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Ghost Mines of Yosemite (1958) by Douglass Hubbard


9. MACHINERY

DRIVING A TUNNEL into rock so hard that it sometimes took several shifts of miners working by hand to drill a single set of blast holes soon showed that drilling machinery was essential. So J. C. Kemp van Ee, former operator of the Occidental Hotel in Bodie and now manager of the company was sent to San Francisco to buy it and arrange for its delivery to Lundy:

Finding that hand-work was too slow a process by which to drive their great tunnel, the Great Sierra Consolidated Silver Company of Tioga has purchased air compressors, two Burleigh and one National drill and all necessary machinery, and have made arrangements to have the same placed upon the ground and put in running order immediately. The machinery will be transported by teams to the foot of the cliffs in Bloody Canyon, from which point it will be snaked up over the snow to the summit by block and tackle, and from the summit to the tunnel it will be transported on sleds. The undertaking is a heavy one, but in accordance with the policy of the company, no expense is to be spared in hastening the development of their valuable properties. 25

J. C. Kemp, manager of the company’s property— and to whose business capacity and tireless energy the company is greatly indebted for the progress already made under the most trying and at times seemingly-unsurmountable difficulties—returned yesterday from San Francisco . . . The machinery has been purchased, cut into sections of suitable size for rapid transportation across the mountain, and is now on the road to this place. Verily the Great Sierra management has from the first displayed energy and dominion over difficulties that might be imitated with profit by some of the poke-easies of this district. 26

AIR COMPRESSOR, GREAT SIERRA TUNNEL
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AIR COMPRESSOR, GREAT SIERRA TUNNEL
LAKE CANYON AND LAKE ONEIDA
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LAKE CANYON AND LAKE ONEIDA
AIR BLOWER AT TUNNEL
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AIR BLOWER AT TUNNEL

The air compressor and Ingersoll drills for the Great Sierra tunnel are expected at Lundy next Wednesday. . . . In the meantime hand-work in the tunnel will be pushed with all possible dispatch. Jeff McClelland, for many years foreman of the Imperial and subsequently Superintendent of the Justice mine on the Comstock . . . is foreman; Josh Crane, who built, the first cage on the Comstock will be head blacksmith, and the air compressor and machine drills will be run under the personal supervision of John Cribbins, who has been engaged in that line of business for many years under Parke and Lacy, manufacturers of the machines. These men are all first-class artisans in their respective vocations and under their care the work cannot fail to progress smoothly, and economically. The tunnel is now in about 70 and the rock in the face breaks well, the face being in a kind of slate which gives traces of gold by assay. 27

March 4, 1882 — The transportation of 16,000 pounds of machinery across one of the highest and most rugged branches of the Sierra Nevada mountains in mid-winter, where no roads exist, over vast fields and huge embankments of yielding snow and in the face of furious wind storms laden with drifting snow, and the mercury dancing attendance on zero, is a task calculated to appall the sturdiest mountaineer; yet J. C. Kemp, manager of the Great Sierra Consolidated Silver Company it now engaged in such an undertaking, and with every prospect of success at an early day—so complete has been the arrangement of details and so intelligently directed is every movement The first ascent, from Mill Creek to the mouth of Lake Canyon, is 990 feet, almost perpendicular. From that point to the south end of Lake Oneida, a distance of about two miles, is a rise of 845 feet, most of it in two hills aggregating half a mile in distance. The machinery will probably be hoisted straight up to the summit of Mount Warren ridge from the south. west shore of Lake Oneida, an almost-vertical rise of 2,160 feet. From the summit the descent will be made to Saddlebags Lake, thence down to and along Lee Vining Creek to the gap or pass in the dividing point to tunnel, a distance of about one mile, is a rise of 800 feet, most of it in the first quarter of a mile.

The machinery consists of an engine, boiler, air compressor, Ingersoll drills, iron pipe, etc. for use in driving the Great Sierra tunnel. It is being transported on six heavy sleds admirably constructed of hardwood. Another, or rather a pair of bobsleds accompanies the expedition, the latter being laden with bedding, provisions, cooking utensils, etc. The heaviest load is 4,200 pounds. Ten or twelve men, two mules, 4,500 feet of one-inch manila rope, heavy double block and tackle and all the available trees along the route are employed in snaking the machinery up the mountain—the whole being under the immediate supervision of Mr. Kemp, who remains at the front and personally directs every movement It is expected that all the sleds will be got up into Lake Canyon today, and then the work will be pushed day and night, with two shifts of men. . . . 28

MACHINERY AT TUNNEL (1954)
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MACHINERY AT TUNNEL (1954)

History has not recorded the suffering of the men, but it must have been intense. At least one and perhaps two of the men were killed in the avalanches of March 15, 1882 which buried men and machinery in Lake Canyon. It took Kemp and his men more than two months—from March 4 until May 6— to move the eight tons a distance of about nine miles. It is said that Kemp’s remark at the end of the back-breaking task was, “It’s no wonder that men grow old!”

As soon as it could be bolted down at the mouth of the tunnel, the machinery began to hum and the drills to rattle against the hard rock.*

*After suffering from vandalism and the rigors of more than 70 Sierran winters the old machinery was salvaged. It may be seen today at the Wawona Pioneer Village in Yosemite National Park.



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