MinesQuincy Mine

The Quincy Method (p4)

As we’ve explored the soaring frame of the Quincy No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse we’ve largely concentrated our efforts on the rock handling components of the grand structure. Yet as its name implies the building has a secondary purpose as well, something a bit less extravagant as rock handling but important none-the-less. Before that rock could be handled it first had to make its way up from the underground – a journey which started at the shaft itself. That opening to the underground sits at the rearward end of the building, protected from the elements from the towering superstructure which rises above it. This is the shafthouse portion of the building, and is the reason the building exists in the first place.

Shafthouses have their starts long before the idea of a rockhouse was even born, serving as simple structures designed primarily to cover the shaft and protect it from the elements. As the simple chains and kibbles of old were replaced by skips and skip roads that covering became even more important as a great many more things began taking place within its confines. Now tools, machines, timbers, and other pieces of equipment were loaded into and out of those skips, and once man-cars were added to the mix people began coming and going through the shafthouse as well. As a result the shafthouse grew in size and scope, its capabilities expanded to include rock handling as the masterpiece that is the Quincy No.2 combination shaft and rockhouse was born.

The Shafthouse Portion of the Quincy No.2
The Shafthouse
The division between the structure’s rockhouse and shafthouse portions is readily apparent – the towering front side housing the rockhouse while the shafthouse resides in the squat rear end seen off to the right. The shaft itself sits just to the left of that open doorway – just below the third window from the right. While the rockhouse portion of the building is strictly off-limits to visitors, tourists can easily take a peek inside of the shafthouse portion by stepping inside that doorway and taking a look for themselves.

The Shaft Floor of the Quincy No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse
Photo Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER, Photographer Jet Lowe
That glimpse inside would look something like this – another 1960s shot courtesy of our government commissioned photographer Jet Lowe. The most prominent item in the room is the skip road – a pair of rail lines heading up from the shaft at a 55º angle.  Along these rail lines would have ran the skips themselves, pulled up the rails by attached hoisting cables. A trio of dump points found along the way allowed those skips to be tipped in order to empty their contents onto one of the three main levels of the rockhouse. The first dump – seen just above the shack seen on the right – was for skips carrying tools, equipment or large pieces of mass copper. The second dump seen at the very top of the photo was for poor rock, while a third dump even further up into the structure’s rafters was for any copper bearing rock – rock which would make its way into the rockhouse level of the structure we’ve explored previously.

Inside the Quincy No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse In Operation
Photo Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER
Here’s another look, though this time from back when the shafthouse was still in use. In this shot a group of rescue workers is about to head down into the shaft after its 1927 fire to inspect the damage. Here a mancar sits atop the skip road, a car used to carry not rock but men down into the shaft.  The skip that would have normally resided in its place hangs off to the left – supported by one of six cranes mounted to the building’s outer frame.  Those cranes could be swung out over the skip road to assist in removing and installing skips or mancars.  During this process the hoisting cable attached to the cars would have to first be removed, then supported by a cable anchor while the car was being moved.  Those cable anchors were found further up the skip road – their importance awarding them a level of their own.

The Cable Anchor Floor of the Quincy. No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse
Photo Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER, Photographer Jet Lowe
Here’s a look at that level as it appears today. The wood frame of the skip road can be seen off to the right, and centered within the picture can be seen the two cable anchors in question. These were used to hold the cables in place while the skip or mancar was being removed from the skip road. Between them looks to be a manual winch, which I suppose was used to pull the cables down here if they came loose for any reason. The stairs going down in the background head down to the shaft level, while the ones going up take workers up to the rockhouse level. The doorway seen just in front of those upward heading stairs would have taken workers down a shorter flight of stairs to the poor rock level sitting just off to the right.

The Rockhouse Levels of the Quincy No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse
The Levels
That cable anchor level sits half a floor up from the rockhouse level, both of which are outlined along the building’s outside facade in the image above. The levels are further marked by windows, one illuminating the cable anchor floor and another pair giving light to the poor rock level. Below those floors is the poor rock rail spur – marked with a wide opening piercing the structure’s base. The shaft would sit off to the left – with the rest of the steel-sheathed building seen on that end belonging to the structure’s shafthouse portion.

Staying outside, we head off in that direction to see what else can be noted along the outside of the shafthouse.

The Old Engine Foundation at the Quincy No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse
An Old Engine Foundation
Before we get far, however, our attention is diverted by an old poor rock foundation protruding its way out of the shafthouse’s west facade. As the poor rock would suggest, this is a leftover from the No.2’s shaft/rockhouse’s previous incarnation – the multi-facaded wood framed monstrosity built atop the shaft in the 1890s. This particular portion of the building housed its steam engine, which explains the rather robust foundation still seen at the site today. When the current shaft/rockhouse was built, that steam engine was moved up into the new building’s rockhouse level, leaving this foundation without purpose. For a time its wood superstructure was kept intact and the building used for storage, but eventually it was demolished leaving behind just the foundation – too robust to be taken out cheaply.

The Shafthouse Portion of the Quincy No.2
The Shafthouse
At some point later in the shafthouse’s life two additions were added to its north end – a pair of steel-sheathed sheds set on either side of the main structure. They appear to have been added at different times, as this one looks to be simply placed atop the ground while on the opposite side a more robust concrete foundation can be found.

