Monday, July 19, 2010
Mucking about at "Trimuc"
Even though I was somewhat used to early rising for some of the camp work, it was a different story once the fall weather set in.
I was up just before 5 and out the door by 5:30 every morning.
The facility was only about 15 minutes' away which was a bonus at least.
There were between 4 and 5 of us on each shift when I started there.
The business was recovering after a year-long strike at Cominco which is the largest lead and zinc smelter in the world located nearby in Trail.
The finished lead and zinc ingots were trucked back to our facility and stored in a warehouse to be loaded by forklift into boxcars.
These loads had to be "dunnaged" or secured using 2x6 lumber we cut to fit and nailed into the special floors with 6" nails.
The day started with us putting on our gear-red coveralls,respirator,gloves,hardhat and safety glasses along with safety boots and ear protectors.
We didn't have a coffee break as the arrangement was for an hour lunch at 11 so I carried a sealed coffee mug of "Instant breakfast" to last me.
I was teamed up with Sandro, a burly and very friendly fellow in his early 40s who carried a 2-gallon plastic jug of water with him at all times.
We trudged over to the shop where a battered green mid-70s Ford pickup awaited.
The truck sported a ladder rack which I later learned was where we loaded our 12-foot lengths of 2x6 to dunnage the boxcars with.
It also carried 2 Husqvarna chainsaws, fuel and oil for them, boxes of nails, hammers , tool pouches and a "tidy tank" of diesel fuel.
The old truck was in rough shape and took about 20 minutes of warming up before it would idle as it had a dead cylinder and missed as its old 360 V-8 rumbled away in the morning cold.
As it warmed up Sandro sat and relaxed with a smoke as he went over the routine.
Our first duty was to vacuum the ore bays to prevent the toxic soil being tracked off the property on the trucks' tires. Respirators on, we entered the building. I noticed the sweet and pleasant scent of the moist ore.
A huge and very powerful vacuum cleaner was housed within the building and piped everywhere so that cleanups were possible.
Using the nozzle of 6" diameter with an attached floor tool I went over the floor being careful to stay out of the trucks' paths as they came and went.
This was a good daily job to do as we woke up as was the next chore-fuelling the two loaders used in the sheds.
Driving around to another entrance, Sandro jumped into one loader and positioned it near the door where the fuel hose from the tidy tank would reach.
I noticed the immense piles of dark ore within the dark and humid building and the conveyor system looming about 60' above us with a catwalk along its length that stretched the full 600' of the shed.
We repeated the fuelling of the second machine, then headed off to the site's own refuelling station to refill the tidy tank.
The next job was to drive around to the chain link fenced off lumber storage area where we piled on as many 2x6s as we could carry.
It was now full daylight or we would use the gas generator and portable lights to illuminate the inside of the boxcar.
Backing up to one car, Sandro recorded its number on a clip board in the cab and we unloaded lumber and tools.
The next 15 minutes were spent cutting and nailing in a pre-planned manner dictated by the railway to ensure these heavy loads didn't shift in transit. A shift could cause a derailment.
After dunnaging around 9 cars we were finished the loaded units and it was time for lunch.
I was now dog-tired as we entered the change room , removed our gear and cleaned up.
I found I was enjoying my job and my work mates, one of whom had also just recently started work there.
After a leisurely lunch we headed back out to refuel the loaders again and start cleaning up procedures.
The Burlington Northern train arrived around this time each day to bring in more full ore cars and empty boxcars before removing the cars we had loaded and unloaded.
Usually 20 to 30 ore cars and 10 boxcars came in with a few hopper cars used to load slag-the black byproduct of smelting.
We assisted Frank and Mark who were unloading ore in the unloading shed with the cleanup.
The lids were fibreglass and hung suspended from electric winches to be later replaced when the string of cars were emptied.
The excavator dumped its bucket loads onto a big grate called a "grizzly" where the ore fell through onto the conveyor belt to be carried into the ore shed next door.
The cleanup involved shovelling up spilled ore and checking the conveyor system.
Shovelling below the grizzly was a very dirty job where I could not see my hand in front of my face if the ore was particularly dry and dusty.
At 1:15 we headed inside where we were required to shower to decontaminate ourselves.
This was a very pleasant duty and I emerged very refreshed to end the day filling out our duties performance sheets and leaving all cleaned up at 2.