The “E” shaft was built originally in 1902, making it the oldest shaft house still standing in the Keweenaw beating the Quincy #2′s steel shafthouse by five years. But unlike Quincy which saw steadied improvements in technology and procedure over the years, the Champion #4 is still much the same as it was a century ago. While Quincy had multiple dumps along the skip road that served multiple purposes (one for tools, one for poor rock, and one for copper rock), the Champion had only one that served all purposes. And while Quincy relied on high tech sorting devices such as grizzlies to sort rock coming up from the mine, the Champion relied on men to do the sorting by hand. The efficiency and high-tech rockhouse of Quincy stands in sharp contrast to the dirty brute force showcased at Champion. This is partly what makes the Champion #5 so unique, serving to illustrate the Copper Empires sophomore era where men still did most of the work, and machines had yet to replace them.
As we walked around to the front of the structure, we had to first walk under a series of large beams that seam to be keeping the building from falling over. Under them we could make out a few scattered remnants of rail ties – remains of the rail line that once ran through here and out to the machine shop beyond. (see above) These beams above are known as batter braces and are indeed used to keep the building from falling over.
Here’s a closer shot on the braces themselves. These diagonal beams go up through the building and tie directly into the head-frame. Large hoists, such as the one that once was used here, exert a great amount of force along the hoist ropes. Much of this force acts upon the head sheaves at the top of the building and works to pull them (and the building) down. These braces counter act that force, and hold the building in place. Without them the hoist would simply pull the head-frame down instead of hoisting any skips.
At the other end of the batter braces are their concrete footings as seen here. We have actually seen examples of these footing all about the mine site we have been to. Any wedge shaped block, or any block with an angled top, was most likely used to support the shafts batter braces. This is the first time we have actually seen them still being used.
Above the point where the batter braces enter the building, these line of windows mark the rockhouse part of the structure. On this floor the sorting and crushing of the rock brought up from underground was done. This is the main level of the shafthouse, as most of the rest of the building is open space, or taken up by rock bins. (note: the rope in the top middle is the hoist rope, and the two other ropes were used to help support the pulley stands)
Inside here sits the giant head sheaves. These were large grooved wheels that the hoist rope ran over before heading down into the shaft. The large beam sticking out of the top was used as a crane to help get the sheaves up there and perhaps to change them out if damaged.
This slip of silver marks where the slit through which the hoist cables would run. One cable can still be seen entering this slit. It is still attached to a man car sitting along skip road inside (and to the hoist itself on the other end).
We end with a full picture of the #4′s front facade: