Hulett Ore Unloader History, Technology and Modeling

Hulett Unloaders:

Most Hulett unloaders, starting with the 15-ton machines at Ashtabula, followed the same basic concept, through each installation, at nearly every different dock or location, was unique. The Hulett/Wellman design evolved over time through four 'generations':

1st generation Huletts - 10-ton units (11) built from 1899 to 1903:
The first Huletts were the 4 original steam/hydraulic units at Conneaut, rated at 10-tons capacity per "bite". Around 1902-1903 these machines were retro-fitted with an early type of larry car system; these were commonly called "bucket cars", which held a 10-ton load but had no scales or weighing equipment. Buffalo had 2 similar steam units (BR&P) and 5 electric/hydraulic units (Lackawanna), which followed the original Conneaut design quite closely, except that they were equipped with bucket cars as originally built.

2nd generation Huletts - 10-ton open-truss units (17) built from 1905 to 1909:
Starting in 1905, the Wellman Company engineers, and George Hulett, substantially improved the basic Hulett design to take advantage of complete electrical power and control. The bucket leg was increased in height and the auxiliary arm, or stabilizer, was now placed below the main walking beam, so that they could dig deeper into the holds of ever larger ore boats. The main walking beam was now a partial open-truss construction (forward of the trolley pivot posts) and gave these Huletts the appearance of a dragonfly. The "bucket car" feature was equipped with a separate scale or weighing hopper on some of these open-truss units, where the ore was weighed by an operator who stood in a separate machinery house built on the rear sills of the main girders. The original 5 open-truss Huletts at Gary Indiana in 1907 were the first Huletts that were originally installed with weighing hoppers.

3rd generation Huletts - 15-ton and 17-ton units (44) built from 1909 to 1950:
By 1908, bigger boats and ever increasing demand for ore necessitated another updating of the Hulett design. The new design returned to the original, heavier, girder constructed walking beam as with the original Huletts, because it provided more strength to carry larger capacity 15-ton and later 17-ton buckets. The main base and girders were now much longer than in the open-truss units. Perhaps the most significant improvement, was the refined "larry car" and its new features. First, a separate receiving hopper was now positioned above the larry car traveling rails, holding each "bite" of ore from the bucket. The larry car's capacity was increased to 30 tons or more, and the operators rode right inside the car itself to more quickly and accurately weigh the unloaded ore with scales built as part of the car unit. The operators were also now able to load railroad cars just by stopping above them, being able to see the entire line of cars and tracks located under each unloader. These third generation electric machines, starting with the Ashtabula units, became the "standard" Hulett unloader design for almost all subsequent Hulett installations.

4th generation Huletts - 20-ton units (9) built from 1944 to 1960:
A 20-ton Hulett design was speculated as far back as 1913, but was not seriously considered until the early 1940s, when WW II pushed ore demand to its highest levels ever. The 20-ton units featured a flatter receiving hopper, positioned lower than those on a standard 17-ton Hulett, in order to reduce the time needed to raise the bucket up over the main girders after coming up with a "grab" from a vessel's hold. Apart from this the 20-ton Hulett was nothing more than a "beefed-up" version of a 17-ton machine. These units were heavier, more bulky, and less graceful in their appearance. Seven of the nine 20-ton Huletts were built for U.S. Steel's Gary and Lorain plants, as replacements for their ageing 10-ton open-truss Huletts.

(Jeff Clark, 2012)


Hulett Unloader Unit Data:

Location Number Size Built>Scrapped Dock Company Railroad Notes Image Link
Ashtabula OH 4 15t(17t) 1909 > 1987 Ashtabula & Buffalo (A&B) LS&MS/NYC 1st conventional design - upgraded to 17t by 1940's
4 15t(17t) 1910>1980-81 Union - Dock 4 (Superior) LS&MS/NYC #4 wrecked 7/72 by the 'George M. Seedhouse' Pix
Buffalo, NY 2 10t South-1903>1930's   North-1908>1930's   Buffalo Ship Canal BR&P steam/hydraulic Pix Link
1 10t 1908>1950's  Wickwire Steel NYC open truss beam
1 10t 1906>1957-58 James Thompson PRR open truss beam
5 10t 1902-06>1930's Lackawanna-1922- Bethlehem Steel SB electric/hydraulic, replaced by 17t
4 17t #2----1950>1983-84   #3----1940>1983-84   #4,5-1930>1983   Bethlehem Steel SB Belt conveyor system, instead of larry car Pix Link
Cleveland, OH 2 10t 1908 > 1984 U.S. Steel  (upper dock) NSS open-truss beam
3 10t 1909>1982-83 Republic Steel (lower dock) RT open-truss beam Pix
4 17t 1911-2>2000 Cleveland & Pittsburgh PRR 1st 17t units,  #1 & #2 dismantled-stored 2000 Pix
3 17t #1-1924>1983 #2-1916>1983 #3-1946>1983 NYP&O ERIE
2 17t 1943 > 1982 Republic Steel RT #4, #5
Conneaut, OH 4 10t #1,2-1900>>1929 #3----1899>1929 #4----1901>1929 Pittsburgh & Conneaut B&LE steam/hydraulic, #3 was 1st Hulett ever built Link
5 17t #1,2-1916>1994 #3----1910>1994 #4,5-1924>1994 Pittsburgh & Conneaut B&LE Pix
Dearborn, MI 2 17t 1918-22>1944,56 Ford Motor DT&I South unit wrecked 11/44 by the 'Carl D Bradley'
Erie, PA 1 10t 1908>1982-83 Philadelphia & Erie > Republic Steel PRR open-truss beam, moved to Republic lower dock in 1960 Pix
Ft. William, Ontario 2 17t 1919>1960-61 Canadian Pacific CP coal service only, 8 ton coal rating
Gary, IN 5 10t 1907>1944 U.S. Steel EJ&E open-truss beam Pix
2 17t 1917>1959-61 U.S. Steel EJ&E one unit moved in 1954-55, but unused until scrapped
4 20t 1944-59>1987 U.S. Steel EJ&E Pix Link
Huron, OH 2 15t 1914>1950 W&LE W&LE steam-hydraulic
2 17t 1950 >1989 W&LE W&LE Pix
Lorain, OH 4 10t #1,2-1905>1945   #3----1907>1960   #4----1907>1950's U.S. Steel LT open-truss beam Pix
3 20t #5,6-1944>1985-88 #7----1960>1985-88 U.S. Steel LT #7 was last Hulett ever built Pix
South Chicago, IL 2 17t 1943>2010 Republic Steel IHB 1985 - coal unloading. Last running Huletts Pix Link
Toledo, OH 2 20t #3,4-1953>1990 Lakefront B&O/NYC Pix
2 15t(17t) #1,2-1911>1990 CH&D>Lakefront B&O moved in 1947-8 Pix
3 17t 1930>1990 Presque Isle C&O 1st AC units Pix
Bayonne, NJ 1 17t 1916>1940 (?) Constable Hook > Claremont Term. - Bethlehem Steel LV Moved to new terminal in 1922
New York, NY 1 ? 1938 > ?? Port Reading / Staten Island ? Fresh Kills landfill ? unload garbage barges. Fixed base, clamshell bucket note 2
Ajo, AZ 1 ? 1919 > ?? Comelia Copper Smelter narrow gauge unload copper refining sludge. No larry car, dumped at end of carriage note 1

Note 1 - RR Industry SIG 'Lineside' #7.1 - pictures and info of the Hulett and smelter plant

Note 2 - actual location in dispute...

Total of 83 Huletts built. Electrically operated unless noted. Table adapted from Hirsimaki, 1984

(June, 2012) - Significant corrections and updates thanks to info from Jeff Clark, John Teichmoeller, and many others !

Please help to fill in missing info and correct errors in this information. Contact me.

Hulett Links:

Tne Pennsylvania Railroad's Cleveland Docks
Great Lakes Industrial History Center
Boatnerds Hullet pix and info, if you search
Gary, IN Huletts
Buffalo, NY Hulett photos, maps, etc.
Early Conneaut Hulett pix
The Riverís Genial Monster - Good read !
Ohio Trespassers
Wikipedia on Huletts
ASME Hulett history PDF(very good !)
Remains of 2 Cleveland Huletts

Hulett Articles:

"The Ore Docks of the Lower Lakes" by Eric Hirsimaki
Mainline Modeler - May, June, July 1984

"The Huron Hustler - Huron, Ohio" by Eric Hirsimaki
Nickel Plate Road Magazine - Winter/Spring 1988

"Ore Dock Dinosaurs" by Jay Williams
Trains - Feb. 1991

"Hulett Ore Unloaders" by Lawson Stevenson, O&NE model RR (Ashtabula docks model)
Railmodel Journal - Jan. 1997

"Hulett Iron-Ore Unloaders - Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark"
ASME International report, Cleveland, Ohio, August 2, 1998
Online pdf file

"Hulett's Mechanical Marvel," Ohio Historical Society 'Timeline' - September & October 1994, Vol. 11, No. 5

? 2005 NCR convention clinic - Hulett Unloader History by Stu Sonta

Hulett Scale Plans:

Hulett unloader plan

Michael Rabbitt
565 Forest Road
Wayne, PA 19087

Bearco Marine Model (440-298-1243)

Peach Creek Shops (301-498-9071)

Current price for the Hulett drawings is $36.00 + $7.50 shipping (rolled) 
Sandusky #3 Car Dumper drawings. $42.00 + $7.50.

Hulett Model Articles:

hulett unloader postcard

"Build a Hulett Ore Boat Unloader" by Lawson Stevenson
Railmodel Journal - July. 1998 
(more pictures of his industrial models - Jan. 1997

"Building a Hulett Ore Unloader" by Garry Lance
Railroad Model Craftsman - Oct. 2007


Hulett Model Links:

Railroad Line Forum thread on scratchbuilding an HO Hulett

Gary Lance's 'N' Hulett models and more of his steel mill work

Brass Hulett model

Brass Hullet model from China

Lego Hulett model

1:32 scale Meccano Hulett by Norbert Klimmek

Hulett Video Links:

Great Hulett operation video

Eric Hirsimaki's video

Crewmember's Hulett video tape

Videos of the Huletts at A&B Docks, Ashtabula, OH unloading Interlake's J.L. Mauthe, circa 1980, by Don Lloyd

Movie 1, Movie 2, Movie 3, Movie 4