MINING'S UPS and DOWNS
Mackay's "Mine Hill" Aerial Tramway
The next time you have occasion to drive up the "mine" hill road, take note of what's left of the old and wearthered, oil derrick like, wooden towers located nerar the sidses of the road. Though most of the 36 towers havebeen dismantled of allen down leaving only remnantsof what was erected baack in 1917 during a furious decade of mining activity, those towers were an essentail part of an aerial tramway that was put into service in the summer of 1918. It increassed the speed and reduce the cost of getting ore from the mines to the smelter at thebottom of the "hill". From about 1906 to 1918 the "Shay" railroad took care of moving the ore down themountain, but it was relatively slow and there were many months of each winter that the "Shay" was unable to do its job because of snow drifted tracks that caused significant delays in getting the ore to market. The ore hauling aerial tramway was the answer.
it basically consisted of a continous 1-1/4" diameter cable, in a loop more than 3 miles in length, supported by and affixed to each side of the support towers. The ore buckets dangled on their rollers from this fixed cable, pulled or restrained by a 3/4" traveling cable. A device at the tunnel loading stations and at the smlter automatically disconnected the bucket from the traveling cable or unloading. The tram operated on gravity power; the weight of loaded ore buckets going down pulled the empty, or often loaded, ore buckets back up the mountain. Ore buckets going up were usually filled with coal or other supplies neded at the mine poser plant. An ore bucket could carry up to 1500 ils. and the system could move as much as 1000 tons of ore per day. (An actual ore bucket on a section of cable is on display at the Lost River Museum In Mackay.)
The tramway proved itself worht every penny of the $125,000 it cost to erect it, and provided the year round, speddy and economical system to get the ore to smelter that had always been needed. The aerial tramway operted for many years, following the ups and downs of mining activity all but ceased. It is believed that the tramway was sold for scrap along with remnants of the smelter about 1950.
(More details about the tramway can be obatained from copies of the old Mackay Miner newspaper. 1917-May 23, June 27 adn July 18; 1918-April 10, June 19. and July 17.)
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