A dead work truck rusts near an outbuilding. Everything is marked with a code. Modernity.
A multi-family home with an attic bedroom. The staircase was unstable, to say the least.
This picture gives you the idea of how the boat-loading control rooms are set up; they lean over the dock and Lake Superior to be able to see down into the holds of the boats… important, considering how quickly it loaded the boats! An uneven load could put stress on the hull of a laker, increasing the risk it will break and sink.
Drawn in fresh concrete about 50 years before I took this picture, and only 2 years after this elevator blew up…
This little curled yellow thing is one of the last hints that this adobe building was lived in.
Funny how sensitive modern English speakers have become to gendered language. I doubt the workers here–almost all female–were offended by this posting for ‘Workmen’s Compensation’.
These machines circulated water through the powder from the ball mills. Gold and silver is heavier than gravel, so it sinks while the junk rock floats.
Part of the grain drier system in ADM #1 crawls up the side of the building like a steel vine.
The well-worn chair in one larry’s operator cab, next to an overgrown coke battery.
The Bunk House was not just for sleeping, but it was for eating and recreation too. In one corner, near the door to the Blacksmith Shop (left) is this terrific stove, probably original (circa 1937).
When boiling beet juice accidentally spills from the gas-fired tanks two feet away, you better be wearing some of these, or bye-bye legs.
Part of the 1917 mill that had a little bit of roof left over it–most of this building was open to the sky. The birds loved it, but everything metal was quickly becoming too unstable to walk on.
These buildings were largely used as concentrators for the crushed rock, although I did spy some small mills inside these too.
The powerhouse was notably older than the rest of the complex. I’m still not sure if it was build just for the cooperage, or whether it preceded it.
The steel sea leg is so heavy it requires a huge counterweight that travels the height of the elevator.
Beside the half-demolished Thunder Bay Elevator shops and offices (brick building) are some rusting fishing boats. A little bit of SWP #7 is seen in the upper right.
One of the old cooperage buildings is largely unchanged from when it was built. The raised section of the building houses a crane.
A fallen branch smashed out this skylight years ago, and since then the bees have found this tiny toilet a perfect home. This is part of the hotel where employees slept.
A closeup of a flour chute.
Another ruined spiral staircase in the mill.
Looking into one of the fire slides, designed to evacuate patients extremely quickly. In 1880, a fire completely destroyed the asylum at St. Peter, Minnesota, killing 30 patients.
It’s never a good sign when the windows are boarded from the inside.
The elevator is stuck between floors.
Spare firebox bricks palleted on the second floor, is if it was going to be repaired.
Christmas lights from the time Island Station was an art studio lean against a rusty boiler.
One thing that made the Eagle Mine unique is the underground mill, left of this picture. As the rocks moved down the mill, they would be turned into finer and finer powder.
It was as noisy then as it is colorful now…
The main shaft’s cable spooled with bird castings belies the fact that lives used to dangle from its steel-wound strength. Arrows on the circles would indicate the mine level the cars were currently at.
A line of huge machines wait to be used as parts under a long-disused belt drive.
The holes were for men to poke reluctant ore with long poles, with the hope that a lucky jab would let the load slide down into the boat below. Now they’re just traps.
The pilot house, lit with the lights of Superior.
Chutes from a hundred machines interconnect to more machines and chutes on a dozen factory floors.
In the far back of the cellars there are some old bottles. This arch shows an old entrance to the cellars, now collapsed.
The secret sweet-yet-salty center of the nameless factoryscape. Home base, tuned to rule the AC and turn out Product X at record rates, I’m sure.
A collapsing and unstable building.
A staircase threads between the top floor and the sluices, which are in the middle of the dredge-mill.
The UP gets a lot of snow, making exploring its old mines a special challenge in the winter. The snow is more than 6 feet deep in this picture, and firm enough to walk on.
The top of the docks are so rotten in places that you can see the lake through the boards. In the foreground you can see the controls for the chutes, which work on a clutch.
