For six years now I’ve been exploring the ruins of old copper stamping mills, and during most of that time those mills have followed very specific and predictable patterns. These ruins were sprawling wastelands of concrete and stamp sand that often dominated the shoreline on which they were located. They were barren and sun baked landscapes on which very little of the natural world could take hold. More often then not, visits to such sites were akin to walking into a ruined city some time after some type of ecological disaster had scorched the land and erased man from existance.
That was before we had discovered the Trimountain Mill.
Here the opposite had occurred, and the massive mill complex had succumbed to the elements, its impressive scope and size whittled away by the passage of time and its stature and importance overshadowed by the natural world the now envelops it. While at the Mohawk or the Champion it is man that has clearly had the upper hand, the Trimountain is little more then forgotten tinker toys scattered along the beach. Its a difference of night and day, and a condition that makes the mill a unique and incredibly interesting place to explore. It’s even more interesting when you consider what was once here.
The Trimountain Mill was first built in 1902, consisting at that time of only two stamps. By 1903 the mills total compliment of 4 stamps had been brought on line along with its collection of 152 jigs, 24 slime tables, and four wilfley tables. All this equipment was housed within a 176 by 200 foot long wood framed structure built within a natural cut in the surrounding Freda cliffs.
The photo above shows the mill during construction, when only the coal trestles and pump house had been completed. Behind the mill stands the impressive span of the Copper Range mainline trestle, at the time built of wood. That trestle would later be replaced by a steel and concrete version, the piers of which can still be found standing tall in the woods.
Here the mill is complete, along with its massive boiler house (behind the coal trestles) and pump house. In this shot you can see the spur trestle leading off of the main line trestle, which leads straight into the top of the mill itself in the far background. While the trestles are now gone, that small piece of hillside seen just before the mill is still there, and serves as a guide to the position of the rest of the ruins seen in this photo.
The coal trestles seen here are probably the mill’s most interesting feature, seen here in all their completed glory. While the previous picture showed only two of these soaring trestles having been completed, here all three are together and operating. Below these trestles would lie the coal trenches.
If we fast forwards a good half century, we find those coal trestles gone and the old wood trestle replaced by its modern steel replacement. Here’s how the ruins of the mill would have looked to explorers before the surrounding forest swallowed them up and left them in the heavily overgrown shape we found them in. Only the footings remain, but you can make out the coal trenches lying just between those footings.
These trenches were six feet wide by seven feet high, and were originally covered by steel sheathed coal sheds filled by the overhead trestles. Each tunnel was 400 feet long and fed directly into the boiler house itself – which amazing is still standing in the picture and is marked by the letter “D”. Inside that boiler house were six boilers connected to a 165 foot tall steel smokestack which by this time had been removed.
Much of this scene is still present today, just buried now by trees and brush. Here’s a quick tour:
Point “A” on the archive image above is this impressive sized pier, now sharing its space with quite a few equally large trees.
Point “B” is another trestle support, but this one sitting high atop a natural hillside. This part is actually along the rock house spur, which looked to have been partially removed by the time the photo was taken.
Point “C” is one of the hundreds of coal trestle footings still to be found in the neighboring woods.
Point “D” is the boiler house itself, the wall of which still stands.
Besides the mill itself, boiler house, and coal trestles, the other main piece of infrastructure to be found is the mill’s pump house. Here’s a look inside that same pump house when the pump could still be found inside. While the pump may be gone, that sandstone wall behind it continues to stand – at least partially.
Here’s a final look at the entire site as it once stood. In addition to the buildings we explored, the site also is home to a carpenter shop and a section house along the copper range mainline. While we did find the foundation to the section house, the carpenter shop was missing in action.