31 October 2010

Ch 3, Pt 4 : "Closing Day at Bonanza" from "Legacy of the Chief"

Chapter 3: Closing Day at Bonanza, pt 4

The largest of all the company dining rooms was the new one at Bonanza. It had seating for one-hundred fifty men. The same building also housed eighty-four men during the height of mining activity. There had even been men living in the the much older barrack no. one on the far side of the ore bunker in 1923 and 1924. For a time in 1916 and 1917, no. one was the only barrack at Bonanza. It was incredibly spartan, like the older ones at Jumbo. Now it stood forlorn in its ghostly silence, long unused--the bare brass bed frames being visible from some of the windows, possibly occupied by the spirits of deceased mine workers, W.A. thought to himself, before he checked his strange line of thinking.

  Bonanza Barracks View 1 (click photo for larger image)
For thirty years, the largest and most impressive of any of the mine buildings was the main barrack, mess and amusement hall--building no. 2.  Until 1968 it stood in silent vigil overlooking all that was once Kennecott from the lofty northeast corner of the property, still 1,000 feet below Bonanza Peak.  No. 2 had been the crown jewel of the barracks--a showcase where the high and mighty of the corporation first arrived to examine the mine system.  Every great Kennecott official who had ever worked or visited the area was familiar with this landmark which proudly towered high above all else, sometimes well above the cloud level of the glacial valley below.
The 140-foot main Bonanza barrack and mess, plus the ore bunker and tram terminal, circa 1925.  --Simpson files

What’s the matter with me today? I must really be on edge. Now I’m turning superstitious on myself. I’m an engineer. I know better than that.

The large dining capacity of the new building made it possible to feed the men who stayed at the seventy-five man Mother Lode camp across the ridge. The Mother Lode camp was accessed by a series of tunnels running well below the surface. But the camp had not existed in years.

Mother Lode camp was wiped out in 1927. People who inquired about the place would invariably receive an unsatisfactory answer which revealed nothing. No one wanted to talk about it. To do so was thought to invite bad luck.

The much more modern and complete barracks at Bonanza included a respectable gymnasium and a library and billiards room. An extensive drying and changing room complete with showers, toilets, and rows of lockers took up the entire lowest level. It was the assembly area before and after shift. It was a vast and shadowy area just below the well-lit dining hall. Soon all this would be history. Most of it would be left behind intact--given up to the mercy of the elements.

The faint hope that some of these structures could be reused remained, but W.A. seriously doubted that. He was intimately familiar with the inner workings of the entire fifty-two mile mine system. There was virtually nothing left in there to remove. Most of the recoverable copper ore had been wholly depleted. There remained one sizable area known as the “boundary pillar” on the claims boundary between Bonanza and Mother Lode. Although WA’s final report for 1938 would state that all the ore had been removed, this was not really true. Richelsen paused at that intriguing thought.

I wonder if anyone will ever enter those old mine portals again and see what we have really left behind That rich area we abandoned near the Mother Lode is bound to ignite some wild speculation. There may even be rumors that Kennecott will someday return to resume mining. If they only knew why we had to leave that area alone . . .


No doubt about it. Kennecott was truly done. Officially there was nothing left to mine. Now they would leave, just as that old chief Nicolai had claimed they would so many years before.

“Superintendent Richelsen! You made it up here early!”

Bonanza foreman George Hancock stood at the top of the long inclined snow-shed which connected the main barrack with the ore bunkers and tram terminal below. An open door just beyond the top end of the long snow-shed led into the old boiler room where W.A. could see one of the maintenance staff workers closing valves.

“ We kept this boiler alive as long as possible, but our heating system lost its water source when we shut down the Mother Lode at the end of July. We had a ready supply of water back then. Now we’ve barely been able to keep it fed with the water we have to tram up here from below. Leaks must have developed everywhere. I’ve finally given up on it. We’re shutting it down for good. We’d be looking at major work on the heating system if we had to stay up here much longer. Are you shutting down everything this afternoon as planned, Mr. Richelsen?”

“Yes George. I expect no last minute changes. We’re right on schedule. I’ll be here all day overseeing the last of our salvage operation. We’ll ship out what we can, but at five, we’re out of here, come what may.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me. I like that. It’s been a long run for all of us up here, sir. By the way, thought I’d remind you, Wes Dunkle is still here.”

