We thought we might drive toward the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula but decided instead to park the trailer 40 miles south at FJ McLain SP near Houghton MI, home of Michigan Technological University. Houghton is a nice town and host to what may be the largest lift bridge in the world. It spans the Keweenaw Waterway, a portage canal cutting across the Keweenaw peninsula to connect to Lake Superior’s north and south sections.
Just after crossing the big lift bridge we came upon the Quincy Mine and Hoist, a historic site with neat buildings and exhibits. Easy access with the trailer, lots of parking, and this site provided an interesting tour of a big successful (but now retired) copper mine.
This tall rock house had two skip tracks and allowed operators to readily swap the type of skip. The skips are small rail cars and would include at least one for rock and one for bailing water. And also, of course, a large man car allows transporting 30 men in and out of the mines on a 9,000 feet long trip. The man car took men down and up once each 12 hours for a long shift of work. The rock skips brought the mined rock and copper up.
This Quincy Mine was extremely profitable and allowed construction of this magnificent hoist house. The building is 75 feet by 75 feet and has 82 feet high ceilings to accommodate the tremendous hoist engines and drum. Interior walls are glazed white tile, all hand railing was done in brass, and large and well-placed windows provide plenty of natural lighting.
Our guide told us this was the largest hoist drum in the world, installed in 1920. The drum is 54 feet wide by 60 feet tall (diameter). It was capable of smoothly spooling over 13,000 feet of 1 5/8″ wire cable with 2,500 horsepower. The large cables spanned from hoist house to rock house and down 9,000 feet into the mine’s 92nd level below ground. Maximum speed of the ten ton skips was 36 miles per hour. The engineering was just amazing in this place.
The tour was interesting, informative, and enjoyable. We had a short drive from Quincy Mine and Hoist site to Ft McLain State Park on the Lake Superior coast.
Tomorrow we’ll visit Laurium Manor, built 1908 for owners of a large copper mining company and drive up the Keweenaw Peninsula to Ft Wilkins.
Jim and Debbie
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