Calcified Seaweed (?!)

Calcified Seaweed (?!)

Postby JohnH » Wed Aug 08, 2007 8:17 pm

Dear all,

How do they 'Calcify' seaweed? Presumably it's to improve the seaweed for use as a natural fertilizer but I've always wondered what the process involves. Is there a manufacturing plant? Is Cornwall the only place where this product is produced? I've been looking at adding some of this traffic to my 1980's Cornish based layout. As far as I know this traffic used to be loaded at Truro and possibly St Blazey, and was conveyed to Scotland and elsewhere in HEA's (were they sheeted?) and later on in Transrail/EWS days in CEA's. What other types of wagon were utilised?

Does anyone know when this traffic ceased. Any other details about this interesting freight movement would be gratefully recieved.

Cheers,
John
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Re: Calcified Seaweed (?!)

Postby Tim H » Wed Aug 08, 2007 8:27 pm

JohnH wrote:What other types of wagon were utilised?

Does anyone know when this traffic ceased. Any other details about this interesting freight movement would be gratefully recieved.

Cheers,


I've seen the following types of wagons:

HEAs (1988, 1990)
CEAs (2000)
POA "Box" wagon (The example I was was one with an end brake platform, using an ex-ferry tank chassis) (1990)
PGA in "Yeoman" livery (rare opportunity to run a couple of these in a Speedlink formation (1990)
PHA "Tiger" bogie open hoppers. (PBAs with roofs removed)

Example photo from June 1990 (apologies for the rubbish scan; I need to rescan with a decent scanner!) with a PGA and HEA (the rest of the train was assorted china clay wagons)
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Postby 21C1 » Wed Aug 08, 2007 8:34 pm

Ex Google:

Calcified Seaweed is a special type of seaweed which is found 30 to 70 feet below sea level off the Cornish coast, where it is deposited in vast quantities.

Calcified Seaweed is a calcareous magnesium algae with a hard coral-like structure known to marine botanists as Lithothamnium Calcaneum.

Calcified Seaweed improves soil structure and aids flocculation in heavy soils. It is also a valuable complement to chemical fertilisers as well as to organic matter such as farmyard manure, sludge or slurry, having the property of releasing their nutrient values. It's hard sponge-like structure is readily colonised by soil bacteria whose multiplication and increased activity contribute more available nutrients in the soil.

Calcified Seaweed improves palatability of grassland and gives tighter and even more grazing.

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Postby nbloco » Wed Aug 08, 2007 11:01 pm

If you are interested in the topic, trying searching under its other name of Maerl. There are major conservation issues about harvesting dead calcified seaweed in Falmouth Bay and Estuary - the largest area for this resource in England. It is used as a soil conditioner.

If you want further details there is/was a small company known as the Cornish Calcified Seaweed Co. Ltd based in Truro or Falmouth.

The product was marketed as 'Calseamin' and was collected by a suction dredger (operated by two men) from the seabed. It was sent to farming areas of the UK with poor soil such as parts of Scotland and Norfolk, as well as exported.

Maerl is a fertilizer derived from red seaweeds that grow with a crust of calcium carbonate on the outside, the calcareous red algae, Phymatolithon calcareum and Lithothamnion corallioides. They are used to neutralize acid soils, as a substitute for agricultural lime. Maerl is more expensive than lime but is alleged to be better because of the trace elements it contains; however, there may be cheaper ways of adding trace elements. So you are not looking at modelling a major industrial processing plant.

English Nature wanted the harvesting to stop on conservation grounds - so I don't think the rail companies would want to invest in new wagons now.
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Postby nbloco » Thu Aug 09, 2007 5:31 pm

It would appear that harvesting calcified seaweed from Cornish waters is now banned (since Christmas 2004) - according to The Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jh ... book30.xml

EWS were responsible for rail transport of the seaweed, but the working is described simply as 'Truro to North West England'. Can anyone add any further details for us?

Onshore processing of the seaweed seems to have been simply drying it and then bagging/packaging. The processing company's energy costs seem to have been mainly related to the electricity to power their conveyor belts.

The BBC has also carried a story on the seaweed - if you want to see a picture of what your wagon contents should look like (under the sheeting)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2719985.stm

So now we know what Cornish calcified seaweed is, where it came from, what it is used for and now it is banned. What we don't know are the rail destinations for the traffic. The wagons/hoppers are also reported as being sheeted (or the dried seaweed would get blown away in transit).

Interestingly EWS were reported as hoping to triple the tonnage of seaweed traffic out of Cornwall. However Engish Nature's ban has completely stuffed that potential revenue stream.

Is this stimulating any thoughts for a model?

If the UK farming community want to use calcified seaweed as an alternative to lime, then they can now buy the French variety. The Cornish variety is still to be dredged to allow access to Falmouth harbour, but the seaweed is then dumped - as selling it is banned!
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Postby ewsjo » Thu Aug 09, 2007 5:53 pm

Just googled CEA hopper seaweed and result no.2?
RMweb Calcified Seaweed is a special type of seaweed which is found 30 to 70 feet .... and later on in Transrail/EWS days in CEA's. What other types of wagon were ...
http://www.rmweb.co.uk/forum/rss.php - 111k - Cached - Similar pages

That was quick! :lol:
cheers

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Postby shortliner » Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:21 pm

Quote< aids flocculation > Can you say things like that on here? OOps - I just did :oops:
I think I'll get a visit from The Mods!
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Postby nbloco » Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:37 pm

ewsjo - and I'll bet that No.2 on google will surprise a lot of other folk, if they are searching for calcified seaweed and get referred to a model rail site!
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Postby nbloco » Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:42 pm

Maybe that useful chappie '40044' could add more detail to the minimalist 'Truro to North West England' description of the traffic?
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Postby ewsjo » Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:45 pm

nbloco wrote:Maybe that useful chappie '40044' could add more detail to the minimalist 'Truro to North West England' description of the traffic?


Or is that all thats known about this mysterious flow? :lol: :wink:

cheers

jo
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Postby 40044 » Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:31 pm

nbloco wrote:Maybe that useful chappie '40044' could add more detail to the minimalist 'Truro to North West England' description of the traffic?


:lol:

I do know it went to Carlisle London Road, Selby and Gobowen (not sure about Scotland, though). Think it had all but finished by about 1999.
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Postby Tim H » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:32 pm

Last time I saw any seaweed traffic in Cornwall was in March 2000. It ran in a combined train with the Penzance fuel tanks; 5xTTA and 12xCEA behind a 66.
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Postby nbloco » Thu Aug 09, 2007 9:58 pm

Once again, you boys just rise to the challenge and deliver the goodies!
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Postby JohnH » Fri Aug 10, 2007 10:09 am

Thanks for all the responses to my original post.

I've had a look through some of my 'EWS Focus' magazines and came across these extracts: -

Issue 09 Summer 1999

"Consignments of up to 300 tonnes for Cornish Calcified seaweed Ltd have bee sent to Carlisle, Selby and Gobowen from Truro, where the artificial (?) fertiliser is produced at a plant on the quay."

Issue 10 Autumm 1999

"Seaweed Business Grows - Up to 10 wagons at a time are being taken from Truro to Carlisle for Cornish Calcified Seaweed Ltd, which produces the fertiliser at a seaside plant near the county town."

Thanks again for all the help,

Cheers,
John
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Postby 5050 » Fri Aug 10, 2007 11:39 am

Gobowen - why there I wonder? I know it's in an agricultural area but I can't think of any industrial plants that would work with it.
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Postby mjh » Fri Aug 10, 2007 11:46 am

5050 wrote:Gobowen - why there I wonder? I know it's in an agricultural area but I can't think of any industrial plants that would work with it.


Pay attention at the back......:lol:

nbloco wrote:Onshore processing of the seaweed seems to have been simply drying it and then bagging/packaging. The processing company's energy costs seem to have been mainly related to the electricity to power their conveyor belts.
mjh

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Postby 5050 » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:02 pm

Pehaps it was just the agricultural aspect then.

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Postby nbloco » Fri Aug 10, 2007 5:12 pm

Upon arrival at Carlisle, how were these sheeted wagons/hoppers unloaded? Somehow the seaweed had to get from the rail wagons onto road hauled trucks, without too much contamination or loss.
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Postby Swindon 123 » Fri Aug 10, 2007 5:24 pm

The Gobowen traffic was very very infrequent. I can only ever remember a very small amount of the stuff there. It was unloaded and stored at the coal merchants yard behind the station and looked like silver sand and was kept in one of the old coal bays at the top end of the yard. It was there for a long time so maybe it wasn't popular in the area.
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Postby nbloco » Fri Aug 10, 2007 5:42 pm

At Gobowen - I was wondering if they would have dropped the seaweed through the bottom of the wagons/hoppers, using the coal unloading point - but then I imagined the coal merchant moaning that his kit was all covered in seaweed and the farmers then moaning that their fertilizer had coal particles in it.

A HIAB with a bucket, mounted on a lorry might also have been used, but I thought someone on here might just have the definitive answer.
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Postby 40044 » Fri Aug 10, 2007 7:14 pm

I would have thought that the stuff would have been discharged via the bottom doors in the HEA/CEA's. If it was required to be unloaded by grab then a MEA or similar would be preferable to a hopper wagon.
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Postby Swindon 123 » Sat Aug 11, 2007 10:59 am

I would have thought that the stuff would have been discharged via the bottom doors in the HEA/CEA's.

I would have to agree with 40044 on this one. The main contamination point, the discharge hopper and conveyor belt, would have been reasonably clean in the first place and the conveyor was capable of being traversed around to or very close to the bay it was stored in, any other movement of the stuff could have used the front bucket loader on site. This however could not be used to unload wagons as it did not have the right fittings to get into a wagon, be it HEA/MEA. The calcified seaweed looked like sand or fine gravel so should not have contaminated the unloader mechanism to any great degree. The bay it was stored in was nothing special and as far as I could tell was just one of the old coal bays with timber sides. No special treatment! As far as I am aware it was the coal merchant who was selling the stuff so maybe it was give a trial a couple of times but wasn't a success locally so he gave it up.
Just as an aside the coal yard at Gobowen nowadays is looking a bit sad and although still in use, a little derelict and has not seen any rail delivered coal for at least 18 months, maybe longer. If anyone is in the area to photo the timber trains it might be an idea to take some photo's of this quaint prototype in case it disappears for more housing before we realise it has gone.
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Postby nbloco » Sat Aug 11, 2007 4:31 pm

Well if anyone is passing and could post up a couple of pic's that would be appreciated. If that same person could happen to have a chat with one of the coal yard employees, we might learn even more?
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