Riding the High Wire: Aerial Mine Tramways in the West by Robert A. Trennert

By Robert A. Trennert

Driving the excessive cord is the 1st accomplished heritage of aerial mine tramways within the American West, describing their position within the evolution of mining after 1870. Robert A. Trennert exhibits how the mid-nineteenth century improvement of cord rope production made it attainable for American marketers corresponding to Andrew S. Hallidie and Charles Huson to start erecting single-rope tramways within the 1870s and Eighties. Their innovations have been through the extra sizeable double-rope platforms imported from Europe. via the flip of the century, aerial tramways have been universal all through western mining areas, hauling every thing from gold and silver ore to coal and salt and altering the face of the undefined. Aerial mine tramways proved to have a different fascination; humans frequently rode them for a thrill, occasionally with disastrous effects. They have been additionally very temperamental, wanted consistent awareness, and have been susceptible to injuries. The years among 1900 and 1920 observed the operation of a few of the west’s such a lot wonderful tramways, however the decline in high-country mining starting within the 1920s--coupled with the improvement of extra effective technique of transportation--made this expertise all yet out of date by means of the top of the second one international struggle. Historians and the overall reader could be both enthralled through Trennert’s attention-grabbing tale of the increase and fall of aerial mine tramways.

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Eventually the state supreme court ruled that tramways did not have “the right to appropriate private property for private ways of necessity” in Colorado. 5 Laws in other states differed, however. ” M. S. Folsom, the company’s attorney, stressed to his clients that any such taking would have to comply with the due process clauses of the United States and Idaho constitutions. The Idaho document seemed relatively favorable, stipulating that private property could be “taken for public use” after paying just compensation.

Unlike the Huson installations, which generally seemed to be less than a mile in length, Hallidie continued to test the reach and carrying capabilities of his apparatus. During the 1890s he built several long tramways in Mexico. One, at the San Juan mines in Baja California, stretched two and a half miles, eliminating the need for a fifteen-mile mule trek. Another tramway near Guadalajara featured a clear (unsupported) span of 2,267 feet. Both of these tramways, as well as one constructed at Monte Cristo in the state of Washington, were noted for their especially steep grades.

Nonetheless, the single-rope tramway had reached its limit and would soon be declared obsolete by the mining industry. Hallidie’s company continued to 26 ANDREW S. HALLIDIE AND THE ENDLESS WIRE ROPEWAY defend its product and as late as 1901 was still erecting single-rope tramways. 40 Thereafter, with the leadership gone and the old patents increasingly out of place as mine technology entered the twentieth century, business quickly fell off. Nonetheless, for almost thirty years the single-rope tramways of Hallidie and Huson compiled an impressive record.

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