The Dungeons of the Mohawk Mine

Though late to the party, the Mohawk Mine quickly rose to the ranks of a serious contender in the realm of Copper Country enterprises. This is just as evident today – more then a century since its conception – thanks to the massive size and scope of the ruins that remain. While the boiler house was impressive enough, the mine’s No.6 engine house was even more incredible – a soaring stone citadel that spoke volumes about the role the Mohawk Mine had played in the ranks of the empire. In its day the massive building in which we were about to enter was home to an impressive collection of steam powered machinery. Not only did it accommodate the shaft’s hoisting engine, but also a trio of air compressors necessary to power the hundreds of mine drills operated under the surface.

Of course today all those machines would be gone, most likely stripped from the premises soon after the mine’s demise. Harder to remove, however, is the complimenting infastructure that once supported and cradled those machines. In addition to the machines themselves the building was also home to a maze of steam pipes, water pipes, air pipes, electrical conduits, and a cornucopia of other pipes and wires keeping all the steam powered machinery in tip top shape. All these conduits needed paths in which to travel, resulting in a maze of tunnels and crawlspaces spread all throughout the building’s remains. It would be these passageways – the dungeons so to speak – that we found ourselves exploring first upon entering the soaring building.


After passing through the wide opening in the building’s southern facade we took a look back into the thick forest beyond – a seemingly impenetrable barrier that was slowly developing the stone walls around us. Inside wasn’t too much different, as a grove of cedar trees had already taken up camp immediately inside the door.


Past the trees we found a wide open space running across the building’s waist – a space lined on both edges by a pair of robust stone and concrete foundations. To the right stood a tall wall of concrete which once housed the building’s compliment of air compressors. To the left was the stone and brick foundation to the hoist itself – an impressive pieces of engineering seen in the photo above. Slicing their way into and around both foundations were a sierras of narrow tunnels – most hiding in shadow and darkness. It was within these passageways that the mechanical arteries and capillaries that once fed those steam powered machines once thread their way through the structure.


The first tunnel we spotted made its way alongside the hoist foundation itself – seen off to the right in this picture . This would be an excellent example of one of those “maintenance corridors” that we have talked about so often during other hoist building explorations here on CCE. This time, however, the corridor still sports its concrete roof, an item that usually is missing from most of the hoist house ruins we explore.  This particular corridor runs along the hoist foundation’s southern edge, its dark innards punctuated by a rectangular opening in the roof and a small opening to the right. While the roof opening provided egress for a stairwell, the opening to the right was used to provide egress for a steam line.


Looking up through that steam egress point we find a view out towards where the hoist would have once sat. Straddling the opening would have once been a massive iron clad cylinder sitting just above our heads – a cylinder whose steam outlet would have made its way through the opening itself.


Turning to look further down the tunnel we find very little except a window opening (on the left) and a ragged opening smashed through the building’s shaft-facing foundation wall.


Heading over to the opposite side of the hoist foundation we find another identical tunnel / maintenance corridor. This one is a mirror image of its southern brother, with the steam pipe inlet sitting to the left here. Cut into the ceiling here was an opening to the building’s main floor, which would have originally housed a stairway.


The stairway may have been removed as scrap, but a portion happens to remain still anchored into the tunnel’s floor. These iron rails would have continued upward to the first floor of the building, the brackets seen at their caps once holding the steps themselves.


Heading back out of those hoist foundation tunnels we take a look across the central open space towards the tall walls belonging to the air compressor foundation. Here we see a small window complimented with a second opening down along the ground – an opening which would have once provided egress for the main service steam line entering the building from the adjacent boiler house. To that openings right stands yet another narrow tunnel that we found ourselves drawn to exploring in short order.


This particular tunnel was much taller then the first two and a bit more dank as well. Even more interesting was the fact that this tunnel didn’t just stop at the building’s outer wall – it made a right turn and continued even further around the corner.


We dutifully followed the tunnel on its way around to the backside of the building, but after turning the corner found the tunnel to head no where in particular.

There was one interesting detail to note however.


These guys. About halfway up the inner wall – which was the compressor foundation itself – could be found these square openings. From our vantage point at the bottom of the tunnel we couldn’t see what was inside, but knowing what was once housed up top I would guess that these were egress points for the mounting bolts which anchored the air compressors down to the concrete foundation.


With the aid of a single small window that was allowing a small amount of light into the tunnel we made our way back out the way we had come. Though the tunnel was short in length, I was happy to sky above my heads in stead of concrete. Considering the building’s age you couldn’t be sure if it would collapse on top of you while you were down there.

With the extent of the building’s dungeons now behind us it was time to take a hike up to the next level and take a look at those engine foundations for ourselves…

To Be Continued…

The remains of the Mohawk No.6 surface plant sit on private property and are not open to the public

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