The Quincy Smelting Works is a large and expansive complex, one that is not only home to furnace buildings and mineral houses but also a sprawling collection of support facilities including coal sheds, warehouses, and slag dumps. In the beginning materials were transported across these facilities on simple wheeled carts, with nothing but human power getting them from one place to another. As part of the company’s desire to streamline its production (and cut costs) quincy installed over a mile of 2 foot wide tram track across the facility, creating an efficient transportation corridor for both the copper and other materials to traverse. At first the cars using these tracks were simply pushed by hand, but by 1920 an electric locomotive was added to the mix.
A quick look at a map of the Quincy Smelting Works showcasing its web of narrow gauge track gives the impression of a very complicated and convoluted mess. But at closer inspection a rather efficient and functional layout can be discovered. This web of rails can be easily divided up into three main categories, depending on their primary purpose. These would include rails catering to copper (both raw and ingot), slag, as well as raw materials such as coal. We’ll start with the copper tracks….
Before the addition of the Mineral House, all copper arriving to the site did so within a large wood framed railroad warehouse set at the back of the complex. The building itself is no longer standing, but along the remains of its concrete floor can be seen the remains of the old tram track that once serviced it (labeled with the arrow).
Even though the railroad warehouse itself no longer stands, the scale house which once called it home amazingly does – complete with scale. Tram cars loaded with copper mineral would have been weighed here before entering the rest of the complex. The scale itself would have been to the left of the building, under the pile of debris at its feet. This is one of several scale houses scattered along the tramway.
After the completion of the dedicated mineral house, short spur tracks were laid on either side of the mineral bins found inside. Those spur lines would exit the building through these two doors, before making their turn into the adjacent furnace building. (I’ve added the rail lines in the position they would have once existed)
Still visible within the concrete lot adjoining the mineral house are a short section of the old tramway itself, though I doubt in this state it would have been much use. I’m not sure if the concrete was added after the tramway was abandoned, but the condition of these tracks seems to suggest that was the case.
With the addition of the massive No.3/5 combo furnace, yet another rail spur was added connecting it to the adjacent mineral house – this one of an elevated design. Its elevated position was necessary due to the top-loading nature of the combo furnace.
At the far end of the furnace building sits another scale house, this one most likely used to weigh the finished ingots coming out of the reverberatory furnaces. This particular building shares the same concrete block appearance as the briquetting plant and machine shop – which dates it to around 1907.
Inside the old furnace building – specifically the No.5 building – we found another half-buried section of the old tramway. This particular line made its way in front of the No.3/5 combo furnace, and was used to pick up slag skimmed out of those furnaces. This particular line starts the second section of the tramway – the section used primarily to transport slag. A section we’ll take a look at next…
The Quincy Smelter is private property and is open to the public only during special Quincy Smelter Association’s tours and events.
To learn more about the smelter’s tramways be sure to visit the Quincy Smelter Blog for their 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.