The Champion Mine began operations at the dawn of the 20th century, sinking four shafts along the southern end of the copper-rich Baltic Lode. The mine was a success and would become one of the region’s longest operating producers, extracting copper into the late 1960s. Yet the mine’s exceptional longevity didn’t necessarily mean that its surface plant wouldn’t be faced with the same fate as the rest of the collapsing empire. Luckily it had one saving grace – a large underground aquifer that just happened to intersect with the mines lower levels – a water source utilized by the township to supply its residents with water. Thus even after the mine’s closer some of its infrastructure was left intact to allow the installation and continued maintenance of several pumps located underground. This is why the Champion No.4 Shaft / Rock House continues to stand, as well as its hoist house and related infrastructure. This means that unlike most mines of its age, the Champion’s surface structures is still relatively intact, and even those parts in ruin are in far better shape then most.
With the exploration of the old F Plant now complete – the last major ruin left to be explored along the old mine site – I thought we’d take a quick reminisce of the ruins and structures of the Champion as they exist today. To learn more about the specific ruins, make sure to click on the provided link to head back into the CCE archives to read their original explorations. We start our tour to the south as we return from our F Plant exploration, our first stop being the mine’s sprawling collection of shops.
The Blacksmith Shop
What was once a beautiful sandstone structure has not aged incredibly well over the last century. Over its life it has been altered and extended, resulting in an odd collection of materials and styles. Today its part of a scrapyard, which explains the collation of tires piled at its front door.
The Machine Shop
Another beautiful sandstone building, built very similarly to its blacksmith neighbor to the south. This one has survive the century in far better shape, due mostly to the fact that it continued to serve as the Copper Range Company’s machine shop long after the neighboring mine had closed its doors. Today it is home to a scrap yard.
The “E” Dry
This steel-sheathed building was once the dry house for the neighboring “E” shaft. It was later converted into a paint shop after the shaft received its new dry house up next to the captain’s office. Today it is owned by the scrap yard and is used for storage.
The Oil House
This building – sitting along a spur of the Copper Range railroad – served as one of the company’s many oil houses. A large oil tank in the basement supplied lubricating oil to a series of dispensers up on the first floor. The oil was used to lubricate the various machines and equipment scattered about the surface plant as well as the railroad itself. Like the old change house next door the building is now owned by the neighboring scrap yard and is also used for storage. Explore Further…
The New “E” Dry House
This was the second dry house to be built for the “E” Shaft, and would serve the mine in its twilight years. It originally served as a tool house and the E Shaft’s captain’s office, until the new captains office was built next door. It was then converted to a dry house. The garage was added to the building later in its life.
The Captain’s Office
This little beauty was added in around 1902, and served as the “E” Shaft’s captain’s office. Inside was an office, safe, and small private changing/locker room for the mine managers. Today it is owned by the Painesdale Mine and Shaft folks – who are hard at work preserving the Champion “E” Shaft and its accompanying buildings – and serves as a gift shop.
The “E” Shaft / Rock House
Of course the crowning jewel of the entire surface plant is this – the towering bulk of the “E” shaft / rock house. It was within these corrugated steel walls that the rock from the underground were brought to the surface, crushed and sorted. Loaded rock cars of rich copper rock would have exited through that doorway at its base, headed out to the stamp mill for processing. This building is currently owned by the Painesdale Mine and Shaft folks, and is in the long and expensive process of stabilization and rehabilitation. Explore Further…
The “E” Pulley Stands
Though by the looks of them they won’t be standing for long, the most incredible piece of infrastructure still standing at the site are two of the E shaft’s pulley stands.
The “E” Hoist
Another beautiful sandstone building, this old hoist house use to haul rock out of the adjacent “E” shaft. It would be later replaced by a larger hoist built behind it, but was then returned to service to cut costs. Inside sits a small electric hoist that was once found several thousand feet underground servicing a sub-shaft. Explore Further…
The New “E” Hoist
This impressive piece of concrete was part of the massive foundation for the “E” shaft’s old Nordberg Hoist. At the peak of the Champion’s success, this large hoist was installed to reach the 5000 foot depths the “E” shaft was reaching. It would be removed to save costs as the mine entered its final years and replaced by an electric hoist placed back in the shaft’s original hoist house. Explore Further…
The “D” Shaft / Rock House
Just up the road – literally – from the bulk of the intact”E” Shaft / Rock House sits the ruins of one of its sisters. This was once the “D” Shaft / Rock House, a structure that managed to continue to stand for years past the mine’s closure. It was the destruction of this building that prompted community leaders to work to save the remaining “E” Rock House from the same fate. Explore Further…
The “C” Hoist House
Yet another architectural beauty, this sandstone structure served the far flung “C” Shaft. While the hoist no longer can be found inside, the building itself has remarkably managed to survive completely intact. Today it stands proud alongside the Chessell-Painesdale Road and serves as storage. Explore Further…
The Powder Houses
Just down the road from the hulk of the impressive “C” Hoist, lies hidden almost equally as impressive remains of the Champion’s two powder houses. These buildings would have housed the explosives used in the mine, stored safely here in this thick-walled buildings far from the mine or the village of Painesdale. Explore Further…
The “C” Shaft / Rock House
Tucked away along the base of the ridge line is the remains of another one of the Champion’s four shaft / rock houses, this one belonging to the “C” shaft. This rock house was demolished before the mine closed for good, and as such its remnants are far more worn and rugged then its companions to the south. The ruins sit on private property and are not open to the public. Explore Further…
The “C” Boiler Stack
It’s amazing that along a surface plant that was home to four boiler houses only remnants of one can still be found today. More specifically just the remains of a boiler stack can be found, the base of which sits partially obscured in a grove of trees near the “C” shaft rock house. The metal plate seen on top would have been the mounting point for a tall steel smoke stack, though its long gone today. The ruin sits on private property and is not open to the public.
The Dry House
Half shrouded in the brush is this hauntingly beautiful ruin once home to the one of the mine’s main dry houses. This massive building would have served the “B” and “C” shafts, but was later abandoned when those shafts were closed. The building became home to an auto garage for a while, since one of its walls is now pierced by a large modern opening. The building sits on private property and is not open to the public. Explore Further…
The “B” Shaft Rockhouse
Sitting far removed from the rest of the surface plant and all alone at the far northern reaches of the property stands the remains of the “B” Shaft /Rock House. This is oddly the Champion’s No.1 shaft, its nomenclature is due to an earlier failed shaft that was sunk nearby. This shaft was abandoned early in the mine life, which like its sister “C” shaft is not in the best os shape. The ruins sit on private property and are not open to the public. Explore Further…
The “B” Hoist
Finally we come to the last ruin on our list – the “B” Hoist Building. Sitting well hidden down in a valley across from the shaft it served, this building was once home to a large hoisting engine. Most of the building was demolished, however, when that hoist was removed. What does remain is the massive concrete foundation on which that machine was once mounted.