"Old Reliable"

Photos date from 2006-2014.

On my first trip into Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, I was introduced to copper mining ruins for the first time, the most obvious of which are those of the Quincy Mine, along US-41 just north of Houghton and Hancock. Nicknamed "Old Reliable," the rockhouse of the Quincy #2 shaft towers mightily over the twin cities, a monument to the bygone era that it once dominated:

Along with the Calumet & Hecla Mine, the Quincy was one of Copper Country's most productive mines of all time, and kept Michigan unchallenged as the world's leading source of copper for almost a century.

I have visited the site every single year since 2006, and as such my photographs are quite varied. Today, the ruins of the Quincy Mine have been stabilized and curated by the National Park Service as an attraction of the Keweenaw Historic Park, but when I first visited they were just getting started and many of the buildings were still unstable and overgrown. The whole place is a museum of rusting mining implementia, standing like mechanical tombstones in a desolate industrial graveyard:

You can tour part of the mine and the hoist house, but today I was focusing on the peripheral ruins.

These particular buildings above belonged to the Quincy Mine #2, while the ones that follow belonged to Quincy Mine #4; this is the #4's boiler house:

According to author Lawrence J. Molloy, Quincy Mining Co. was incorporated in 1846, and eventually was successful enough to buy up neighboring smaller mines until it owned the entire length of the Pewabic Lode. By the 1860s Quincy was the leading copper producer in America, and thereafter it was surpassed only by the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co., until 1945 when it finally closed its underground works. The Quincy Mine, especially the #2 shaft, payed dividends so consistently that it earned the reassuring nickname "Old Reliable." Quincy Mining operated a total of nine shafts on this lode, but soon closed the non-producers and focused on developing the three that were rich--the #2, #4, and #7.

The Quincy #2 outlasted them all, and its workings are almost two miles deep; it has 92 levels, and has flooded up to the 11th since work ceased after WWII. Quincy had extracted 1.5 billion pounds of copper in its 99 years of operation but some 60% of the lode's copper still remains, due to the prohibitive cost of extraction at that depth. The main difficulty was keeping the lower levels of the mine from flooding with groundwater (and other labor costs, such as the fact that there used to be a minimum of one mining death per week in the Keweenaw).

The #4 hoist, and beyond it, the #7 shaft's boiler house look like ancient ruins:

Mike Forgrave of CopperCountryExplorer says that for most of Quincy Mining's life, the bulk of their profit came out of the #2 and #4 shafts. The #4 however did not have the longevity that the "Old Reliable" #2 did, and thus did not receive updated modern steel structures in the 20th century; its old stone and wooden buildings were let go and faded into the past while the #2 forged ahead.

Lawrence Molloy says that the #4 started up in 1856, and that its boiler and hoist houses shown here date to 1882 and 1885, respectively. The headframe of the #2 is visible in the distance here, and standing at 147 feet tall, can be seen from many more miles away as well:

Today, much of this foliage is cleared away.

The #7's boiler house was built in 1898, Molloy says.

Mining operations at the #4 and #7 were shut down for good in 1909. The #4 was only about 4,000 feet deep according to Mike Forgrave.

The #4's boiler had two chimneys, Forgrave says, because once it was temporarily used to power both the #2 and #4 simultaneously:

The #2's most recent boiler house, which produced steam power for its hoist, was wide open:

The old smokestack has since been dynamited and removed.

Wooden coal bins along the righthand side for feeding the boilers, which used to sit on the left, supported by brick foundations:

Note the large steel duct in the wall for drawing the boilers' exhaust up the smokestack outside:

Note how much the foliage grew back between 2006 (above), and 2010 (below):

Rails for coal cars still spanned a gap into the boiler, despite the absence of any trestle that used to hold them up...

...while coal cars still sit lined up on the track:

There is also this old narrow-gauge locomotive, the Quincy & Torch Lake Railroad's #5, which dates to 1890:

A late-winter visit to the #2 boilerhouse with snowshoes in March, 2014:

This building here is the #2's old hoist building:

The front of the new, c.1920 hoist house:

The c.1895 wood-constructed, gabled headframe that earned the #2 its "Old Reliable" nickname was torn down and replaced by this towering steel monster in 1907:

The cylindrical portion here was where the ore and waste rock would be poured from the skips being pulled out of the mine, and funneled into railroad cars below, to be hauled away. A 40-ton steam hammer located inside this beast would break up the rock to a finer consistency beforehand.

The #2 shaft was first opened in 1858.

The "man-engine" shaft is visible here, sealed off with this iron mesh:

The "man-engine" shaft housed a sort of elevator that was used only for moving men in and out of the underground, but the equipment has been removed. It was used from 1866 to 1892. Looking through the bars:

Hoist of the #4 again, seen in summer of 2010:

#4 boiler house seen nearby:

The Q&TLRR roundhouse:

The HAER writes that this roundhouse was built in 1890 when the Quincy Mine built the Quincy & Torch Lake Railroad to link the mines on Quincy hill with the Quincy Stamp Mills, and the Quincy Smelter down below.

It originally consisted of two locomotive stalls, with a third added on in 1894 and a fourth in 1900. Unfortunately there were crews working on restoring it during my first visit, but a subsequent visit in March of 2014 offered a better glimpse of the locomotive that had once been inside:

The wooden structure nearby housed a water tank.

This view of the old Quincy Tram Road grade shows not only the height of Quincy Hill, but also the steepness of the incline, which has become a favored path of snowmobilers:

Snowshoes required...the snow was around four feet deep (note the sign barely poking out):

CLICK here to go to Quincy Mine #6

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites, HAER, 1978
Guide to Michigan's Historic Keweenaw Copper District, by Lawrence J. Molloy
The Copper Empire, A Historical Atlas of Michigan's Copper Country, Mike Forgrave

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