2014 Nevada-Mojave Trip



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Illinois Mill, NV

Lead-silver ore was discovered here on the east flanks of the Lodi Hills in 1874. In 1875 the Illinois Mine was begun, sinking a shaft to a depth of 1000 feet. A 10-ton capacity smelter was also built nearby. By 1878 the population was over 100. The mine closed in 1881.

New discoveries were made in 1905 and the mine was reopened. Several other mines were started in the area. By 1909 a post office had opened, and a new 100-ton smelter was built. However, the smelter closed after only one month, and the post office was closed in 1910. High shipping costs were a major issue that kept the mines from being profitable. The last significant activity was a brief period in 1928.

I arrived at the Illinois Mill site after dark, and spent the night there.
The main feature here are the massive stone and brick ruins of the mill and smelter. The smelter included a tunnel which is about ten feet high and at least fifty feet long, between the furnace and the smokestack. The brick smokestack is gone, but the base of the stack remains, with an opening that is over five feet square.

At the lower level of the ruins are the remains of a much smaller furnace made of stone, as well as a large pile of slag.

The base of the smokestack is on the upper level of the ruins, as well as a peculiar concrete vault with pipes running through it for heating. A short distance away I found a pile of broken assay crucibles.

On the north side of the site are concrete foundations for machinery, and debris from a collapsed wooden building.

Illinois Mine, NV

The Illinois Mine is farther up the hill, along with the remains of some small cabins off to the north. The mine has a wooden headframe combined with a small ore bin and a sorting house. Next to the mine is a large boiler sheathed in stone and brick -- some of the top layers are missing. The boiler’s tall steel smokestack is on the ground beside it.

Above: Looking down the mine shaft. This mine used an ore bucket, rather than a skip or lift. The boards at the bottom of the photo are a sort of slide, to guide the bucket as it was pulled up out of the mine.

When I left the Illinois Mine, I started working my way around the Lodi Hills, counter-clockwise, exploring the many mines in the area. Most of them no longer have any structures, but there are a few sites of interest...

Quartz Mountain, NV

Quartz Mountain is not a mountain at all, it’s a rather small hill over on the northwest side of the Lodi Hills. I didn’t notice any quartz on it, either. My guess is, some mining promoter chose the name because it sounds like a great place to strike it rich.

The first discoveries were in 1920 but there was no significant activity here until 1925, when lead and silver ore was mined. By 1929 things were dying down and the town was soon deserted.

There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of old mine shafts and prospects all around the area. Unfortunately almost all the structures have long since vanished (probably by fire) or fallen into scattered piles of rubble.

The only structures that remain are at the San Rafael Mine, on the west side the hill. Here there is a very large wooden headframe with two ore bins attached. There is also another mine shaft on the hillside above it, with its timber lining protruding above the slope.

The last time I was here was about 1994. At that time there was also a two-holer outhouse near the San Rafael Mine. Now, twenty years later, only the floor of the outhouse remains. A large one-cylinder compressor that was mounted on a concrete foundation is also missing now. The headframe and ore bins are still in good condition.

Above: A dugout on the eastern side of the hill at Quartz Mountain.

Broken Hills Mine, NV

Just a few miles west of Quartz Mountain is the Broken Hills Mine.

Lead-silver ore was first mined here in 1913 and continued until 1920. Many other mines popped up but the first one had the only good ore. There was some new activity in 1926 due to discoveries in nearby Quartz Mountain. Water had to be hauled in from Lodi Valley, 10 miles away, and ore was hauled to a mill some 12 mile distant.

Some people continued to live at the site, off and on, for many years.

Like Quartz Mountain, there are many mine shafts and prospects in the area but only one still has standing structures. That is the original Broken Hills Mine. It has a wooden headframe which straddle a long, narrow open stope. There is also a small hoist house. Apparently this hoist house was built in the 1980s on the foundation of an earlier hoist house.

A short distance to the west is a lone grave surrounded by an iron fence. The original headstone was stolen and has since been replaced with a wooden marker labeled, “Matt Costello, 1866-1926”. According to the September 1972 issue of Desert Magazine, Mr. Costello was a prospector who was found dead just after having sold his only promising claim.

West Lodi Mine, NV

Despite extensive searching, I have found no information on this mine, not even its name. Since it is located on the west side of the Lodi Hills, I’m calling it the West Lodi Mine.

The only structure here is the large inclined headframe and combined ore bin. The ore bin is an interesting “drive through” design. Trucks could pull in under the bin to be loaded with ore. A much smaller bin was used for waste rock, which would be carted off for dumping.

Little Victory Mine, NV

At the south end of the Lodi Hills there are several tungsten mines. This small, unidentified mine is near the Victory Mine, so I’m calling it the Little Victory Mine.

There’s not much here, just a single adit with tracks that cross a short trestle to reach a small ore bin. The adit appears to be stable but the timbers at the entrance are rotted and cracking, so I stayed out.

Victory Mine, NV

Tungsten was discovered at the south end of the Lodi Hills in 1944, and several mines were active in the area until 1960. The largest of these was the Victory Mine, identified on some newer maps as the Victory Tungsten Mine. It’s located on two sides of a ridge.

On the east side of the ridge there is an inclined shaft on a slope, with an unusual headframe built into part of the stope.

Below the headframe there is an adit (horizontal mine tunnel) that intersects with the inclined shaft. A series of small bins and chutes channels ore and waste rock from the shaft, to a pair of loading points in the adit. Nearby is another adit that ends at a huge caved-in area.

On the west side of the ridge there is an adit that goes deep into the hill, at a lower level than the adits on the east side. A path around the hill connects the two sites. Originally there was a track here for ore cars, and in some places you can still see the wooden ties in the ground.

Middlegate, NV

From the Victory Mine I headed south to the town of Gabbs. Coming up through there the night before, I’d seen a gas station with a handwritten sign that said it was open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.  My plan was to get gas there, then go east to Ione. To my dismay, the gas station was closed -- in the dark I had failed to see the faded words, “Closed on Sundays”.

So I had to turn around and go north again, 30 miles out of my way, to get gas at Middlegate, NV. This was once a Pony Express stop and stagecoach station, later rebuilt and restored as a gas station, bar and restaurant. They’ve also added a small motel. There are some old wagons and other artifacts on display here.

From Middlegate I went east on Highway 50 through Eastgate, then south towards Ione...

Go to Page 5 to read about Buffalo Summit, Knickerbocker, Ione, and car trouble:

Nevada Trip 2014 Part Five

More great stuff ahead!

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Note to modelers:

Many of the structures I’ve photographed would make great additions to your model railroad. It is my hope that these photos can be a useful reference resource. If you need larger, higher resolution images, just let me know. Also, in some cases I have additional detail photos that have not been posted online.

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