Casey Jones, we’ve got a problem. I knew I should have made that left turn at Albuquerque. We are hurtling along so fast that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Driving the train doesn’t set its course. The real job is laying the track.
In-between a billion years ago and yesterday, Elephant Rocks was a quarry. Men would carve up these giant red granite boulders to make building material from them. Material that found their way into making many of the historic buildings here in Saint Louis. Stone masons upon earning their title as a master stone mason would routinely carve their name and the year that they gained this title in the rock to commemorate the achievement. Other evidence of their labors is strewn about the site. Mittens of carved rock shards, a now water-filled quarry pit and the ruins of the engine house are some of the remnants that still remain.
Granite is heavy. A stone the size of a small stove weighs more than an F-250 pickup or 10,000 bottles of soda/pop, depending upon your units of measure. The only way to move this rock the hundred miles to market was by rail. Onsite there was a narrow gauge rail line that moved the stone on its first step.
Called Missouri Red the higher quality blocks of this fine granite found its way into many 19th-century Saint Louis structures. Most famously, it was used to provide the facing stone for the Eads Bridge, the first bridge built across the Mississippi in Saint Louis. The flawed stone was hammered into paving blocks. Millions of these were used for the levee and downtown streets. Roughly the size of a shoebox, these granite paving blocks sold for about 8¢ each. At that rate, a good block maker, producing fifty blocks per day, could earn $4 a day. That was considered a pretty good wage for a hard day’s work.
Reading the title of this post, readers might have believed that this was going to be another political rant. You would not be wrong. I just got sidetracked.