2015 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Part Two: Nevada Mines, mills and a brush with disaster!

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As usual, you can click on any of the photos or links in the article to see more photos of each site...

Sylvania, NV

I arrived in the Sylvania Mountains of western Nevada late in the evening, and spent the night near the ghost town of  Sylvania, NV. The townsite was formed in 1872 after lead/silver ore was discovered, and in 1875 a smelter was built. By 1880 only occasional mining was taking place. Small-scale operations continued off and on for many years, and at least one of the buildings here was still occupied into the early 1990s.

Currently there are two small houses on the site, and three cabins which have been uninhabited for a much longer time. Other buildings include garages, sheds, workshops, a pumphouse and an old travel trailer. There are also traces of stone ruins dating to the earliest period of activity here, as well a large stone foundation that may have been the site of the smelter.

Throughout the site there are several old vehicles in various stages of decay, and two unusual truck-trailers outfitted with a portable mill and portable kiln/retort.

Above: This is the largest house, and the one which appears to have been most recently occupied.

Left: A child’s swingset near the house.

Below: This is the best-preserved of the three wooden cabins.

Right: A plain wooden cross adorns a grave next to one of the houses. Most likely this is the final resting place of one of the residents.

Left: The porch of the smaller house.

Below: The smaller house, with its garage.

Above: Another cabin. The interior of this cabin is in very bad shape. The ceiling and parts of the interior walls are papered with pages from an old Saturday Evening Post, dated April 18, 1936.

Below: The third cabin, also uninhabitable.

Portable Mill

This is one of two long truck-trailers which have been outfitted with equipment for use as portable mills.

1940s Dodge Flatbed Trucks

This pair of Dodge trucks dates to the 1940s. There are a few other old vehicles in the area but I thought these were the most interesting, and the most intact.

Sylvania Mine, NV

My next stop was the Sylvania Mine, located about a mile up the canyon. There wasn’t a lot to see here, just a headframe over a filled-in shaft, the ruins of a stone blacksmith’s shop, and an adit sealed with steel bars.

The headframe is rather unusual, being made from riveted metal tubes, perhaps old air duct tubing from one of the mines.

Four Aces Mill, NV

Gold was first discovered at this site in western Nevada back in the 1870s. The claim was purchased by the Clair family and was worked by them for many years.

There are two mines shafts behind the mill, one of which is collapsed and has a small wooden headframe. The other has a steel headframe, and the shaft is sealed by heavy steel bars. The hoist house is leaning precariously and will probably fall over within a year.

In recent years the mill has been badly vandalized and much of the equipment has been stolen. As a result the interior of the building looks gutted, and is unstable and not safe to enter. Part of the building has collapsed.

However there are still some bits of interesting equipment that remain and are visible through the openings on either side of the building. Unfortunately a new claim has been filed recently and access to the site may be restricted.

Above: Thieves have torn up the interior of the mill in their attempts to steal the equipment.

Left: The steel headframe at the mine shaft just above the mill.

Below: A view of the mine and mill from across the canyon.

Four Aces Canyon Mines, NV

There are some older mines farther up the canyon from the Four Aces Mill. One of the most interesting artifacts here is this stationary boiler (above). The small cylindrical object attached to the top of the boiler is the steam reservoir.

Below: This large adit is sealed with steel bars. On the left is a blower used to provide fresh air into the mine. In the center is a large, riveted tank for compressed air.

Below: The shaft below this wooden headframe has been sealed, and fitted with a pipe and pump to drain water from the mine.

White Wolf Mine, NV

This unidentified mine is in the White Wolf Canyon area, so I’m calling it the White Wolf Mine. There’s not much here. The lone cabin is rather ugly and relatively modern. The doors are sealed, but looking through the window shows the interior to be filthy and infested with rodents.

The mine itself is about a half-mile away. There are a couple caved-in shafts, a collapsed headframe, and small shed made of old railroad ties.

A momentary distraction almost leads to disaster...

Late in the day I was heading down a long stretch of straight, open road through the desert of western Nevada. I reached for the road map, but it was hung up on something. So I leaned over to see what the problem was and pull it loose. Suddenly I felt the car lurch to the right. I looked up and saw nothing but sagebrush and rocks coming at me, at 70 miles per hour!

A lot of very bad things start happening very quickly when you go off the pavement at highway speeds, and the next few seconds were terrifying! As with most high-clearance vehicles, the Trooper’s center of gravity is very high, especially when fully loaded, greatly increasing the risk of a deadly rollover. I really had to struggle to prevent a rollover and regain control of the vehicle, and at one point it felt like I was on two wheels.

When I finally got it stopped, I found that the rear bumper had snagged on something and was bent back 90 degrees. Also, the right rear tire had come unseated from the rim and was flat.

There was no way to fix the bumper, so I got out my camp saw and cut off the damaged section. While I was doing this, a guy in a pickup truck stopped to see if I was ok, and offered to change the tire for me!

Now, I could have done it myself if necessary but frankly at my age it would have taken a lot longer and would have been a real chore. So I was greatly relieved to have someone else do it, gratefully accepted his kind offer.

The spare tire had to be refilled using a portable compressor. It had been twelve years since the last time I used the spare, and all the air had gone out of it.

Soon I was back on the road, and eventually my heart started beating again.

Belleville, NV

I had visited this site last year and saw the stone foundations of a smelter. At the time, I didn’t realize there was more to see here. While driving past it this time, I spotted a stone dugout tucked back in the hills behind the smelter ruins, so I turned around to check it out.

In addition to the dugout, I also found the massive foundations of a mill on the back of the hill. The amount of work that went into building these foundations is just astounding! It’s all dry-stacked masonry, no mortar.

I had planned to top off my gas tank in Mina, but the only gas station there is now out of business. This is really unfortunate, as there are no other sources of gas in that part of Nevada. It’ll make it more difficult to spend time exploring that region.

My next stop was Grantsville. I had hoped to spend the night at a miner’s camp near there, but someone beat me to it. So camped at the Grantsville mill ruins instead.

Below: Sunset in western Nevada.

Go to the next page to read more about my 2015 Nevada/Mojave trip:

Nevada Trip 2015 Part Three

Coming up:  The Grantsville mill and ghost town, a mercury mine, another visit to Ione, NV and some amazing pioneer ranch buildings!

Skip to:   Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six

Note to modelers:

Many of the structures I’ve photographed would make great subjects for dioramas, or for 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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