A one-of-a-kind installation in Armour’s otherwise gutted engine house.
Iron becoming dirt becoming birches.
A bank of vertical filing cabinets, probably dating to National Guard days.
The tops of the coke stoves.
The original metal sign over the porticos.
A strange arcade machine in the basement.
One evening I spent an hour lighting tea candles through the tunnels below the elevator. It was a magical transformation.
Disabled forklift… I think it’s a Clark.
In the Lime House, the sunset picked-up the last light of day to make this image. Lime is used in the beet sugar refinement process to reduce the acidity of the beet juice mixture.
The bottom of the stairs leading from the work floor to the cafeteria.
I follow this advice every day. You should too.
I love when moss grows indoors… one of the little pleasures of exploring abandonments.
The sign that greets visitors to the ghost town of Colmor. Nothing says ‘welcome’ like birdshot.
Because painted signs would not hold up in this spot–in between four ovens that were literally hot enough to melt steel inside. Solution: Cut the pipe labels into the sheet metal. Seems to have worked.
A natural reaction with this kind of view.
A nice view of the aurora borealis (“Northern Lights”) strong enough to outshine the industrial lighting at the power plant. The lights in the foreground direct ships discharging coal for the station.
A wrecked pressure gauge and employee time cards.
A little sheet metal box somehow made it back home.
One of the many blast doors. Note the plunger to seal off the airflow in the event of an attack or accidental explosion.
An impressive message for graffiti in a Detroit warehouse, but then again look at these steam pumps. Over-built and under-appreciated.
A wimpy crane by most standards, only suitable for moving around parts of steam turbines.
From the bottom of the skyway I looked back, my eyes tracing the vines from the marsh up the smokestacks to the perfect Midwestern sky.
The gold mine is now a gravel pit.
The hoist signal dangling beside the modern mine shaft would ring a bell next to the giant electric motors that would send the men and machinery into the underground.
Fire doors and penis talk.
The pipes in the boiler would be full of water, so the heat in the furnace.
Workers’ lockers, strewn across Main Street, yet still out of the way.
The generator room was state of the art when it was installed, allowing the complex to use motors and electric lighting ahead of its competitors.
A winding flue between the ovens for Furnace 6, capped with sketchy catwalks.
Wind blew taconite dust against the walls of these suspended control room, making even the glass appear to rust.
The last trace of Mitchell, Minnesota is a pile of cans on the side of the main street, Mitchell Avenue. These will be recognizable for another century or so, for future history-minded explorers.
Power-up to cool down… would have been nice on the hot day I climbed on top of this machine.
Looking across the whole milling operation from its dedicated powerhouse stretching across Eagle River.
This section of the hospital recently collapsed.
I wish I knew what has become of this great one-of-a-kind sign that used to brag how many days the Clyde Iron factory has gone without a serious accident. Update: It’s hanging in one of the smaller venue spaces behind the bar.
I included this image to illustrate the height of the headgrame and the distance between it and the hoist house. Of course, compared with the depth of the mine shaft, this distance is short.
The rust garden’s brick centerpiece contrasts the muted winter Kentucky palette.
In case power was lost, this manual signal could direct trains on and off the taconite trestle. Turning the pole would change the color of the light on top and the shape of the metal flags.
Shadows of the skylights form a backdrop for rust-welded machines.
Because there’s no Port-a-John underground.
Looking through perfectly clear water into an abandoned mine room. My guess is that it contained some pumps to keep the mine dry and equipment related to the elevators.
A massive steel sheer’s equally massive drive cog. Imagine the force.
One of a few dozen steel bed frames left in the rubble of the collapsing building.
An original stencil-brushed sign.
Furnace #7, as seen from #6’s catwalks. Cue morning fog.
In this photo you see three lives of Lyric: 1.) The Art Deco murals showing the Vaudeville background; 2.) The suspended ceiling put in when the building was converted for film; 3.) The explorers, photographers and others who worked in and on the building before its final demolition.
