NA, RRB 8/11/1864

Columbus Ga. August 11th 1864
Col. F. W. Sims
Chief Rail R Bureau
Dear Sir,
   Since my letter of 16th Ulto in compliance with your request, I have investigated the matter referred to in your 28th June, & the enclosed memorandum exhibits the number of Iron Works now in operation in iron region of Alabama & daily productions. The amount produced is small, considering the number of arsenals & works that are dependent on same for supply, but as I am not informed as to the quantity required to meet the daily consumption, it may be more than sufficient. But should your department determine on making arrangements for furnishing R Road supplies, I would respectfully suggest it would be much preferable to have the control of works capable of supplying all the cast & wrought iron that might be required for the purpose, as the success of the manufacturing department would mainly depend upon the quantity of supply of material furnished.
   With these views, I have examined the several iron works in Alabama, to ascertain if any of them could be advantageously applied to the purpose of casting car wheels, axles, tires &c for R Roads. The result of my investigation, leads me to believe, that the Shelby Iron Works located in Shelby Co Ala, has advantages that might be made useful in furtherance of object in view. The works consist of one furnace in blast, producing about  13 tons pig metal daily & one other furnace in process of erection, a Rolling mill, with the necessary works attached. I do not think the engine now running the rolls is of sufficient power for heavy work & the mill itself would require to be altered for rolling tires & axles, but the works are better adapted than any other on that section, except works belonging to Confed. Govt. & in the service of other departments.
   The iron made at the Shelby works, is of a superior quality & with proper care & skill applied to the manufacture iron can be made from this ore, equal to any that can be made on any other section for Rail Road Machinery.
   The works are located 7 miles from R Road which entails a heavy expense in hauling all the coal used & iron made, but my opinion is, that if your Dept can control the works, they can be prepared to produce the greatest results in the shortest time of any other works, as they might be prepared in a short time to cast wheels & forge axles &c & could be supplied to R Roads in rough state, as all our roads have the necessary machinery for boring & fitting wheels & turning axles, this would enable you to supply the present pressing demand, until the necessary works & buildings could be prepared to execute all the purposes your department may require. These works are owned by a company & at present under contract with Nitre & M Bureau, to deliver all the iron they make to the government & I am informed they consider the contract unfavorable to their interest & would no doubt be willing to make other arrangements.
   There are other works much better prepared & supplied with requisite machinery for executing your work, but they are under control other departments, I allude to the Bibb County works located in Bibb County Ala & owned by Confed govt & under control of N & Mining Bureau & Naval Iron Works located in this city, partly owned by private parties & Confederate govt. My opinion is that either of these works might be transferred to your department, for the purpose you require with decided advantage to the government.
   The Bill County works are advantageously situated on R Road & consists of two blast furnaces, one only on blast, a rolling mill & large machine shop, with a good supply of machine tools. The machinery is not yet furnished or in operation  am not informed to what purpose it is to be applied. There is also a good saw mill attached. With some alteration to the mill & erection of Foundry, these works would answer the purpose of your department.
   The Naval Iron Works, located in this City has all the requisites for such a mill or works as you require with exception of coal & iron, they consist of a large Rolling mill, which the government has been erecting for the past two years at a large cost, also a small rolling mill, leased from private parties, a machine shop & large foundry, the whole works are well calculated for the business required if they could be supplied with coal & iron, which they have never had yet. I do not think the Navy department who control these mills would transfer them, but if arrangements could be effected to get them, it would be beneficial to the government & in my opinion doing the country a service. I have referred to these three several works for the purpose of calling you attention to them that would enable your departt, if either of them can be controlled, to put an establishment in operation that would be able at the shortest possible time, to supply the so much needed articles for our R Roads.
   But if neither of these works can be obtained, a contract might be made with parties to supply pig iron & wrought iron & the work could be got up in limited time to cast the wheels & forge axles &c., but it would require some time with the means we have at present at our control at least 8 or 10 months to get up a mill & works, that could roll tire for locomotives & other large work. The scarcity of skilled laborers makes it very difficult to get up machinery, but think it probable that a large portion required might be purchased from parties who have moved it from country over run by enemy.
   In explanation of the liberty I took of telegraphing you in regard to {Montgomery &} West Point road, I presumed that the matter of repairing the road would be referred to your department, & knowing the importance of the road being repaired in the shortest possible time, I was anxious to render any assistance I could in furtherance of the object, having often noticed the loss & delay in operations of this kind caused by the want of practical information of those have charge of said work & having originally built that road, as well as a number of other roads in the confederacy, as I have been over 30 years actively engaged in building R Roads & having the direction and management of large bodies of men, I believed I could have rendered valuable assistance; with power to control labour & material, the road ought to be repaired in a short time.
   You must excuse my long delay in making the report, but the recent raid through this section, calling every man to the field has prevented my giving it earlier attention.
Very Respectfully
Your Obt Servant
John D. Gray
List of Iron Works in operation in Alabama
Calhoun Iron Works, Calhoun Co
has 1 furnace in blast making about 4 tons
Pig Metal per day, 3 Bloomers & reforming furnaces making on average 1000 #, bar iron per day, this iron is of poor quality not suitable for castg wheels or machine work
Oxford Iron Works at Oxford
has one furnace in blast making daily 15 tons
Pig Metal. The Iron is classed No. 1. soft, fibrous, chills well and would make R Road castings
Salt Creek Iron Works. Talladega Co
one furnace in blast making 7 tons
Pig Metal daily. Iron classed No. 2. very hard
Romp Valley Works Bibb Co
2 Furnaces, 1 in blast making 7 tons
daily. Had no opportunity examining fair sample of metal, saw to be of average quality
Shelby Works Shelby Co
1 Furnace in blast making 13 tons
Pig Metal daily, has also Rolling Mill with necessary puddling fires making about 5 tons merchant Bar Iron per day. The Pig Metal Class No. 1. The Bar Iron is of a good quality not surpassed by any in Iron region
McElwaine Works Jefferson Co
2 furnaces 1 in blast making 7 tons
per day. Metal classed No. 1.
Bibb County Works
owned by Confed. Govt.
2 Furnaces 1 in blast makes 10 tons
Pig Metal daily. Clases No. 1 superr {superior?} for casting heavy ordnance. There is a rolling mill, when working makes 5 or 6 tons merchant iron per day. Machine shop & other works belonging to works, all under control of N & Mining Bureau.
Selma Rolling Mill Selma Ala
Makes merchant bar iron daily about 10  "  
Montgomery Rolling Mill Montgomery Ala.
Makes small roo & hoop iron say 2 1/2 tons
per day when working, mill owned by writer & associates
Naval Iron Works Columbus Ga
2 Rolling Mills Product not ??? owned by Confd Govt.
Shepard Works Bibb Co Ala
has 6 Bloomeres ready to work will be making iron in a few days probably in operation at this time
Red Mountain Works Jefferson Co Ala
not yet in operation has 3 large furnaces ready to put on blast
In addition to the several works before referred to, there are a number of small bloomeres in operation in different locations, their product is small, object of owners being generally to keep out of the army & not to make Iron.
   From the foregoing list you will perceive that the daily amount of Pig Metal is 63 tons, from this must be deducted about 25% for time lost or delays, leaving about 48 tons per day to supply the demands.
   The production of Bar Iron is so uncertain that no correct estimate can be made of quantity as the mills do not work regular.
Respectfully submitted
Your Obt Servt
John D. Gray