A View From the Hoist

The massive stone and brick structure that we found ourselves surrounded by was somewhat of a rarity in the fading realms of the old copper empire. Hoists themselves were a common occurrence at mines since they were an important piece in the mining process. Yet for most of those old mine sites only the foundations to those iron machines remain – the buildings which housed them crumbling to dust long ago. Here at the Mohawk, however, that was not the case. Not only was the foundation still in place, but so too was the entire building that surrounded it. The only thing missing was a roof – and the engine itself of course.

It was that intact nature of the building that had provided us with the dark tunnels we were currently exploring – tunnels that without the rest of the building standing around it would have been nothing more then narrow trenches, or nothing at all. The presence of those walls had altered the ruin-scape we were use to, creating an oddly off-world experience as we stumbled about. Our hope that once we got up top and looked out over the hoist foundation itself things would be a bit more normalized. Thanks to a previous explorer having left some boards lying about we were able to climb up out of the darkness and emerge through a narrow opening up above – an opening that would have once provided egress for a stairway.

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Upon arriving to the top we looked out across a sprawling concrete playground. Around its perimeter on three sides were towering rock walls that stood easily a dozen feet or more above our heads. At the far end of the building those walls soured even higher, thanks to the peaked cap of the walls’ gabled top. Unlike what was seen outside, the walls here were covered by a layer of light gray mortar, a surface that most likely brighten up the building’s interior but today has unfortunately provided a perfect surface for taggers to do their business.


Turning around we looked down at where we had come – the narrow opening quickly dropping out into the darkness of the tunnels below. A pair of iron flanges at the opening’s corners mark where an old safety railing once stood. Those railing would have once been joined by an iron staircase – both pieces no doubt removed for scrap long ago.


Next to the old stairwell stood the thick white-washed walls of the building’s exterior. A tall window opening broke up the monotony, an opening that was joined by dozens of others scattered along the building’s perimeter. While back in the day these openings would have washed the interior with light, the encroaching forest that now surrounded us largely blocked that light from entering. If the roof hadn’t been missing the space here would have probably been just as dark as the tunnels below.


The only evidence of that now-missing roof is a series of large iron beams that protrude up and out of the walls’ upper reaches. These beams would have crossed over the building – holding up the roof. Since those beams look to have been cut about a foot past the wall, I would guess that the roof too was a victim of some later scrapping effort. Or perhaps it was removed to get to the steam-powered machinery inside.


Turning our attention back down to what was sprawling out before us we find the hoist foundation itself. The foundation was of a classic “H” design, with a pair of long and narrow “mandibles” separated by a sunken pit. Atop each of those mandibles would have been found one of the hoisting engine’s steam powered cylinders – once on this side of the pit and another on the far side.  The cylinders would have driven a piston and crank assembly located further up those mandibles, their locations marked by a “dip” in the concrete floor. Between those cranks would have sat a large drum around which a hoisting cable was wound. The drum would be turned by the pair of cranks on its ends, cranks that themselves were turned by the reciprocating action of the steam cylinders behind.


Here’s a closer look at the spot where the cylinders would have been mounted – straddling this narrow notch cut into the foundation. The notch was used to provide egress for a steam pipe, serving the cylinder’s bottom. A pair of bolts on either side of that gap mark where the cylinder was attached to the foundation – bolts cut off in order to remove the iron machine they served.


Looking across the large central gap in the foundation we see where the other cylinder was mounted as well. Here we can better see the steam egress gap in the foundation – a gap lined along its opening by a wall of bricks. At least where those bricks once were, as just their outlines in mortar can be seen today.


Between the two mandibles is a central gap in the foundation. At the forward end of that gap is the large opening in which the cable drum was located while here at the back end a raised platform marks the location of the hoists control platform. The gap is crossed here by a narrow concrete bridge – a feature that is more part of the building’s floor then it was the foundation itself. But it did make for a convenient way to make our way to the opposite side of the foundation.


This side wasn’t any different from the side we had just came from. The same cylinder foundation greeted us along with the steam inlet, white washed wall, towering windows, and stairway opening. (They don’t call it a duplex hoist for nothing) Across the way we take a look at the building’s outer wall, which ends abruptly past the second window opening. That corner of the building – along with the entirety of its front wall – is no longer standing. Instead its remains lay scattered about in the surrounding woods.

Why that portion of the building has not survived while the rest has is due almost surely with the subsequent scrapping effort that no doubt swept through the Mohawk’s surface plant shortly after its closing. The hoist was a large machine, especially the cable drum itself. In order to remove these large pieces of equipment a large portion of the building’s outer walls would have to be removed.

With nothing else left to explore here, we turned our attention to the building’s opposite end and the second large foundation to be housed here. This one was for the mine’s compliment of air compressors…

To Be Continued…

The Mohawk No.6 Hoist ruins are on private property and are not open to the public

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  1. I would think the front wall was knocked down to make it easier to remove the hoist and other salvage. As you pointed out, it is the weakest wall of a hoist building. Preservation was not on their mind at all

  2. I find it hard to believe it would that much weaker. It may have been the better route out of the building to haul the equipment.
    I would go along though that it was knocked down to salvage the equipment. I have seen pictures of C&H salvaging equipment and that was the route they took, even tearing part of the roof off to give room to yank it out.

  3. It may be a little weaker without the roof there to support it.All four walls of the Victoria hoist house are still standing but the gable end just above the hoist cables has fell off while the other gable still stands.
    Maybe the operator fell asleep and pulled the skip through it too.OOPS!!

  4. Actually, the reason that the front was usually removed was it was easiest. Most hoist buildings face the shaft, and are set back from the head frame. Because of this, the front of the hoist would allow the easiest access to rail and the largest open space possible (which is important when you are trying to yank out a 24+ foot long piece of steel 3 feet thick, like a Hoist main shaft).

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