“Nearly forgot about him in all the rush, George.”

The old consulting engineer had returned after many years of absence because he had arranged to purchase some of the mining equipment sitting just inside the tunnels. Down at the main camp Dunkle had bought out most of the machine shop equipment. Up here he was picking up the battery-powered locomotives and some of the ore cars.

“ I believe Wes is inside--up there in the dining room for an early breakfast.
“Thanks, George. I think I’ll join him.”

Richelsen started to head up the stairs for his own long-anticipated breakfast. It had been too early a start this morning. There had been no time to eat at home. Five o’clock had come too soon--even for W.A.. The last meal to be served at Bonanza would be lunch. After that the Japanese crew of cooks and waiters would be dismissed so they could pack up and leave.

  Bonanza Floor Plans (click drawing for larger image)
Bonanza floor plan c. 1916. The as-built was extended for a larger dining hall.  --Simpson files
  Bonanza Heat Dist Plan (click drawing for larger image)
Bonanza barrack steam heat distribution plan.  --Simpson Files

Nothing in the kitchen or mess hall was to be returned to camp. All company property used in the mess and barrack would be abandoned right down to the kitchen spices and the coffee samovar, frying pans, and the knives which had been the pride of a long line of cooks. Upstairs in the individual crew rooms, only the bedding and linen was packed for removal. The Bonanza camp would be abandoned almost completely intact.

Richelsen stopped and turned back. He looked up at the wide south-facing wall of the huge barracks. The lights were still shining bright through all that front glass in this one remaining live piece of upper Kennecott.

He walked into the small yard area behind the barrack. A stiff breeze blew out the large entry of the 1,503 tunnel from somewhere deep inside. He could see a long string of overhead lights running in a straight line toward the compressor station and beyond. The last of the four Bonanza compressors was shut down. Two battery-powered locomotives sat parked near the compressor area.

“George,” he shouted. “Is there someone in there unbolting that last compressor?”

“Yes sir. We’ll be using one of those locomotives you see down there to yank it out and haul it down the 1,501 tunnel. We have to run the compressor down the machine hoist at the top of the ore bins, since that’s the only ramp heavy enough to support it.”

“Good. George, let me know when they have it loose and ready to pull out. I want to be there. I’m going upstairs for coffee and breakfast.”

It was getting chilly in the upper floors of the barrack because the last of the radiator heat was nearly dissipated. The old boiler had finally given out. The cold seeped inside quickly on the two upper levels. Because it was late in October, the ground was frozen, which only served to hasten the advancing cold the was penetrating the large building. Light snow flakes were turning larger as they drifted to the ground. It would stay cold outside today. By this evening it would be just a cold inside the barracks as it was outside.

George Hancock looked up from his working place near the top of the inclined snow-shed. He observed the superintendent as he sat down at the table with Wes Dunkle. George knew that the compressor was ready to move, but decided to give Richelsen time to eat breakfast before bothering him.

Twenty minutes later George entered the barrack and headed for the center stairwell leading to the main floor.

The two engineers stood up from the table when they saw the foreman approach. George realized it was markedly warmer in the dining hall. No one else was in the large room except for the waiters who were setting up tables for one last lunch for the remaining crew at Bonanza.

It all looks so normal up here-- as if nothing unusual was about to happen. Typical Kennecott, keeping up appearances to the very end. Reminds me of our official send-off dinner just a few days ago--Thanksgiving early. I believe I’ll miss this old place.

“It’s ready? Good. We’ll follow you out to the tunnel, George.”

The three of them headed back to the central stairwell the led to the basement drying room. It is a distance of over seventy-five feet from the stairwell landing to the outer door at the rear end of the building. This was the usual route for the miners to reach to the underground workings.

“I want to run this loco myself,” Dunkle said.

“I’ll ride with you, sir. I don’t want it heading down the wrong tunnel. We might find ourselves accidentally dumping our cargo load down the incline shaft.”

Richelsen smiled on hearing George say this.

“Signal me when you reach the other end of 1,501.”

“Will do, sir.”

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