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Freight to roll down North Creek tracks soon

Saratoga & North Creek Railway connected to Tahawus mine

Saratoga & North Creek Railway

Saratoga & North Creek Railway Photo by Andy Flynn.

— There are also about 100 million tons of Tahawus tailings, rock leftover from the ore-extraction process. And one of the SNC’s clients wishes to get the iron out of those tailings.

Iron mines were first established at Tahawus and the nearby village of Adirondac in the early 19th century, but there was an impurity in the orebed: ilmenite, which when processed becomes titanium dioxide. When the mine at Tahawus was re-established in 1942, the mining company was extracting ilmenite for titanium dioxide for use in industrial applications such as paint for World War II.

While National Lead processed ilmenite at the Tahawus mine, it also extracted magnetite (iron ore). Twenty percent of the tailings are magnetite.

“There’s a need for that and there’s a process in place to extract the other 20 percent of the iron,” Gonyo said.

There would be no processing at the National Lead mine; instead, the tailings will be shipped out to an ore-extraction processing facility elsewhere.

Barton Mines is also a customer and will soon be shipping garnet from its North River processing plant, making a 3,000-mile cross-country trip to a distribution facility in Kent, Wash., south of Seattle.

Since setting up shop in North Creek and Saratoga Springs in July 2011, the SNC has created between 30 and 75 jobs, including Gonyo’s. He wouldn’t have been able to return to his hometown and work for the railroad without Iowa Pacific’s investment.

“And with the growth of the freight, it will only create more,” Gonyo said. “Basically we’ll need more engineers and conductors. And we may also need more maintenance of way personnel. Those are the guys that work on the tracks.”

To start, Gonyo expects that there will be one crew taking freight between Tahawus and North Creek and another crew taking the freight from North Creek south to Saratoga Springs, where it will connect with the D&H. Freight trains going north of North Creek are only allowed to go a maximum of 10 mph. Between North Creek and Saratoga Springs, freight cars can run a maximum of 25 mph and passenger trains can travel a maximum of 30 mph.

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