is not the first time Trap Rock and Granite Quarries management has incorporated rails into operations. Rail spurs were previously built to facilitate transfers between railcars and trucks. But constructing a self-contained rail system is something new for the company.

Initially, Union Pacific or a customer will own all rolling stock. The company will provide a car-moving engine unit as the operation gets under way, but Union Pacific will have an engine on site when the rail system becomes fully operational.

Beelman Truck Co. tractor-trailers also will load out from the facility. They will access the inside-the-rail loop stockpiles of finished rock through an underpass with a 14-ft. clearance, which will be cut into the rock beneath the tracks. Inside the loop, trucks will be loaded with aggregate using wheel loaders or overhead bins.

Yet another transportation mode will be utilized to move some of the rock from the quarry to aggregate customers up and down the Mississippi River. The quarry is situated less than 50 miles from the river in St. Genevieve, Mo., a historic and picturesque river town. At that point on the river, Beelman River Terminals is developing a new barge-loading port on recently acquired property.

As a practical matter, what this means is that, within an hour or so, granite and trap rock can be trucked from the Missouri quarry to the Mississippi River for loading and shipment throughout the inland river system or down to the Gulf of Mexico.

“Transportation is our forte, our expertise,” Beelman says. “We now will have the ability to utilize all modes of transportation in moving material. We believe our system is very efficient.”

Take note
Both Missouri red granite and Missouri trap rock can be crushed to produce railroad ballast, landscape stone, chips for asphalt and seal-coating, and baseball warning-track material.

Giles Lambertson previously was a carpenter and has been writing about the construction and mining industries for more than a decade. He can be reached at geepeela@yahoo.com.

Photos: Trap Rock and Granite Quarries

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