View single post by Keith Pashina
 Posted: Thu Nov 8th, 2012 05:34 pm
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Keith Pashina


Joined: Sun Nov 4th, 2012
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
Posts: 777
I have always liked the mining industry, and it's relationships with railroads.  In Minnesota, my home state, the mining industry means iron mining, and the mighty Mesabi, Vermilion, and Cuyuna iron ranges.  These were all served, at least in more modern times, by standard gauge railroads.  It would be a challenge to model them, because nearly everything about them was massive.

The Tower-Soudan Mine was on the Vermilion Range, and might be considered typical for the industry.  I'd need a  lot of space if I chose to do it in HO.

I became interested in the copper mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Way up north on the Keweenaw Peninsula, numerous shaft mines mined the copper ore.  This range was mined from about the mid-1800s to about 1965.  In the early days, there were many narrow gauge railroads around.  Most of these were standard-gauged early on, but the 3' gauge Quincy & Torch Lake ran until 1945.

The Quincy Mining Company owned the 3' gauge line, and it was used to haul copper rock from the mines at the top of the hill about 6 miles downhill to the stamp mills on the shore of a bay off of Lake Superior.  This was a fascinating prototype, and there still is a lot to see today.  However, this was a large industry - the Quincy Shaf/Rock house, if built in HO, would be about 3' tall and 3' long - too big for me to model.

I modeled this area in HOn30, but had to greatly condense the models to fit my layout space.  This is a photo of a mine shaft/rock house I built in 1982.  I had a lot of fun with it, but this changed once I was exposed to the Gilpin Tram.

This is a photo taken about 1900, and is looking at mines served by the Gilpin Tram.  Most of the mines in this photo were served by spurs and branches off of the Gilpin Tram main line.  Numerous switchbacks were needed to reach many of the mines.  The mine industry here was very much modelable.  The mines were reasonably small, close to one another, had interesting architecture.  The Gilpin Tram more or less made a large half-circle around the towns of Black Hawk and Central City.  The mines and railroad were often perched up on the hillside above town areas - nice and compact for a model.  In the photo above, that is the outskirts of Central City in the foreground.

This photo is taken from about the same vantage point as the 1900-era photo. You can still see many of the mine ruins, and most of the railroad grade is still there.  Like many mining towns, the trees have really grown up once mining halted.

Most of the mines survive only in old photos - there are only a very few left of the hundreds that once were in the region.  Here is one of the old mines - the Frontenac Mine at the Gilpin Tram's original end of track.  At the left edge, the Gilpin Tram track ran under the ore loading bins.  Some friends and I found some old Gilpin RR ties laying around this area about 10 years ago.  Since this photo was taken, a lot of the backside has collapsed under the weight of snowy winters, but there is still stuff to see. 


Mines like the Frontenac appealed to me, because I could fit scale or near-scale sized models on my layout.  The many branches and spurs were excellent to model for operations - my preference is switching layouts, and that is basically what the Gilpin Tram was.  So, the decision was easy to switch to modeling the Gilpin Tram beginning about 1990 or so.  Well, there it is, a very long-winded explanation on why I chose to model the Gilpin Tramway, circa 1902.

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