In the upper left of the image you can see where the gas tanks used to be, along with the concentration equipment. Along the bottom you can also see some of the many railroad tracks coming and going from the plant–the ones visible here were incoming tracks that carried in hard coal from the eastern US.
Looking from the crane-motor catwalk into the Calumet. The arm shown here with the pulleys looped through it would have been lowered and the bucket conveyor in it would throw grain to waiting ships and boats bound for flour mills and foreign lands.
Some warnings on the older battery which was visibly older than its eastern counterpart. This set of batteries had no railing between the side of the ovens and a long drop onto railroad tracks… I like this picture because it shows the effects of the heat and corrosive gasses on the area around the ovens.
I love the texture of the rust through the decaying yellow paint.
One of the machines left over in the underground magnetic separation plant.
The old gate sign, leaned against one of the terminal elevators.
Looking down a manlift on the ore dock side of the elevator. It’s a belt-less belt-o-vator!
The oldest part of this mill had a wooden roof that rotted away long ago. Slowly, rust is dulling the edge on every cog left behind.
Looking at the tallest part of the plant from a skeletal loading dock. Kodak Portra 160/Mamiya 6.
These machines are at least 100 years old.
The conveyor between the shore and Dock 2. Note the gap in the aerial walkway that used to connect Dock 4 to the rest of the complex.
Without a conveyor belt, this tripper seems lost. The job of this machine was simply to take grains from the moving conveyor belt and eject it into the silos via the chutes on the sides. Note all the dust collection venting added to the machine to suck up any explosive grain dust.
Kat dancing down the trestle, which is one of the highest in the state, standing about 100 feet over the road. Mamiya 6/Portra 160
This picture typifies the industrial ideal of the early 20th century. More metal than air. More efficiency than beauty. More profits than people.
Numbers on a pillar counted tank capacity for a removed water container; an unhinged door in an unhinged factory beguiles those looking for an exit.
I like this picture because it shows some of the only unbroken windows at Packard.
A huge steel tank, one of several left over, left over from either the Ashland Oil or Allied Chemical periods.
Old boathouses near the dock.
Lockers for the boiler room workers.
A rooftop scene.
The spiral staircase ends in the basement, where two oil tanks (for the lantern) and a freshwater tank (for the Keeper) were stored. The basement consists of two long arched vaults like this.
Looking across the catwalk behind the ore chutes, when they were up, and at the top of the ore chutes during loading.
The front door to the auditorium.
A colorful boiler is a happy boiler! RotoGrate systems remove ashes from the boiler firebox by revolving the bottom of the system to let the fly ash drop into a hopper. This greatly increases boiler efficiency.
The Engine House’s boiler, which would have been fired all day all day, virtually from the day the shop opened until the day it closed.
One of the covered rail loading docks. All of them were overgrown and rust-clad.
It will be a good harvest.
This wheel scoops the washings from the sluice room and places it on the tailings conveyor.
Inside the west portal is a big liquid propane hand warmer, for workers to take the cold off their gloves as they handled the switches and doors of Cramer Tunnel. Mamiya GA645 / Kodak Pro 400
In case of fire, workers on higher floors would take the emergency slides to escape.
Without a roof, the bricks were being washed away in the later years of the roundhouse.
The wrought iron staircase for what was the Consumer’s Brewery Brew House, as indicated by very fine cast landings with the company logo. The staircase is in bad condition; someone had run a forklift or something similar into the bottom in addition to copious vandalism and water damage. Holes in the floor, like in the upper-right corner indicate where stainless steel kettles used to be before they were scrapped.
Mammoth Mine overlooks Central City from atop Mammoth Hill. In the distance you can make out Coeur d’Alene Mine (red), which operated from 1885 through 1940.
“Against the blue sky, its rusting central silos look like rising smoke meeting the last minutes of a sunset. These give way to a corrugated night sky of blue gray, punched-through with staggered four-pane windows, all glassless.”
