The Fallen Hopper

Sitting among the scattered remains of the Mohawk Stamp Mill was a large concrete monolith. Apparently single block of concrete a good 15 feet in height and 30 feet in length, this structure sat haphazardly upon the ruins – almost as if it was simply dropped there. It looked out of place sitting alone in a field of stamp sand a good distance from the lower level. So we decided to check it out.

a date plaque on the monolith – 1927

As we approached we could see that the structure was crooked, leaning away from us at a good angle. Moving around the sides of the block we couldn’t see any protrusions, holes or hardware marring its smooth sides. The only design element along the whole thing was a date etched in a concrete shield on the far side: 1927. ( Whatever it was, it was added a good 20 years after the mill was constructed )

debris around the structure, including bolts in a concrete floor

Because of the tilt, the side of the structure close to us was a good couple feet above the ground, so I got down to peer under it. I could make out a series of holes in the bottom of the block, but couldn’t tell how far up into it they went. More interestingly I could make out a tangle of bent rails, and a series of broken support pillars. These pillars were made of concrete and had been sheered off about a foot off the ground, leaving a sprout of metal rebar from its top that had been bent over backwards upon itself. At least some of the mystery was solved; whatever this was it had once been supported up above our heads and had fallen down on itself. This would explain why it looked as if it was dropped here, because it was.

Now a little nervous about sticking my head under the fallen structure, I hastily pulled myself out of the hole only to be startled by my friend calling my name from above. Looking up I could see him standing on the top motioning me to the opposite side. Moving around the structure I saw how he got up there; a pile of broken concrete had formed a staircase of sorts up one corner. Climbing up myself, I pulled myself over the edge. Quickly, what this structure was became all too apparent. It was a hopper.

a look at the top, with the “bridge” on the left and two of the ten bins on the right

a close look at a bin, showing the chute at the bottom

Running its length was a long concrete “bridge” that spanned a series of bins. These bins had angled walls that converged on a small rectangular hole in its base. When the structure was raised in its original position, these holes would empty the contents of the bins into waiting rail cars that sat below them. By looking at the concrete bridge I was standing on, it looked like a train might have delivered the goods to store in these bins. Along it’s length ran a series of equally space wooden planks, much like rail ties. A side-dumping car might have been stopped on this very spot, tipping its contents into the waiting bins.

a diagram of the hopper (note figure of man for scale)

Its identity was one thing, but exactly what was stored in this hopper was still a mystery. The most likely culprit was coal, used to fire the boilers that ran all the stamp machinery here. But the smokestack was a good distance up the hill from here, making that unlikely. Of course, the coal stored here could have been used back at the mine. But the size of the hopper made that unlikely as well since it wouldn’t hold that much coal – specially not enough for a the needs of a mine.

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