Valles Mines, Missouri, U S A
Founded in 1749 by Francois Valle years before he became Don Francois Valle.
The Valle Mining Company's 4500 acre property every year absorbs 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide and puts out 14,000 tons of oxygen.
This is enough to meet the needs of 63,000 people. [USDA Forest Facts] Site Map

You Are Here:  Home : Our Mining Heritage : The MRBT Railroad

The Railroad through Valles Mines

"I Won't Hire a Man Who Has All 10 Fingers!"

"...Early U.S. railroads used a link and pin coupling that was extremely dangerous to yard employees who had to drop the pins in place as the cars were pushed together..." Encyclopedia Britannica. If you didn't get your timing just right, you lost a finger or hand if the locomotive bumped the cars together too hard. Not the job for "Practice makes Perfect". Workers Compensation would not arrive until 1910. In 1880 the 'knuckle' type automatic coupler began to replace 'link and pin' bringing far greater safety to the railroad industry.

The railroad has played an important part here at the Mines. It ran for our purposes to pick up our lead ore on the railroad that began at Bonne Terre and ran north to the Smelter Chimney still visible today at Herculaneum as late as WWII. Our villager, the late Chester Haverstick, related how he as a 13 year old loaded lead ore onto box cars here with a coal shovel. Originally, as far as we can determine, the Mississippi River & Bonne Terre Line, or MRBT, began as a small guage road using link and pin couplers between the cars (see our museum exhibit). Before MOPAC took it over and rebuilt it to standard guage starting in 1885, it still had trains that looked like If you are interested in trains in the old days and what it looked like, you are not likely to see 
        a better collection of photographs than you will find on this website this photograph. If you are interested in trains in the old days and what things looked like looked like in those days, you are not likely to see a better collection of photographs than you will find on this site, Tom Breiding's "Railroad Town".

EXHIBIT: We have pictures of Tunnel Station and Valles Mines Station in our Lost History Museum.

Gandy Dancers

Railroad workers, called "gandy dancers" for how they worked in chorus to align rails they laid and repaired, drove the spikes that held the rails to the ties by hand, or pried the spikes up by hand and by hand tamped the ballast, the loose rock that helps to spread the load on the ties, made from tree trunks, and to keep everything in place. Ties are spiked down to keep the rails 'in guage' (4' 8" apart) or the train derails. They must stay the same distance apart so one of the crew puts a guage bar down on the rails to check. Remember, a railcar can hold the load of three 18-wheelers. Nowadays machines are used instead, such as a Tie Layer, Tamper and Regulator. The Tamper raises the track while its paddles go down the sides of the ties and push more ballast under the tie. Rails perfectly laid by machine today protrude only 1" out of the ballast. Then the Regulator sweeps the loose leftover material and vibrates it leaving a beautiful roadbed. But for centuries all this work was done by hand.

 

The Mississippi River & Bonne Terre Railroad or MRBT ran through 
                Valles Mines until the late 1960's.

Exhibited at the Museum of Transport in St. Louis County, this handcar was used on our rail line.