Mining at its most basic level is nothing more than an exercise in transporting rock from one point to another. This process begins underground soon after the rock is blasted free from its subterrarian home as it is loaded into tram cars for transportation towards the nearest shaft. There it is transferred into skips and brought thousands of feet up to the surface. While it may seem that this would be the end of the journey, it has really just begun. Now the rock has to be moved to a stamp mill for processing – a complex that is often located miles from the shaft from which the rock was extracted. Even then its journey is not complete, as it then must be hauled to a smelter for a final level of processing – a journey of another several miles if not dozens depending on where the smelting is to take place. Finally the finished copper product must be hauled to market – which meant a ride on a lakes steamer for an oversea journey of hundreds of miles.
Like the rest of the copper empire’s mining methodology, the manner on which this transportation occurred was fine-tuned and perfected over decades to insure the quickest and most efficient system was in place. This is a good thing since in the beginning most rock was hauled largely using muscle power alone – be it an animals or a man’s muscle doing the hauling. Later those animals and men were replaced by tram roads – ore cars pulled along tracks by an endless loop of cable. The Quincy Mine would install its tram road system in 1860, a tramway which included an inclined portion heading down the hill to the mine’s stamp mill on Portage Lake. Rock from the shafts would first be hauled along this tram road to a centralized rockhouse before heading on down the inclined portion to the mill for processing.This tram road was a rather remarkable piece of engineering – its impressive scope seen in the old archive picture above. In addition to the incline portion heading down to the mill there was also an elevated portion which connected several of the shaft houses. That impressiveness came at a cost, as all that exposed wood was prone to deterioration and needed replacement from time to time. Quincy’s tram road would be rebuilt several times during the mine’s life, extended and contracted as shafts were brought online or closed. Though a standard rail line would eventually make its way into the surface plant, that railroad would be relegated to just coal handling while the tram road continued to move most of the mine’s rock. As the new century approached, however, that would all change as Quincy would be forced to relocate its mill due to government order making the tram road obsolete in the process.
This was because Quincy’s new mill would lie nearly a dozen miles distant, too far to be served by the old tram road. To cover such a distance a full-fledged railroad was needed, forcing Quincy to built such a railroad between its mine and mill – complete with steam engines pulling long lines of rock cars. Thus the old endless loop tramway that had faithfully served the Quincy for decades was dismantled and removed from the landscape. The era of the tram road had come to an unceremonious end.
The Copper Rock Silos
The new railroad meant a subsequent change in how rock would be handled at the mine’s shafthouse’s as well, as no longer could they be served continuously by tram cars heading back and forth to the rockhouse. Steam trains did not have nearly the same turnaround time, and even with multiple trains running along the line simultaneously shaft houses would still have to wait for a train of rock cars to take away its copper rock riches. Since a mine couldn’t simply shut down a shaft to await the arrival of those rock cars, it would have to have a way to store the copper rock on site until a train of rock cars could arrive. This meant the addition of storage silos at shafthouses – large iron canisters in which copper rock could be stored awaiting its removal. These bins would then be placed directly over spurs of the railroad to allow trains of rock cars to be loaded effortlessly by gravity.These storage silos make up a major component of the Quincy No.2 Shaft/Rockhouse – exposed towers of iron and steel that rise over four stories above a rugged concrete pedestal. The Quincy No.2 has four of these silos with the two largest seen in the photo above – one used to store stamp rock ready for the mill and another to hold mass pieces of copper rock that could be taken directly to the smelter. Both of these silos are fed from the No.2’s rockhouse level which sits directly above them. As with all else in the shaft/rockhouse these silos are the end result of decades of fine-tuning rock handling in order to produce the most efficient system possible. As such the copper rock silo seen here at the No.2 was the largest the mine had ever built – capable of holding 2,000 tons of rock inside its cylindrical confines. This was a ten-fold increase from the mine’s earliest bins, which would only muster some 200 tons of rock. As a result the No.2 could operated far longer before needing its silo emptied, ensuring that no matter what happens along the railway the shaft could stay operating unimpeded. Today of course the bin holds nothing but empty space, as its contents were emptied soon after the shaft’s closure in the 1930s. Its a good thing too, because after a century of exposure to the elements and a lack of maintenance have left the iron panels making up the silo’s exterior peppered with holes and tears as the panels rust away. To help support the massive amount of rock found inside, a series of outside braces (two of which can be seen above) are attached to the bin to insure it keeps its shape even when filled to the rim with heavy copper rock. Also supporting that massive rock silo is a robust concrete foundation placed at its base. The foundation is pierced through its center by a narrow tunnel, dividing it into a pair of parallel half-circles. Though it looks to be solid, the foundation is in actuality hollow as the concrete seen above only serves as a shell for an interior space filled up with poor rock. The rock served as a soft bed for the copper-rock being dumped inside, and kept the wear and tear of the concrete itself down to a minimum. That tunnel cutting its way through the foundation’s center had a purpose as well. It was there to provide egress for train cars so they could park underneath the silo to loaded via chutes lining the silo’s base. Those cars would be pulled through this opening by a locomotive, stopping the cars under the line of chutes seen protruding down from the tunnel’s roof. The chutes connect directly to the rock silo above, and were used to empty its contents into the waiting rock cars below. Here we find another innovation of the Quincy Method as the usual arrangement of chutes found at other rockhouses across the Copper Country has been replaced with something new. While those other rockhouse’s would have used chutes placed directly above the tracks, Quincy instead utilized a pair of chutes set on either side of the tracks. This would double the speed in which the cars could be filled as well as insuring the silo was emptied more uniformly. Peering inside we can see those chutes in more detail, though today their bottoms look to have rusted out. Below those chutes can still be found the tracks of the rail line which once made its way through the space. The rails are narrow gauge, as was the rest of the Quincy Mine’s railroad. Along the far wall is a collection of conduits snaking their way into a small opening seen in the center of the foundation. Those conduits are actually compressed air lines, and the opening served a small control booth carved into the foundation. Within that booth stood a man who was in charge of opening and closing the rock chutes – a task done via compressed-air powered doors found at their terminuses.
