tracks

Rubber-Lined Cars

Because the shaft is nearly vertical, rocks riding inside shift a lot. To keep them from breaking down the door and raining into the shaft.

Conveyor Bend

A sharp turn in the coatings department twists the steel out of sight.

Moonrise at Taconite Harbor

The approach to the dock is rigidly geometric. I always thought its outline was beautiful against the lake that, by contrast, was always moving.

SWP4- Car Dump (Polaroid)

The newer train barn for the SK Pool 4 complex has a car tipper that would clamp and turn the grain cars to dump them into hoppers. FP-100c.

Made Indy

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.

Mine Shaft Cap

Timbers overlap where mine cars plunged, a strange wooden fence traced the center of the beams.

Rebar Fall Guards

A look straight down into the chutes were taconite pellets would dump into the dock hoppers. Rebar was a safety measure to keep workers from being buried alive, were they to slip into the holes.

Blast Smelter View

From an unsteady perch atop the blast furnace, the morning light began to leach into the complex below.

Sunrise and the Wellman Crane

This electric Wellman crane was added to extract coal from ships for the power plant that Erie built beside their dock. Now, with the advent of self-unloading boats, it’s been replaced by a funnel and conveyor belt.

Narrow Gauge Turntable

A better look at the rails in the floor, installed to help move heavy equipment around the building.

Mill Tram

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.

Right of Way

A washout two thirds of the way down the tram gave me a place to relax in the thin air.

Cutoff Ranch

An abandoned ranch on the east side of the tracks. This was not the Colmor Cutoff they were waiting for.

Hearn Stack

Approaching the power station and its giant stack. The stack replaced four shorter stacks in the 1960s, helping with pollution in the downtown corridor.

The Chief Lady

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

Abandoned Switch

A switch for the yard engines, now on the edge of the property where nobody will find it.

Oil Transformer Room

This is where the transformers were housed. Note the steel tracks in the floor for moving equipment around the building.

Dock Light Shadows

The dock is still lit at night and it casts shadows over the rust-welded ore doors.

Gantry Crane Control

A long exposure in the crane cab at sunset throws a bit of color into the bleak yellow glows between the windows and car shaker.

Frozen Tracks

Both portals get clogged with ice in the winter. In the summer, the ceiling is always dripping. Mamiya GA645 / Kodak Pro 400

Monorail in Mono

One of the only extant assembly line tracks in the body painting department. No photographer leaves Fisher 21 without capturing some version of this spot; hope you like mine.

Careful!

Will coming down “Darwin’s Ladder”.

West Portal, July

The west portal of the tunnel is open, and if it wasn’t for the rough track, I would think by looking at it that a train could be coasting up behind me any moment. Mamiya 6/Portra 160

Dock Shack II

The turned rail was to prevent runaway cars from going over the end of the dock and into the lake.

Mine Cart Shop

In this old repair shop, vines fall from the rotting roof to meet mossy concrete. Even though it had been dry for days, water dripped in from the roof to make permanent puddles between workstations. It was full of color and sound and industry and nature.

Vent Chains

The roof could be vented when locomotives were running inside.

Charge Car

I believe this is the push car, meaning it would push the charge in the oven out the opposite side into the train car.

Thunderdumpers

These dump cars moved copper ore to the top of the furnaces… it’s about two stories above ground level.

Inside Eagle Mine III

This tunnel goes to the adit over the Eagle River Mills. I bet those carts go fast down here!

Casting House Trestle

The whole smelter ran on gravity… elevating the various raw materials and working with them until at the bottom of the furnace, copper poured out.

Rubber Lining Dock Pockets

Old conveyor belts are draped over the sides of the ore chutes to cut down on the noise and wear of the dumping trains.

Rotten Dock

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.

Coating Section Conveyor

On the top floor of the former casket building is the finishing line for the coating section; on this section the final spray of plastic would hit the wood before a small furnace would seal the plastic permanently to the surface, making it more resilient, I assume.

Side of the Coating Line

Note the rails in the floor that guided cars to the coating line, the side of which is lined with the windows in the center of the image.

Midock

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.

Puddle of Sky

Looking toward the Quenching Tower from the coal tower platform.

Concrete Meets Stone

The first 800 or so feet of the tunnel is finished with reinforced concrete. The test is raw stone. This is the spot where it switches. Side note: nailing this shot on film is one of my proudest light-painted moments.

Cracked Glass Signal – (C)SUBSTREET

A broken signal light that would indicate to incoming engineers and brakemen the status of the dock deck. The streetlight-style lighting is a retrofit; originally the top of the dock would be lit by strings of lights suspended by towers on each side of the deck… a poor system according to the workers at Allouez who had the same lights.

Paint Line

The entry point for the painting shed on the top floor. Cars would have a few feet in between them before they entered. Separate sheds would prime and add color.

Dock 2 Approach

This was taken before the top of the docks really started to rot-out; now this stretch past the crane is distinctly unsafe to cross. Still, you can’t beat the view of Dock #2 winding into the distance, where the approach is chopped-off before the yard used to extend.

Abandoned Tracks

The rails that used to go to the back of the complex are long gone, but the ties are still in the back of the parking lot.

Diesel Doors

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.

Ore Skip

At the top of the Head Frame, over the silo, a space is hollowed-out for ore cars to dump their load before going back underground in search of copper.

Do Industry

The only good shot I have of the top of Battery A, in the upper left. Though it seemed to have been disused before its neighbor it had a lot less growth on it.

Cheratte Shaft No. 3

Looking through the dark door at Shaft 3, when my naked eyes could only make out a staircase lit dimly from above.

Hose In the Pit

To engage the air brakes on locomotives without their power being on, air hoses would be attached during repairs. Compressed air also powered many of the tools used.

Be C- Watch You- Step

A cracked sign at dock-level, where loading boats would be tied below the taconite conveyors. All across the surface of the concrete dock were taconite pellets, like slippery little marbles. One wrong step could put a worker in the water, which is a bad, bad place to be.

East Portal

The portal facing Taconite Harbor (at a healthy distance) is mostly closed. Some kids put bullet holes in it. Shooting down a long tunnel is extremely dangerous, and you should not do it, obviously. Mamiya 6/Portra 160