MinesScrapbookTamarack Mine

Tamarack No.2 in HO Scale

After featuring Ian’s great line drawings of various Copper Country mine structures last week, I was immediately reminded of another great CC artist that also happens to be a reader of CCE. His name is David Karkoski, and his medium of choice is wood, plastic, and metal. David’s art is in HO scale modeling, and his most recent work brings yet another Copper Country relic back to life, all be it in a much smaller scale. This relic in question is one of the Copper Country’s great shafts – the Tamarack No.2.

This is the No.2 in its prime taken around the turn of the century. Unlike its neighbor to the east, the Tamarack Mine embraced the novel concept (for its time anyway) of grafting a dedicated rock house to each of its shafts. The shaft and skip road are housed in the tall narrow tower structure seen in the front of the building. The gabled building behind is the rock house part of the structure, where the copper bearing rock brought up from the underground was sorted and crushed. Some of that rock would be sent out by means of the elevated tramway seen coming out of the back of the building, where it would be dumped nearby in poor rock piles. The rest would end up being dumped into waiting rock cars, which would have sat underneath the building.

It’s the use of these rock cars and the building’s connection to them that make the entire structure a great addition to any model railroad set, and a great subject for an HO model apparently.

Here’s the same building as envisioned by Mr. Karkoski in HO scale. David discuses how such an intricate model is made in an email that accompanies these photos:

Several years ago I purchased copies from the MTU archive of the timbering diagrams for Tamarack No 2. These gave me the basic dimensions of the structure, photos taken at various periods of time allowed me to put a skin on the frame. These photos clearly demonstrated that there were a series of changes made to the building over time. My modeling interest is the 1895 time period so this model is skinned on the basis of what I believe the shaft and rockhouse would have looked like during that time period.

This model is built to a scale of 3.5 mm per foot (HO scale) and fabricated using strip wood and milled clapboard siding made from basswood. The roofing is cedar shingling, the barrels are metal castings and the window and nut/bolt/washer details are plastic castings.

Some of those metal and plastic details can be seen here, in this close up view of the building’s fire walks atop it roof. These walkways served as a first line of defense in case of a roof fire, where several water-filled barrels (known as fire barrels) could be tipped over atop the roof to douse any potential hot spots. The door in the background provides access to the rock house roof from the head frame.

Here we see those plastic details standing in for iron bolts holding the batter brace timbers together. I love this detail, especially considering I find these bolts all over during my travels. If David didn’t explain that these were plastic I would have swore that they were made of metal.

This close-up shot shows the building’s poor rock tram, at least the first few dozen feet of it as it leaves the rock house (the poor rock trestle is the short bridge seen in the background). This shot also shows another short walkway with a small building squatting on its end. This particular structure is of particular interest to David:

In a project of this nature, as you work on it, you are confronted by questions of functions and purpose for parts of the building. You make logical estimates of use and purpose but the question still remains. An example is the small building on the poor rock trestle (the photo seen above). I guess that it may have been a fire hose shed but it could have as easily have housed a small winch for moving poor rock cars.

Perhaps someone out there has a better idea? I vote for it belonging to the poor rock tramway system in some manner.

Last but not least you have this amazing detail, my favorite part of the whole model. This is a shot looking up at the bottom of the rock bins inside the building’s rock house portion, adorned with a series of iron chutes that would have been lowered to dump the above bin’s contents into waiting rock cars. The attention to detail in here is just amazing, especially all the timber work. I would have thought that for a model such as this your primary concern would be with the facades, and the interiors would just be framed up in the quickest and cheapest way. But not here, where David paid careful attention to make sure the interior framing was also accurate to the original structure.

Amazing stuff.

After perusing this photos you would tend to wonder why David built them at all. Why the Copper Country and why copper mining? He sums it up nicely in his corresponding email…

I was born in Laurium in August of 1947, when I took my first breath of copper country air I became addicted to it and the areas history. My addiction to the air was satiated by annual family vacations to visit relatives and it was during those visits that I became aware of the mines and local history. I later discovered the hobby of model railroading and I am now melding both to create models of the mining industry in the UP.

David adds that his model making isn’t going to end here, he plans to model the entire Tamarack Mine surface plant as well, including the hoist, boiler house, and other adjacent structures. I wish him luck, and look forward to featuring the amazing finished product when all is said and done. If the work he’s done thus far is any indication (and I think it is), the finished product will be amazing to see.

Thanks for sharing David!

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  1. I have to say I take an interest in model railroading as well, and I really admire the guys who model timber trestles and wood-frame buildings like this, accurate to the bolt, with basswood. Amazing work David!!

  2. I have been in model railroading for longer than I like to mention! Excellent work David, that is a contest/museum quality model. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thanks for the kind remarks. I will be continuing with the surface plant buildings this winter.

    I had heard that there was a model built in the 1890’s that showed the inner workings. That lead photo must be a of it, wonder what happened to it? Got to love the interior detailing!


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