Unlike its predecessor to the west, the No.5 furnace building is a very plain and uninspired structure. Unlike the sandstone prestige of its predecessor, the No.5 building’s iron trusses and corrugated metal siding give the structure a “cheaper” look. The building’s interior is just as pedestrian, an observation we made almost immediately as we entered. It was as if we had crossed through a century of time and entered a steel and iron monstrosity of a more modern age. But this was what the constraints of diminishing resources and an uncertain future spawned in the Copper Country. Gone was the pompous exuberance of the region’s boom-time attitude and in its place had grown the stark reality of an industry in decline.
We entered the No.5 building from under the shadow of the No.3 furnace, ducking through a small door set inside a set of enormous double doors marking the boundary between the two structures. Sprawling out ahead of us was a convoluted mess of equipment, girders, platforms, and beams – all part of yet another massive reverberatory furnace.
The first thing to catch our eyes was a raised steel platform sitting just to our left. Rising up from the top of the platform was a steel smokestack that reached up into the rafters. The stack in question belonged to the nearby No.5 furnace, the second half of the smelter’s new and improved combo furnace. Unlike its sibling to the west, the original boiler which would have sat at the bast of this stack seems to have been removed at some point. Now only the stack itself remained, connected to the adjacent furnace by a outstretched brick lined flue.
Peering up further in the tangled mess of steel rising up over our heads we could still see the boiler and stack from the No.3 furnace tucked up into tangled web – brilliantly lit by a stream of sunlight filtering in through one of many holes in the building’s roof.
Bringing our attention back down to earth we could see the massive bulk of the No.5 furnace itself, still in relatively great shape considering the amount of time which has passed since it was last used. This furnace was much larger then the others we have seen, but in many ways it still resembled its older brothers.
After the copper was melted in the No.3 furnace, it would have been transferred to this beauty for the final refining. Here the molten copper underwent the rabbling and poling operations. The large opening seen here was most likely used in that poling operation – where large logs would have been inserted into the molten copper inside.
While the furnace’s south-facing opening was used for poling, it would be its eastern facade where all the real action occured. This is where the finished copper matte – all its impurities skimmed off and removed – would have been tapped and poured into ingot molds in a process known as casting. In the old days casting was a slow and tedious process that involved the use of ladles to pour the liquid copper into ingot-shaped molds. Besides taking a great deal of time, the casting process of old was also very labor intensive. In order to cut costs the new combo furnace system instead utilized a more automated casting process. A process that occurred in the attached casting plant, a plant we’ll take a closer look at next.
To learn more about the No.5 furnace and its history be sure to visit the Quincy Smelter Blog which is featuring its own virtual tour of the site
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.