• Himrod and Watkins Salt Mines

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

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  by Jack Shufelt
 
K4Pacific "I got the ICC report and gave it to Paul in the late 90s. He had a tear. He said all his mom got was a $30,000 settlement from the railroad on the operators mistake at HJ block station. When that op found out what happened he just ran off and was never heard from again."

I have some interest in the history of Himrod Junction and was curious about the wreck at Orleans, NY, so I pulled the ICC report. That report exonerates the operator at "JN" and the dispatcher. The report concludes that; "The accident was caused by the northbound train occupying a manual block without authority."

The operator spoke with the Extra 7103 south at 1.25 P.M. while he was at Newark and gave him permission to proceed south to Stanley and clear up for a northbound train. The operator also spoke with the Extra 7129 north and gave him permission to proceed to Bell. Extra 7129 passed Himrod Jct. at 1.59 P.M. For Extra 7129 to receive permission to pass more than one Block Limit Station it would have required a Clearance Card Form K authorized by the dispatcher and there is no record of that occurring.

The fireman on Extra 7129 north, the only survivor on the head end, was not personally aware of any authorization for his train to proceed beyond Bell. He "assumed" that the engineer had that permission as a result of a conversation between the head brakeman and the engineer, which he did not overhear. The head man came up from the second unit to talk to the engineer and then returned to it.

If I understand the Block Limit Rules correctly, without the Form K or additional radio or telephone authorization from the operator at "JN" the Extra 7129 North had no authority to proceed beyond Bell.
  by poppyl
 
In terms of the tailings, sometime around the late 70's/early 80's testing indicated that the "pile" was beginning to leach into local streams and wells. The material was removed by truck but I do not know where it went. Testing continued even after the "pile" was removed and I believe contributed to the eventual creation of a municipal water supply for Himrod.

An injection mine such as the two in Watkins requires a huge amount of readily available water that is used to dissolve the salt, pumped to the surface as brine, and then evaporated leaving the salt behind. That is why the two operations in Watkins are located hard by the lake. The Himrod mine is about a mile and a half from the lake and about 300 hundred feet above it. Not economical to pump the amount of water needed up the hill to the site. BTW, the Greenridge power station in Dresden is located on the lake for the same reason.

One good thing that came out of the short lived Morton operation is that FGLK got a nice runaround track just south of the plant property for their Watkins and Penn Yan business.
  by Westfolk
 
CPSD40-2 wrote:...And when a vehicle with government plates drive up and asked you what you were doing, what did you tell them? Generally around government properties, there's pretty clear signage to deter curious folks - not open areas with no fencing or signage, and a mysterious car that seems to show up. There's a lot of tall tales about the surrounding area, between the Seneca army Depot, Sampson, the salt mines, and the sonar testing platform on the lake. Conspiracy theories never die.......
I told them I was sightseeing and heard about this old closed down mine. There were no signs around the place other than the everyday "No trespassing" signs. I never exited my vehicle, or for that matter left the public right of way. I'm not talking conspiracy theories. I just think it odd. Also, whenever someone showed up to ask....which over the years was a few times....it was not NYSP. I was told each time that I should finish my sightseeing elsewhere.

Nothing more than that. I think it odd that such would take place next to an old closed down mine.
  by Sandy
 
On the topic of a brine mine, there are water lines that go from Seneca Lake to Morton Salt. There
use to be a pumphouse facility at Severne Point where the boatlaunch is. If you walk out on the
breakwall that the state installed, you can see the intake line that goes out into the lake, I believe
it is at least a 12" line. The water lines proceed up Severne Road, across Route 14 and to the pumpsation
that is beside the road at the entrance to the Plant. The building that the Himrod Fire Department
currently uses has a large underground tank that was fed by the lines that came up from Seneca Lake. A
Morton official has stated that the supply lines to the Salt Plant from Severne Point are still there. If you
drive up Severne road from the lake, you will notice if you look closely where concrete pads are where
several pump stations were. The standpipes are still visible where the pads are. There were a total of
four pumpstations that were between the lake and the Salt Plant. One of the proposals for the water
supply for the Hamlet of Himrod two years ago was to use those existing lines but i belive if memory
serves me that Morton did not seem "warm" to that proposal. Behind the Himrod church near the Hamlet
is standpipes that were installed by Morton at that time for a future water supply to the Hamlet as there
is another pumpstation in that area but it never surfaced as the mine was shut down.
  by poppyl
 
Without wandering too far off topic, a brine mine, such as those at Watkins, requires millions of gallons per day. I believe that the injection wells at Watkins are served by 72 inch pipes. As noted, the Morton line was oversized for the mine's needs under the assumption that the locals might desire a water supply in the future. Could Morton also have figured that the mine might create future problems for the ground water supply in the area? BTW, the buoy that sits a little offshore from the tip of Severn Point marks the intake for the line.
  by lvrr325
 
Westfolk wrote: Even then...this is in the 80's and 90's... the place still had power to it and maitainance to site. If you have an eye for it you could tell that wheels had been rolling on the tracks going into the place. Not everday, but every now and then.
When I first drove by the plant in September of 1992 there were no tracks into the plant and there obviously had not been any in quite some time. It was all grass and very obvious where the tracks had been - a ramp track down in and a small yard area if I remember right - but the switch off the main track was gone and I think the road had even been redone where the side track would have crossed so there was no scar even from removing that.
  by Sandy
 
poppyl wrote that all structures with the exception of the headframes would be gone by the end of the
year. I was under the understanding from the construction company that only Building #4 and Building # 8
would be tore down. The warehouse,office buildings, structures along the gate and also the 3 pumpstations
would remain along with the headframes. Morton did not have any near plans to dismantle any other buildings
at this time. The fire chief also stated this. Is this true?
  by poppyl
 
I was told that the D&D contract encompasses all production related buildings. NYS had put pressure on Rohn and Haas to do something about the site for several reasons including general safety, people gaining unauthorized access to the site buildings, and the run down appearance. The state's goal is to "brownfield" the site unless another use can be found. I suspect that negotiations are probably still ongoing regarding ancillary buildings such as the office area, guard house, change building, and the warehouse. Of the non-production facilities, the warehouse might have some other possible uses without having to invest an arm and a leg into it.
  by lvrr325
 
As long as R&H pays the taxes and maintains their fences, the state should mind it's own business.
  by poppyl
 
Couldn't agree more with you, but you know the state government. :-D BTW, I stopped at the site a couple of days ago and while the destruction folks have a pretty sturdy fence around their work area, the "original" perimeter fencing looks to be in bad shape in many places -- actually knocked down in at least two places that I could see.

Regardless of its current condition or what's now going on, it is a shame that some other use can't be found for the site. I will say that removing the largest of the old buildings can't hurt. Gosh knows that the area could use some jobs and I would like to think that R&H working with FGLK and NS might be able to find a buyer for at least some of the mine's real estate. But after 35 years I don't know.
  by jayenelee
 
This has been an interesting thread, as a local, I am, of course interested in the mysterious history of the Himrod salt mine. I also had in mind to start a thread inquiring as to whether anyone knows anyone who worked "the Corkscrew line" that ran in front of my house, or the "Elmira Branch" before '72. And they posted on this thread!!! :-D thank you.

A farmer I once worked for, worked for Morton salt as a young man in the 70's told of them shipping 45 cars of salt daily from Himrod. He said it was the biggest vain of salt known, and was estimated to continue yeilding salt at the rate they were mining it for over a hundred years.

A minister in my church trucked salt out of there in its last days, and remarks about the way they dumped salt on the trucks and then had a payloader at the scales to ensure that each truck was perfectly loaded at it's weight limit. He repeats the most common and persistant rumour that bad management / bad environmental management resulted in the mine's closure.

A good friend of mine presently manages the ARS railcar repair services in the area. He works in Himrod and Elmira on salt cars. He says that intentions are to turn the Morton salt property into a museum. The only stipulations on the property imposed by the state (?) government is that it never be used again for salt mining.

There are many other rumours around, but I don't think they are of interest to us enough to merit mentioning.

Edited to add, I didn't see the mention in a previous post about the Museum; I'm rather relieved to see now that it didn't fly.
  by poppyl
 
Your instinct to start a new thread is probably a good one.

Two previous posters on this thread, K4Pacific and Jack Shufelt, are pretty knowlegeable on the Elmira Branch. I can remember the steam powered coal drags coming up from Watkins to Starkey in the fifties. Usually one or two units pulling and one pushing. The pusher would cut off on the Starkey passing track. Vivid memories of the numerous brush fires started by the flying embers during dry spells. Sometimes the Watkins stationmaster, a Dundee resident, would call the Dundee fire chief to alert when a drag was headed up the hill. Ah yes, the good old days. :-)
  by Sandy
 
Has anyone been near the salt mine in Himrod lately, they (the construction company) is really tearing things down
over there. It's kinda sad to see it coming down after all those years.Is it true that jayenelee stated that it is never
to be used for mining, what a waste.
  by poppyl
 
You probably saw what I saw a couple of weeks ago only further along. Yes, it's sad to see the destruction but after having sat there unused with no maintenance for almost 35 years, something needed to be done with the major buildings before something catastrophic occured.

Future uses? Anyone's guess at this point, IMO, but the business climate in NYS probably isn't helping. All that I know is that the salt is still there and always will be.
  by Sandy
 
If they are taking down the buildings, why not the two towers, may there be plans in the future?
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