This low brick building is interesting to me.
The coal crusher (above) and the conveyor (left) to bring the powdered coal to furnace hoppers (right).
This ruined skyway looks like it should be at ground level because of the growth, but it’s actually the second floor of the building.
Blue plastic siding filters the summer sun, giving the otherwise reddish-brown interior a splash of color.
Mounted in an office.
A control panel that was mothballed, anticipating a time when the plant may be reactivated.
In the soft wood of the machine, an employee left their mark.
The boiler doors are beautiful, and feature the name of the smelter and mine company. If you like these, check my article on the Mitchell Yards of Hibbing, MN.
The new steel door of the diesel car shops, built in 1948 and used through the 1960s, as seen from the service pit. On the top of the photograph you can see the exhaust vent.
Made by the Mergenthalen Linotype Company of New York, this model series (300) was introduced in 1960 and boasted a 12-line-per-minute reproduction rate.
Standing next to the now-demolished records room.
Looking through the washer that is the first stop for the dredgings.
The elevator tower seems to have been built with expansion of the dock in mind.
The roof was in bad shape, but too beautiful to avoid. This is the spot were I used to study medieval Latin.
When I first saw Ogilvie’s from the ground, I promised myself to look back when i found my way into this little pitched outcropping which seemed to have the best view of Thunder Bay I could imagine. It turns out, though, that there is no floor in that section; it is just extended machine access! Oh well. Mount McKay in the background in the last light.
The original color of the wall was probably green.
Captured bolts for a pressure cooker on an industrial scale.
I believe these hooks were meant for hanging filters to dry.
I love the ‘hats’ on the top of the SWP-4 headhouse. FP-100C.
The tallest dock structure is an equipment elevator that connects the many dock levels.
A long exposure under the trestle-like approach to the dock, under which trains still pass regularly.
This big rusty sphere hides behind the incomplete 5-stack.
Old hospital beds.
The ’59’ is just a reference to that work station. Unfortunately the scrappers beat me to this machine–there was not much left besides the 2-ton shell and this control panel.
Judging by the bed, this room was used by employees in its later years.
A string of vehicles have found death at Packard recently. Usually they are simply driving up ramps and pushed off the rooftops, but this one seemed destined for a worse fate. Found in the far corner of the far building.
Looking out the finishing end of the sintering plant at a network of torched-off catwalks through a maze of rust and asbestos. Paradise.
Looking into the Pool 8 Annex from the original Ogilvie’s elevator.
I believe this is the push car, meaning it would push the charge in the oven out the opposite side into the train car.
The American Victory next to M, seen late at night.
Aaron by the concentrator.
This is a 1956 furnace. It was used to forge wheels, casings, and parts for the axel shop.
In a strange loft next to the brewhouse are these twin kettles, which seem much older than the main kettles in the brewhouse.
Much of the plant depended on steam, not only for heat but for mechanical power.
A rusting disconnect gangway. The smokestack is for a boiler, if I recall.
These copulas made the iron for casting.
Between the gauges for the power plant boilers and the steam pump flywheels.
This movable chute came off its rails.
This steel cup on the card would move molten copper to the caster from the furnace.
“What’s that diamond thingy on the Pilot House?” you ask? It’s a 1920s-era radio transmission direction finder, a pre-radar navigation aid. Lit with diffused flash.
A ship passes the abandoned dock on its way to Duluth. Taconite dust stains the sides of its hull red.
A panoramic view of the sintering plant’s gas plant (?). Everyone who visits must get a picture of these rusty smokestacks!
Prize Mine has been the victim of erosion. Its north wall is pushed in by rockfall and its south side is far from ground level.
Much of the circa-1950s buildings remain with few alterations, such as these long boring sheet metal ruststicks.
On the dark side of the workhouse at sunset, you can almost see where the walls used to be. Kodak Portra 160/Mamiya 6.
