Cargill Salt

Cargill Salt is located in Newark, California. The company harvests salt from evaporation ponds located on the edge of the San Frncisco Bay. For more information about the company and salt harvesting in general, please go to their web site. The picture on the left was taken looking north towards the Dumbarton bridge. The picture on the right shows a partial view of one of the two piles of salt.

This page focuses on the narrow gauge trains used to move the salt from the harvesting machines to the storage areas. Once the harvesting gets under way, an average of 600 tons of salt is collected every hour. Before I go on, I would like to thank Cargill employee Terry Lewis, for giving us a complete tour of the plant.

These pictures were taken in January 2001. They are important as Cargill plans to phase out the train operation in favor of tractors with large trailers. The 2001 harvest season (from August to Setpember) might well be the last one using the trains.

The trains run on 24 inch gauge track. There is over one hundred miles of track at the plant! Two types of rails are used: heavy rail mounted on wooden ties for the permanent tracks and light rail mounted on steel ties for the portable track used in the ponds. The pictures below show various sections of the main track.

The following group of pictures show the portable track used in the ponds. As the harvesting machine advances, the track rebuilt and shifted, so the train cars are always within its reach. The track is very light, as the picture with the pocket knife shows. The rails are bolted onto the ties. There are strait sections as well as made-to-fit curve sections. These section of track look like models that have been blown up to full size! One of the pictures below shows the adapters used to connect the portable track to the fixed one.

The trains are unloaded at a couple facilities: here are a few pictures of the main facility, located next to the main salt storage area. The first picture shows the pneumatic pistons used to send the trains on either one of the two unloading tracks. These switches are operated remotely, by a worker located inside the unloading shed.

The day we visited, the only activity going outside was some maintnance (nothing was really going on inside either because of a power blackout!). Here are a few shots (some with really bad lighting!) of some home built equipment. These cars are just screaming: "Model me! Model me!".

To move all this salt around, Cargill uses some home built locomotives! They are powered by a standard Detroit built diesel which runs an hydraulic pump which , in turns powers an hydrolic motor. Power is then sent to the two axles using two chains. In addition to these engines, Cargill owns a British made engine, shown in the first picture below.

On one side of the plant's parking lot, there are a few pieces of old equipment on display: these trains were used in Cargill's facility in Redwood City (on the other side of the Bay). They run on 30 inch gauge track.

Copyright 2001 David Wegmuller