Looking down the Gilman-Belden tram.
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.
A sharp turn in the coatings department twists the steel out of sight.
The approach to the dock is rigidly geometric. I always thought its outline was beautiful against the lake that, by contrast, was always moving.
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.
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.
Timbers overlap where mine cars plunged, a strange wooden fence traced the center of the beams.
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.
From an unsteady perch atop the blast furnace, the morning light began to leach into the complex below.
Now, to add a human scale.
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 Now, with the advent of self-unloading boats, it’s been replaced by a funnel and conveyor belt.
A place to turn mine carts into different areas of the shops.
A better look at the rails in the floor, installed to help move heavy equipment around the building.
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.
A twin-engine crew pushes full taconite cars onto Dock 6.
A washout two thirds of the way down the tram gave me a place to relax in the thin air.
An abandoned ranch on the east side of the tracks. This was not the Colmor Cutoff they were waiting for.
Approaching the power station and its giant stack. The stack replaced four shorter stacks in the 1960s, helping with pollution in the downtown corridor.
Note the pit is filled in here.
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
A switch for the yard engines, now on the edge of the property where nobody will find it.
This is where the transformers were housed. Note the steel tracks in the floor for moving equipment around the building.
The dock is still lit at night and it casts shadows over the rust-welded ore doors.
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.
Both portals get clogged with ice in the winter. In the summer, the ceiling is always dripping. Mamiya GA645 / Kodak Pro 400
A long exposure of the side of the coke ovens, lit by the nearby streetlights.
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.
Will coming down “Darwin’s Ladder”.
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
The turned rail was to prevent runaway cars from going over the end of the dock and into the lake.
There is a flipped tram car about a third of the way down the cliff.
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.
The roof could be vented when locomotives were running inside.
Looking through the trestle toward the ghost town.
I believe this is the push car, meaning it would push the charge in the oven out the opposite side into the train car.
These dump cars moved copper ore to the top of the furnaces… it’s about two stories above ground level.
This tunnel goes to the adit over the Eagle River Mills. I bet those carts go fast down here!
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.
Old conveyor belts are draped over the sides of the ore chutes to cut down on the noise and wear of the dumping trains.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Looking toward the Quenching Tower from the coal tower platform.
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.
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.
A few of the stalls in the older section of the roundhouse, the noon sky peeking in.
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.
On the second floor of the former casket plant, which was retrofitted with a conveyor system to coat finished products.
A new loading shed to fill train cars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This photo illustrates how vertical the complex is.
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.
Looking through the dark door at Shaft 3, when my naked eyes could only make out a staircase lit dimly from above.
At an abandoned mine railroad.
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.
The light towers of Allouez seem romantic compared to the street lights atop Dock 5.
A panorama next to a long abandoned adit. The tram has seen better days.
Look at the floor–do you see the hole? That goes down a lonnnnnng ways.
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.
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