The top of Dock 4 was too dangerous to explore, but this panorama gives you an idea of the view (and how rotten the wood was).
Where workers would sign documents and collect their pay.
This is part of the oldest section of factory, one that hasn’t had a roof in a long time and all usable equipment has been extracted. The machines pictured would spin sliced beets in boiling water… it was a sealed system before someone cut holes on sides of each unit.
Blue skies and rust-pocked siding contrast the high-altitude blue sky. By the time I had worked my way back to the tram, it was sunset.
A stencil instructs the first and third shifts to ask security for access. Security was out during all my visits, except one mishap where a strung-out local chased me with a truck. Having spent a decade exploring the U.P., I was not caught off guard.
Atop Elevator ‘M’, formerly Cargill ‘O’.
A high-ceilinged room where kegs would be delivered for cleaning, before they were refilled with fresh booze.
Worm in the path of raw ore where it would be dumped from rock cars into the silo below.
Behind the evaporators are heavy access hatches to inspect the steam pipes within.
Blending the explosive ingredients was dangerous. It is no wonder that the blending house had so many emergency slides.
In the mine offices, hooks and a board with numbers was the system to keep track of who was in the mine and who was safe.
A broken window looking through the First Aid Room and into the Control Room in charge of directing grain into ships. You can see one of the large conveyors on the right, clad in green. Chutes and staircases intertwine seemingly randomly through the big empty spaces.
At sunset the light skips from puddle to stagnant puddle across the whole foundry room, playing with the classic sawtooth roof with half-hearted shadows.
This is one of my favorite images of the year because of the color, light and textures. Someone told me once that the medium of photographers is not film or digital sensors, but rather shadows. This photo is evidence of that.
If it weren’t for the fact there were trees growing from it, and that I cropped out the end of the rail approach, one might think this is still used occasionally.
The end of one of the scrapped turbines. Judging by the aborted attempt at cutting it in half, the scrappers had some trouble with this one.
One of the pair of motors that powered this mine shaft. In the 1950s, this shaft was designated a rescue shaft, and was only maintained for emergencies. One reason that Cheratte built Shaft 3 nearby was because these motors and infrastructure did not have the capacity that the giant mine below called for.
The winch that hauled the sea leg, a decide to unload grain from waiting boats and barges.
Part of the Pillsbury tunnel that brought water back to the Mississippi River.
Exploring Dock 4 was a very different experience, since it was almost all metal.
Beside the shaft building are two fans on skids, indicating they were used underground.
The bottom of the tailings boom is rotten. In days when the dredge, floated, gangways connected it to shore, it seemed. You can see the size of the pontoons under the boat here.
This mean-looking thing had a purpose, probably, but that function has been lost to decades of expansion.
The ‘working’ part of the furnaces are about a story above ground level, so the catwalks snake above the tree line.
These corner pilings served as bumpers… a little assurance against wind, ice, and new captains.
The middle section of the smokestacks were coal hoppers, and this device would load the coal into the hoppers from the conveyor belt it rode across. The bottom section of the stacks were storage rooms while the very top were, surprise, chimneys for the power plant.
The dredge is divided into four levels. The top level has controls for the tailings boom and, when it was there, the bucket excavator.
The Dock 5 sign at track level. Probably as an aid to sailors reboarding their vessels.
An old stoker in a power plant that was abandoned long before the mill next to it, by all indications. Sugar mills burned dry beet pulp pellets for fuel.
Installed in 1904 at the center of the plant, this is one of two batteries of boilers. Being in Oshkosh, heat was very important to keeping labor moving in the cold months.
One of the many fireproof bridges connecting the factory sections, one way to prevent fires from spreading throughout the plant.
A closeup inside the mill’s power room.
A closeup of one of the winding machines that found itself under a leaky section of roof.
The perfect place to have a post-industrial picnic.
Bits and things in a pile in the corner of the smelter, the unsold chunks of industrial history that didn’t sell at an on-site auction before my visit.