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Massive boiler headed toward Duluth harbor

A semi pulling a large boiler sits in Twig on Tuesday afternoon. The entire unit -- consisting of two tractors, two flatbed trailers and the boiler -- extended 350 feet and weighed 885,000 pounds. The boiler came from Lincoln, Neb., to Duluth, where it will be loaded on a ship. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com1 / 2
Moving the boiler (the silver object) required a rig 350 feet long. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 2

A gigantic industrial boiler slowly made its way by truck toward the Clure Public Marine Terminal in Duluth on Tuesday.

The oversized load originated in Lincoln, Neb., and has crossed from the prairie to the north woods on a 20-axle trailer. Tip to tail, the rig measures 350 feet.

The boiler initially was scheduled to leave Duluth aboard a ship today, port officials said, though the convoy remained in Twig with snow falling Tuesday afternoon — with any progress today dependent on the weather.

The boiler is indicative of the type of break bulk cargo the Port Authority had in mind when it spent $17.7 million to renovate the long-dormant docks C & D — a project that finished in 2016.

"When we refurbished that dock — that whole pier — we made sure to reinforce it for heavy lift project cargoes," Duluth Seaway Port Authority spokeswoman Adele Yorde said. "Things are getting bigger and heavier and for this kind of overdimensional cargo, that dock is perfectly suited to handle it."

When it arrives at the port, the 442-ton boiler is set to be offloaded onto the dock and loaded by crane onto the oceangoing vessel Erik, Yorde said. The Erik was bound for Duluth on Tuesday after stopping in Thunder Bay. An oceangoing saltie, the Erik is taking the boiler only as far as Sarnia, Ontario, on the southern tip of Lake Huron, Yorde said.

Yorde added that the boiler's movement was another product of the joint Port Authority-Lake Superior Warehousing venture, Duluth Cargo Connect. The multimodal logistics arrangement has been reaping benefits since it began in 2016 — with break bulk and container cargoes coming through the port by truck, rail and water at an ever-increasing rate.

In September, Duluth Cargo Connect announced an arrangement which had taken off with Canadian National Railway. CN is taking container cargoes from ports on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts and running them through the port of Duluth by rail.

The Alexandria (Minn.) Echo Press contributed to this story.

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