The Duluth Works was an integrated steel plant, meaning it took several raw materials and put them together in furnaces to make a product. Of those raw materials, iron ore, which was a mere 70 miles (110 km) away from the Duluth Works on the Iron Range, was in plentiful and nearby supply. But it also took coal and limestone and many other materials to make steel. These materials had to travel vast distances to get to the city of Duluth. (This factor also made Duluth "undesirable" in the eyes of many industry leaders as a manufacturing metropolis, since only one key mineral was found nearby, thereby costing companies more to haul other materials there to produce a product in Duluth and making less a profit than elsewhere.)
In the U.S. Steel empire, these materials, and transportation thereof, were all taken care of within the branches of the vast U.S. Steel subsidiaries, all of them mentioned below, having had headquarters in Duluth. The iron ore was mined on the Iron Range by U.S. Steel's own Oliver Mining Company and then hauled down by rail on the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway (DM&IR) directly to the Duluth Works. The coal, which was mined out on the East coast, was hauled by rail to Great Lakes ports and sent to Duluth on lake carriers by its own Pittsburgh Steamship Company. The limestone from Michigan needed to purify the iron ore in the blast furnaces and used for cement making, was hauled by lake carrier to Duluth by the Bradley Transportation Company.
Scrap material and other bulk freight, was moved at the Duluth Works by several rail carriers over the years of operation, other than the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway. The most notables, were the Soo Line, the Northern Pacific Railroad, the Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific Railway, the Great Northern Railway, the Milwaukee Road, and the Canadian National Railway among others. In addition, Minnesota Steel, American Steel and Wire, DM&IR, and finally U.S. Steel all had locomotives within the plant itself for moving its material, and several were serviced and repaired there within the Duluth Works own locomotive machine and repair shops.
The steel and cement plants of the Duluth Works were both serviced by rail via a long rail trunk that intersected several other major rail lines that met in the area. This rail yard was known as the Steelton Yard, and still exists today in the same location between the former steel mill materials yard and the Duluth neighborhoods of Gary and New Duluth. This yard, once owned and operated by the DM&IR, is now operated by the Canadian National Railway.
Finished and semi-finished products from the Duluth steel works, were taken by rail through the Steelton Yard over the Oliver Bridge, through the south end of Superior, Wisconsin and brought to loading docks at Allouez Bay just south of the Superior entry for loading by ship to other markets or further finishing.
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