Worker Entry at the Quincy No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse
Worker Entry
Also found at the opposite end is this impressive looking door – its position on this side of the building possibly indicitive to it being a main entrance door used by workers on their way down to the underground.

Skip Entrance at the Quincy No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse
Skip Entrance
More openings and doorways can be found at the end of the shafthouse. While the small doorway is no doubt meant for people, the larger double-door opening seen just to its left is for something else entirely. Through those doors would have been transported skips or mancars, either on their way out to be repaired or on their way in after being worked on.

Skip Road Rails in front of the Quincy No.2 Shafthouse
Skip Road Rails
Making that task easier were a pair of tracks making their way through those doors as well. Outside those tracks were supported by wood timbers and cross ties – remnants of which can still be seen partially buried in the ground today. Inside the tracks were simply embedded into the concrete floor of the shafthouse, making their way up to the shaft itself. The large iron-lined concrete walls found on either side of the tracks were most likely there to protect the doors and the building from damage in case the skips or man cars jumped the tracks on the way through the doors.

The Quincy No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse
The Quincy No.2 Shaft / Rockhouse
With nothing much else to see along the shafthouse end of the structure we step back and take a wider view of the No.2 in all its glory. The Quincy No.2 is an iconic structure, its prominent position overlooking the Portage Valley and alongside US41 puts it in view of anyone visiting the Copper Country. For most people, however, the building is simply the Quincy Shafthouse – only hinting at its actual importance. Yet there is far more to this towering structure then a simple covering for a shaft. Peel away that outside coat and you find something else entirely…

Cutaway View of the Quincy No.2 Shaft /Rockhouse
Cutaway View of the Quincy No.2 Shaft /Rockhouse
Peeling back that shiny steel overcoat reveals a great technological evolution hiding away underneath. Inside lies an industrial cacophony of chutes, bins, and crushers – an  assembly line of rock production whose purpose is to sort and categorize any rock leaving the mine and send it on to its next destination. While other mines would end up utilizing similar methods, the Quincy No.2 is the best and the brightest of them all. It represents the the apex of Copper Country mining technology and methodology, an embodiment of a century’s worth of mining experience and knowledge. Its an impressive structure to view first hand, even more impressive once you know what lies inside.


Be sure to check out the other parts in this series:

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four

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  1. Great article, keep up the good work! BUT, in the last slide, the item labeled no.23 just can’t be the mass copper dump. Could that be the place they placed the skips when they attached the man car?

    1. The dump at No.23 was for a variety of things that could not or would not fit into the bins further up the structure. This included things like used drill bits, tools brought up in the skips – but it could also include mass pieces of copper too large to be worked up in the rockhouse. These pieces would tumble down the dump and then be hoisted up on a pair of overhead track cranes not shown in the diagram. From there they could be hauled over to the rail spur to be loaded on flat bed cars. The same could be said for dull drill bits, which would have to be hauled to the blacksmith shop or drill shops for sharpening.

      The skips were hung from the rafters when not in use, from one of several cranes attached to the sides of the shafthouse walls.

  2. Excellent series!
    The activities at the shaft collar varied beyond handling skips and mancars. Over the weekends, the skips would be exchanged for the water bales, one of which is hanging from a crane to the left in the third photo from 1927. One thing I find curious about the Quincy is there is no evidence of supply/timber cars either extant or in the HAER drawings. These would have been long flat cars with a bulkhead at the “down” end. While it is true Quincy didn’t use as much timber as other mines, they did use it. Rails, pipes, tramcars, locomotives, and last but not least explosives had to go down the hole some way. The supply cars would have stayed on the tracks running from the collar on out the rear doors. Those tracks would have extended out farther than the do now so bulky material could be loaded outside. Those tracks were also a means to skips, etc. in and out for repairs or replacement. Smaller stuff and particularly explosives would be loaded inside. It looks like Quincy’s method of getting those cars on the skipway was to gently pull the front end of the car across the gap on to the skip rails – note the curved “takeoff” guides at the collar. The rear wheels would have guided on the rails with either one of cranes or a cable and winch attached to the rear of the car, it really wouldn’t do to just let the rear of the car slam onto the skipway.
    When changing cars, the loose end of the hoisting cable could be problematic. With no load on it, it would want to droop between the pulley stands, hence the need for the cable anchors. Note the two-handled ratcheted winch between the anchors – it was probably there to help control the hoist cable. Even Big Louie couldn’t be expected to hold the loose end of the cable. I am old enough an fortunate enough to have visited Ahmeek 3&4 several times. It had a very spacious collar house section an they had a very different means of changing cars. One thing does stand out, once the mancar was on the skipway and the bridge pulled back, the Lander gave the signal and the hoist engineer started rapidly pulling the mancar up and down for about 20 feet 5 or 6 times. They were rocking the hoist back and forth to work the slack out that formed between the pulley stands.

  3. Ontonagon Herald 2/8/17: “Since 1843 there have been 112 Copper Mines started in Ontonago County, but less than 10 were ever profitable.

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