Rail system positions Trap Rock & Granite for growth

By |  August 17, 2018
Photos courtesy of Trap Rock & Granite

Trap Rock & Granite Quarries uses a state-of-the-art, self-contained rail loop system to transport rock products to customers. Photo courtesy of Trap Rock & Granite

Trap Rock & Granite Quarries (TR&G) not only has a unique deposit of two high-quality hard rocks in its southeast Missouri quarry, but it is also using a state-of-the-art, self-contained rail loop system to transport rock products to customers.

The quarry is located on more than 1,500 acres about 85 miles south of St. Louis, near the town of Iron Mountain, Missouri. Geologists evaluating the quarry estimate that the quarry contains more than 5 billion tons of granite and trap rock.

Sam Beelman III, the third-generation president at TR&G, says the combination of valuable rock deposits, a centralized U.S. location and the railroad his company utilizes to move products provides a competitive edge for his company.

“Our quarry location near St. Louis has red granite on the west side and rhyolite on the east side,” Beelman says. “The demand for these products is high. There are no seams of iron ore or any other adverse material running through the deposits. Our trap rock deposit is extremely consistent with absorption at 0.4 percent and specific gravity [at] 2.65. The hardness (L.A. abrasion test) is at an average of 17, which is ideal for [the U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers, FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), DOT (Department of Transportation) and municipality projects.”

Photos courtesy of Trap Rock & Granite

Both the trap rock and granite in the deposit can be uniformly crushed for diverse applications. Photo courtesy of Trap Rock & Granite

When first presented with the opportunity to acquire the quarry, Beelman’s company considered not only the quality of the quarry deposits, but also the potential value the adjacent Union Pacific Railroad mainline could add to the company’s transportation system. Direct truck deliveries and truck or rail to barge transfers are also available.

“The Union Pacific has over 1,540 miles of track in Missouri,” Beelman says. “One mainline skirts the quarry, making it possible for direct switch with that rail system with our own double-loop system.

“In order to make that happen, we had to acquire the necessary land, obtain permits and negotiate agreements with the railroad,” he adds. “That has taken several years, and now we have a state-of-the-art quarry with the ability to turn trains more quickly than most quarries.”

The company’s history

It was 1906 when Beelman’s grandfather, Frank, founded Beelman Truck Co. in St. Louis. The fledgling business hauled ice and coal in horse-drawn wagons.

Frank Jr., Sam’s father, led the company into supplying material for interstate construction projects and hauling bulk commodities. By 1930, the Beelmans were hauling from a limestone quarry, which they later ended up purchasing in 2010.

Photos courtesy of Trap Rock & Granite

Both the trap rock and granite in the deposit can be uniformly crushed for diverse applications. Photo courtesy of Trap Rock & Granite

Currently, Beelman Truck is headquartered in East St. Louis, Illinois, operating a fleet of 700 trucks to haul dry bulk commodities into 44 states and Ontario, Canada. Beelman Truck also has a barge terminal on the Mississippi River and one barge/lake vessel terminal near Chicago, just off Lake Michigan.

Trap Rock & Granite, the company’s most recent acquisition, will allow for supplying two high-quality rock types from the same operation. The quarry combines a large and small crushing plant. The large plant consists of a 2,000-tph primary gyratory crusher and a secondary gyratory crusher – both of which are from Metso. The quarry also utilizes three Sandvik cone crushers and two vertical shaft impactors.

“We are installing a second vertical shaft impactor,” Beelman says. “Most of our screen and washing equipment comes from Deister.”

Beelman invested heavily in a wash plant and dust control equipment, and strives to use a low level of water to work in an environmentally friendly manner. The plant is also configured to produce consistently high-quality material with relatively low operating costs, Beelman adds.

Designing the rail line

Photos courtesy of Trap Rock & Granite

TR&G currently uses 17-cu.-yd. wheel loaders to load cars. Photo courtesy of Trap Rock & Granite

The Missouri trap rock found in Trap Rock & Granite’s St. Louis-area location is similar to fine granite and is purple­ black in color. Both the trap rock and granite in the deposit can be uniformly crushed for diverse applications, including railroad ballast, landscape stone, chips for asphalt or concrete, and sealcoating and baseball warning track materials.

Initially, TR&G’s products were used on the oblong railroad track loop laid across some 70 acres of the quarry. Earthmovers carved out the quarry’s private railway bed, and about two-thirds of the loop was completed in a first development phase.

In phase two, about 1 million tons of rock were quarried from a rocky outcrop where the remainder of the railway loop was set up.

“All told, our rail line is 14,300 ft. long,” Beelman says. “We bought brand-new 136-pound U.S.-made rail, welded the joints and set it on concrete ties to create a top-of-the-line facility. We often ship to our Kansas City Glen Park rail yard, where our product is unloaded into stockpiles and distributed by truck.”

To determine how to integrate and interface with existing rail lines, Beelman’s company consulted with all of the Class I railroads prior to designing its in-quarry double loop. The completed track can accommodate two 110-car unit trains at one time.

Beelman also owns its own private 75-gondola unit train that can be transported to any rail yard.

To ensure customers pay only for the product they receive, railcars coming in run over a certified in-motion track scale approved for trade. Weigh tickets display the empty, gross and net weight of the cars.

“To make the haul as efficient as possible, we load cars to full capacity,” Beelman says. “Once they’re loaded, the cars are pulled over the scale again.

“Some railroad executives have told us that they believe there’s between 5 and 10 percent carryback in some cars,” he adds. “Our certified inbound scale weights will ensure the buyer gets full credit for all carryback, which they do not get today from some quarries.”

TR&G currently uses 17-cu.-yd. wheel loaders to load cars. Once the entire plant install is completed, overhead conveyor belts will bring product to an overhead bin so they can be batch loaded into cars. This process will uniformly load cars to their maximum legal weight, making the load and haul more efficient.

“With our background in the trucking business, we understand the costs associated with delayed truck and train loading times,” Beelman says. “When the wheels aren’t turning, your rolling stock is not making any money. Several Class I railroads have said an idled or delayed ballast train costs from $800 per hour up to $2,000 per hour, depending on the number of locomotives, cars and whether the train is crewed or not.”

Beelman expects TR&G to have the fastest, most accurate weighing and loading of trains and trucks in the business. The company is also working with Union Pacific Railroad to minimize delays at interchange points with other railroads.

In planning the rail loop, safety played a key role in its configuration. At no time do TR&G’s cars hold up the Union Pacific main line. Unit trains pull straight into the quarry, make a lap around the loop to load and pull straight out to leave the quarry. At no time do the locomotives have to detach from cars or have to back up to get loaded.

This is the safest and most efficient method to load a unit train, Beelman says.

“That setup minimizes the time necessary to get empty cars in and loaded cars out,” he says. “We don’t want our cars or any other railcars sitting and waiting during any of the process.”

TR&G’s configuration also includes a tunnel with a 14-ft. clearance underneath the railroad track that accommodates trucks hauling product locally. Trucks are currently loaded with wheel loaders and will eventually be loaded from the overhead bin system. Products can be accessed by trucks 24/7 so that no customer is held up by the rail loop system.

“That kind of detail in planning our entire facility from a greenfield is what makes this an ideal quarry configuration,” Beelman says.

“There’s been some trial and error in finalizing all these plans, but I don’t believe there’s any other rock quarry in the nation with this kind of setup,” he adds. “In addition to quarrying rock, our expertise lies in transportation and moving material. We believe this new quarrying and transportation system is second to none.”

Loretta Sorensen is a freelance writer in Yankton, South Dakota. She produces material on a variety of topics, serves as a ghostwriter, and has authored her own books.

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