The spur rail line serving the Quincy No.2’s stamp rock silo was one of three such lines which made their way underneath the towering structure. Two additional parallel spur lines also served the structure, one found just forward of the main stamp rock silo and another piercing the structure between the rock silo and the shaft opening itself. Both of these spurs were served by rock silos of their own, only the type of rock housed in those silos was different. For the spur piercing the building the silo was filled with worthless poor rock, while for the spur running alongside the building its silo contained valuable mass copper. As for that second silo, we’ve seen it before as it sits right alongside the stamp rock silo we’ve already explored.Like its adjacent stamp rock brother, the mass copper silo has deteriorated substantially. Most notable is the collapse of the silo’s feed tube which can now be seen peeking out of the silo’s old chute opening. This feed tube would have connected the silo with the rockhouse floor far above – the very same tube in which workers would have dropped pieces of mass copper after being worked by the drop hammer. Also missing is the chute itself, which would have once sloped downward from the dark opening seen above. When intact the chute would have allowed the mass copper stored here to be dumped into a waiting rail car sitting alongside. That copper could then be taken to the mill or directly to the smelter.
The Poor Rock Spur
The final rail spur serving the Quincy No.2 Shaft/Rockhouse could be found here – halfway between the the main silos occupying the shaft/rockhouse’s front half and and the shaft itself. Though the restored dump car seen within its maw is labeled as a poor-rock car, this particular rail spur in actuality several purposes at once. In addition to hauling away poor rock, rail cars utilizing this spur also carried tools, used drill bits, crushed rock, and even large pieces of mass copper from time to time.Peeking inside that opening we find the first of many chutes dropping down from the structure above. This particular one was for poor rock, connected to a small poor rock storage silo buried within the structure a floor up from here. Poor rock from the underground would be dumped from he skips into that bin, and then sent down this chute to be taken away by rail cars. Next to is is another smaller chute – an item which looks more like some type of heating duct. This chute was used by an attendant working the poor rock level of the structure, where a the structure’s third rock crusher was set up in the shadow of that poor rock silo.
This third crusher was not to produce stamp rock, but instead to created crushed rock to be used for a variety of purposes around the mine site – rail ballast, road material, or just standard fill for a variety of other projects. Like its brothers up in the rockhouse level, an attendant was needed to insure rock that shouldn’t go into the crusher did not. Any large pieces of rock to bulky to fit into the crusher was tossed into a hole in the floor, where it would tumble its way down the heating-duct looking chute seen above.At the other end of the rail spur opening are two other chutes dropping down from the ceiling. The one to the right was attached to a small silo (which can be seen just behind it) holding the crushed poor rock produced by the poor rock floor crusher. The one on the left is yet another poor rock chute coming down from the poor rock level – though its exact purpose is a mystery to me.
In addition to the chutes there was yet another method in which cars could be loaded along this rail spur. That was through the use of a pair of overhead cranes which entered this space from the adjacent shafthouse…Those cranes were simple crane blocks attached to trolleys riding along I beams extending over the rail spur. The chains and trolleys are now gone, but the I Beams on which they once ran can still be seen running across the space just above the rock car. Originally these cranes would have passed into the adjacent shafthouse through a large opening – an opening now boarded up and covered as seen above. Behind that newly added wall stands the skip road itself and a large concrete ramp on which various items brought up from the underground could be dumped. These items included spent drill bits, various tools, timbers, and the occasional large piece of mass copper. Any of those items could then be loaded up on the overhead cranes and brought over this rail spur to be loaded onto rail cars.
Of course no tour of a shaft/rockhouse would be complete without a look at the portion of the building dedicated to the shaft itself – which sits just behind this faux wall. Its into that space that we head next…
To Be Continued…