08 February 2011

Chapter 37: "Emil's Paint Shop," Pt 1

Kennecott aerial
Kennecott 1938 aerial showing the edge of the Kennicott Glacier. National Creek is in the center. Above it is the unnamed rock glacier. To the right of that is Porphyry Mountain.   --Bradford Washburn, UAF Archives
Below is a detail of the above aerial photograph showing a recently-abandoned ghost town of Kennecott in 1939

Kennecott aerial detail
John Bittner picked up the stack of telegrams from the railroad station office. One of them was
addressed to Frank Buckner. 
“Thanks, John.  I see the two Indian painters will be up on the train today. Set up the
paperwork and give me their room assignment. I’ll let Chris know.”
Frank brought the telegram down to the old carpenter shop, where master carpenter 
Chris Jensen was looking over the plans for the new hospital annex.
“Yes, I remember those two well from the power plant job.   Good.  We can certainly use
them for the repainting work on the mill.   The paint for that work should
already be here in one of the the boxcars that arrived a few days ago.  It’s on
the north siding. Good timing.  Weather’s just right, too.”
“I brought the room assignment with me. I’m leaving it to you to see they’re set up in camp,
since you’re their foreman for this job.”
“West barrack number 205, is it? That sounds familiar. Didn’t they have that one before?”

West Bunkhouse
The West Barrack at Kennecott 
-- Simpson files
“I had to do some advance planning to see they had the same room.  I want them to feel
they’re on familiar ground.”
“That’s awfully thoughtful of you, Frank.”
“Those are special men. John lost his father here last year while we still had the two of
them working up at Erie. The pair did good work for us on three different
assignments.  I want them treated right.  It was their room before. I wanted to
make sure it was still theirs.”

“Yes, Emil was a good man, and his son and that other fellow did good work for us here at the
shop and at the power plant.  I’ll intercept them at the train station and see
to everything.  Haven’t had a paint foreman since Emil died. I might just give
Johnny the job.”
“Wouldn’t that be something?  Think he’s up to it?”
“I’m with you, Frank.  I think those two earned their place here. It’s just a title anyway, but
it’ll let them work out of Emil’s old shop. No one’s touched it since he died. 
Been no reason to go in there.”
“There’s the whistle, Chris.  I’m leaving it to you. I’ve got to get back.”
Chris accompanied Frank out of the old shop.  He took a good look at the top of the
It was badly faded.  Parts of the building still had the original paint from 1911. The newest
paint was on the highest section just above the conveyors and elevators.  Those
were levels thirteen and fourteen, which were rebuilt to accommodate the new
Jumbo tram in 1915.   The entire west face, which was the narrow end facing the
glacier, had been blasted without mercy by the elements over the years.   Chris
had already decided that everything from the Hancock jig at level six, all the
way to the top, which was level fourteen, would have to be repainted.  The lower
end had already been modified two years before.  All of the lower levels had new
There are several men around here who could
handle those heights, but they’re all miners and tram men. Only those two
Indians and Henry have any painting experience, thanks to last year’s job.
Henry’s tied up, so It’ll be good to have someone I can rely on to do the work.

I hope I can rely on them.

Chris felt the vibrations running through the tracks.  It would not be long.  He  headed 
back into the carpenter shop, lifted up the hatch door and walked  down the narrow
stairwell into the paint room.   No one had used the paint shop since Emil
died.  It seemed only fitting that he was about to give this area over to Emil’s
very own son.   Everything appeared to be in place.  Emil had left the tools
cleaned and neatly arranged for the next job.

Kennecott 1981
Early 1980s view of the
West Bunkhouse, Company Store and the footprint remains of the Carpenter
Shop    --HAER

Darn.  I smell paint down here.  Something’s broken open.  Looks like those boys have
some cleanup work for their first job.  Smells strong. I’m out of this place.

Chris headed back up the stairs, stopping to close the hatch to keep the spilled paint 
smell contained.  He stepped out into the light and walked over to the small telegraph
station.  The train appeared just past the dairy tender first, then the engine.
The engine and its tender had been faced the opposite direction at the Shushanna
Junction turntable, then sent up the nearly five miles up the tracks in reverse
pulling its long load of empty flat cars.  Number 74 would leave Kennecott in a
few hours facing south.  The engines, for safety reasons,  always had to face
the proper direction going down the hill into the McCarthy area.  There was no
turn-around at Kennecott, so the engine and tender had to be reversed at
Shushanna Junction. 
The loud screeching sounds of metal on metal as the brakes were applied served as the
final notice that the engine was approaching its destination, passing the
recreation hall, then the west barrack and company store before arriving at the
The engine backed into place, facing the combine, several box cars, and the usual long line
of steel flatcars with a caboose somewhere out on the very far end.   Art Holt
pulled the combine to a stop in front of the station. Chris moved forward to
greet Johnny and Cap.

early Kennecott
Very early Kennecott, probably 1910, showing the orignal dairy with the sawmill-carpenter shop
behind it and the new mill under construction in the distance.  On the right is the railroad bed under construction in advance of the iron which was to be laid on this section in late March 1911.  
--Lone Janson


No comments: