The Hulett

To my eye, an engineering marvel were the massive Hulett machines built to transfer iron ore from lake freighters to railroad hopper cars. Jack Delano traveled to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s ore docks in Cleveland, Ohio in May of 1943. There he documented these huge machines at work, and I’ve selected a few samples of his work to present here.

Hulett Unloader Overview

Above is an overview of the iron ore transfer operation. The Hulett machines ride on a huge bridge carriage that travels on a set of parallel rails. Railroad tracks pass beneath the machine to handle the hopper cars to be loaded.

Hulett Unloader Closeup

Here’s a close-up view of the machine. The bucket assembly is suspended from a “walking beam” affair with a smaller boom to keep the bucket arm vertical as it’s raised and lowered. The entire thing rolls back and forth on the traveling bridge, and after picking up a load of ore from the ship’s hold, it is dumped into a hopper bin located between the side rails structure of the bridge. This bin will weigh the ore, and is then rolled over the appropriate hopper car to dump it’s load. Note the tiny locomotive below the bridge, used to position the hoppers.

Bucket on a Hulett Unloader

This is a close-up view of the huge clam-shell bucket as it is rising from the hold of the freighter after scooping up some ore. Look closely above the bucket and you’ll notice the operator of the machine smiling at the photographer. This position enabled him to precisely direct the bucket to the ore pile. Two additional Huletts can be seen beyond this machine.

Hulett Loading the Cars

And here’s the view of the hopper car loading. The traveling bin has positioned over the car, and is releasing it’s load. The bin can also travel out beyond the cars on that cantilevered section at the far right to simply dump it’s load on the ground to create a stockpile.

It must have been an impressive sight to see several of these machines working side by side to unload one of those huge freighters. Imagine the time saved from unloading them by hand!

5 thoughts on “The Hulett

  1. Jack,
    By what means did that tiny narrow- gauge locomotive move the hopper cars? I’d did not appear to be on the same tracks as the hopper cars. Did it operate via polling pockets? Quite dangerous by most standards.
    Matt

    • Matt, the cars were indeed moved by poling of sorts. The tiny locomotive has “poling” arms on it’s sides that swing down to engage a hopper on an adjacent track.

      Locomotive used to move cars at Hulett unloader

      Here’s another view (though not a good one) of the arm down and in position.

      Hulett locomotive with poling arm down

  2. Jack, I toured that site a few times, never when boat was unloading. The shunts were battery powered if I remember correctly. The cars were moved by a arm that was dropped between cars. I have more photos and close ups of the shunts, but I am in the hospital recovering from stroke and do not have access to them.
    Brendan Brosnan

  3. Friend down here from Ashtabula, OH. working for the FAA is big into railroads real and model.
    Tells me stories of growing up in that area and all the railroad related stuff.
    He brought his 1984 Fairmont speeder on trailer. U.P. yellow with Hiawatha logo on front end.
    He has many books and family photos of the works on the lake fronts.
    His real caboose sets on the ACJ R.R. #555573.

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