We have discovered the remains of aerial tramways at abandoned mines in the U.S. before, but this is the first intact one that we have found. Usually, what we find are very faint remnants – a wooden support for the system, for example, or jumbles of cable. In fact, the only mine exploring video of ours from the U.S. that features anything connected to an aerial tramway is from the Oro Fino Mine (one of our early videos). As I often say, abandoned mines have a lot of forces working against them, such as natural erosion, forest fires, self-serving government agencies and other vandals. The more extreme the environment, the harder it is (obviously) on the historical mine. As aerial tramways for mining operations are usually needed high up on steep mountains, their very purpose is to exist in an extreme environment. So, it isn’t exactly a surprise that they are something of a rarity in the realm of historical abandoned mines.
Italy has made heavy use of aerial tramways in their mining operations and so I have come across several – both at abandoned and active mines - there. The most recent Italian mine we visited, the Buca della Vena, had a large tram system (If you’re curious, it’s in the first video in that series). Those aerial tramways that I have seen are all at more contemporary mines though. So, they haven’t really had a chance to come apart yet as we are used to in the United States.
So, in short, it is a treat to see this intact aerial tramway at what is actually a fairly old mine by American standards. Yet again, the desert has come through for us in preserving this historical treasure. I appreciate the opportunity to see how all of the parts of this system operated and worked together.
Obviously, the miners were dropping ore down to the main haulage adit where the aerial tramway starts. When I was inside of the mine, I was thinking that perhaps the ore was being dumped down that shaft. However, that doesn’t make sense with all of those ladders and the woodwork in there because it would have been smashed to pieces if they started dumping ore down the shaft. So, I’m thinking that was only used as a manway since scrambling up the steep mountain is difficult and somewhat treacherous given all of the loose rock. Instead, it would have been much easier for the miners to ride the aerial tramway up to the mine from the valley below and to then climb up the ladders inside of the mine to access the upper levels they wanted to reach.
For those of you that are not as familiar with mining, the miners would have dumped the waste rock out of the front of each of the levels we visited. The good stuff (the valuable ore), would have been dropped down to the main haulage adit to be trammed to the valley floor. So, I believe that those winzes we saw in each level (except for the top one) must have served to ferry the ore down to the bottom adit. As crazy as it seems, that large ore chute that I climbed up for a short distance on the bottom level, might run all of the way up to the level above. I assumed it just ran up to a large stope, but how else would they have gotten the ore down from the upper levels? What looked like a plugged winze on the level above may have been the plugged ore chute in the main haulage adit.
If the prospect they began on the very top where I started had run into any good ore, they would have kept tunneling into the mountain and would have driven a passage from there as well to dump ore down (separate from the manway/shaft that we saw up there). There was a lot of work put into driving that manway up to that top level and constructing that platform of stones up there, by the way. All for nothing! Unfortunately, that is a common theme for miners.
All of these videos are uploaded in HD, so adjust those settings to ramp up the quality! It really does make a difference.
You can see the gear that I use for mine exploring here: https://bit.ly/2wqcBDD
You can click here for my full playlist of abandoned mines: https://goo.gl/TEKq9L
Thanks for watching!
Growing up in California’s “Gold Rush Country” made it easy to take all of the history around us for granted. However, historic abandoned mines and the old timers that used to work them, are disappearing quickly.
These losses finally caught our attention and we felt compelled to make an effort to document as many of the ghost towns and abandoned mines that we could before that colorful niche of our history is gone forever.
I hope you’ll join us on these adventures!