A typical briquetting plant is essentially a mixing and pressing operation, utilizing generally two primary ingredients: the material to be made into briquettes and the binding agent necessary for that to happen. Those two agents are then mixed thoroughly and mechanically pressed into a small cylinder which is then cut up into several discs. Those discs are the briquettes, and are then transported to the furnace for smelting.
In a typical briquetting plant – as illustrated above – the process is subdivided into four primary steps. First the necessary raw materials – the copper and a binding agent – are stored in a series of bins on the plants upper floor. These bins are filled from ore cars sitting above them on an overhead trestle. From those bins the materials are then conveyed to a large mixing bin in which the copper and binding agent are mixed together thoroughly. After this has happened the mixed product is then dropped into a mechanical press, which compresses the wet material into a dense cylinder. The cylinder is cut into several discs, which are then dried in a kiln or other drying device.
Most likely the briquetting plant at the Quincy Smelting Works operated in a similar fashion, but I can’t be sure of the exact process since any machines that once were housed in the building are no longer present. Also old blueprints of the building – like the one above – fail to locate any definite machines save the mineral bins themselves. But without being able to be specific as to the Quincy process I’m sure there had to be some type of mixing machines as well as briquetting machines in place among the buildings various levels. Most likely that involved a mixing machine set directly below the mineral bins themselves, along with a briquetting machine set down on the building’s main floor.
As we entered the old briquetting plant at the Quincy Smelter there wasn’t a huge amount to see. Facing us was a large staircase that made its way up to the loading trestle above, a stairway joined by a large amount of openness. Above us to the right we could make out the bottoms of the mineral bins along with an elevated platform set right below them. I would assume that either the mixing machines were located on this elevated platform, or at the bare minimum some type of conveyor used to transport the minerals from the bins to that mixing machine.
Further up into the building’s upper hollows we could make out a series of belt drives – some of them with their belts still attached. These no doubt were used to drive the building’s mixing and pressing machines.
To our left we found even more pulleys and belt drives, both of which still had their corresponding belts still attached. I would guess that these particular pulleys fed power to the briquetting machines themselves, here on the lower level.
At first I assumed these belt systems were being powered by a nearby steam engine of some caliber, but it turns out that isn’t the case. Just after entering the building we had to duck not to hit a hanging platform on which sat what appeared to be an electric motor. Either this motor powered the overhead pulley and belt system or it was used for another purpose, but I’m not sure which. I would guess it was used to power the belt system since there didn’t seem to be much room in the building for a steam engine.
Down at the opposite end of the building we could make out a hallway connecting the briquetting plant with the adjacent limestone bins. This makes sense considering lime was most likely used as the binding agent here in the plant. I would guess that limestone would be brought down that hallway to be used in the briquetting process.
Besides the briquetting machines, this building was also attached to an adjacent crushing plant where a series of rock crushers were houses. Between that crushing plant and here was this small room. Not sure if there was a doorway inside that led to the connected building or that this was simply an office or machinery room of some type. We didn’t open it to find out.
In lieu of entering the adjacent crusher plant oursevles, we settled instead to just peering through an old window opening in the briquetting plant’s west wall to the connected building beyond. Inside we could make out the fain ghostly outlines of equipment that still looked to be intact – unlike here in the briquetting plant. Unfortunately that was about all we could see without a way to enter, so we turned around and headed back outside.
To learn more about the Quincy Smelter briquetting plant and limestone bins be sure to visit the Quincy Smelter Blog for their own look at the buildings and their history.
To view more photos from the Quincy Smelter – including some awesome wide angle imagery – be sure to check out the Quincy Smelter Gallery at David Clark Photography!
And of course, if you have any photos of your own to contribute to the discussion, make sure to post them over at the Copper Country forum’s Quincy Smelter Thread.