Originally, Cleveland’s natural shoreline would have followed along the area where the railroad tracks currently reside on Whiskey Island. Everything north of the tracks to the lake is a man-made 45-acre ore dock built with steel-reinforced concrete and landfill, primarily slag—a stony byproduct of the steel-making process.
The dock was designed to accommodate four of Cleveland’s 14 massive Hulett Ore Unloaders, and load ore into waiting rail cars or store it on-site for later shipment.
Iron ore is basically stony minerals that contain iron. It used to be shipped as chunks, which is what the Huletts were designed to handle. Developed by Clevelander George Hulett, they were the first unloading system to get cargo from a ship’s cargo hold to shore, or directly to a waiting rail car, without manual labor. Each Hulett was a hulking mechanized marvel at 100-feet tall, and capable of ripping 17 tons of cargo with every bite out of a ship’s belly. Operational on this dock from 1913 to 1992, they unloaded over 360 million tons of ore during their eight decades of service. Since the 1950s, iron ore gets processed into pellets before shipping. The Huletts, dismantled in 2000, were rendered obsolete by self-unloading cargo vessels that can unload several thousand tons of pelletized iron ore per hour.
Cleveland Bulk Terminal remains a vital materials transfer point. This dock can handle the largest cargo vessels on the Great Lakes, which are just over 1000-feet long. Port of Cleveland recently expanded Cleveland Bulk Terminal’s conveyor tunnel to allow blending of different grades of ore to meet client demand. And the automated ship loader system can transfer 5200 tons of ore per hour.