Pioche Report

North American Narrow Gauge; West of the Rockies (including Canada; Mexico).
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V&T Jon
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Joined: Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:57 pm

Pioche Report

Post by V&T Jon » Mon May 01, 2017 9:35 am

Hi All,

It's been a while since I last posted, but I wanted to report on my trips to Pioche to scout out what remains to be seen of the Pioche's railroads.

I last posted back in 2014 and I want to thank everyone that replied to that post. All of your input was much appreciated.

I have since made a few trips to Pioche. The first trip was in 2014, shortly after my previous post. On that trip I focused on the depot area a little southeast of Godbe Mill. I parked on Bartolo Road and walked up a small incline to the old roadbed. Most of the roadbed was suprisingly easy to identify. The foundation for the water tank was easy to spot among the sage. There are still a lot of tie plates and spikes strewn throughout the area. There were even a few ties that looked to still be in their original positions. I found some debris that might be the remains of the depot itself and perhaps the stock pens.

I followed the right of way northwest toward the mill and I was surprised by how high the fill was that carried the road bed. Satellite images make the area appear pretty flat, but in some places the fill was at least fifteen feet above the gullies that it crossed. I followed the curve to the west that lead to the ore transfer bins, but was stopped by fencing with "No Trespassing" signs. I then followed the spur that leads North and then curves to the rear of the mill before being stopped by a similar fence. I was surprised how close you can get to the mill without trespassing. Unfortunately I was nearing the end of my daylight by that point so I had to call it for that trip.

Overall, I was impressed by how easy it was to follow the old right of way. Most of what I walked would have been standard gauge trackage used by the Prince Consolidated RR and the Caliente & Pioche RR. A lot of the spikes and tie plates I found did appear to be standard gauge, but I was surprised to find some that look like narrow gauge hardward. As far as I can tell, there wasn't any narrow gauge east of the transfer bins or any dual gauge for that matter. I'm guessing that the narrow gauge plates and spikes were dropped by the crews that tore up the Pioche Pacific, perhaps as they were loading the scrap up near the depot.

This visit raised a few questions for me:

Where did the Pioche Pacific keep its water tank(s)? Did the Pioche Pacific have a depot of any kind along its Hill Line? What about an engine house or machine shop? Did they just send everything, including the shays, up to Jackrabbit for maintenance and storage?

My next visit was focused on the opposite end of Pioche Pacific's Hill Line, specifically around the No.1 Shaft. This mine is of particular interest to me because my great grandfather started out as a miner there, then worked his way up to foreman. For this visit I parked up on Tank Road, which branches off from Newark Street. The little house at the junction of Tank and Newark is where my great grandfather lived and where my grandfather grew up. It's currently covered in some kind of pink siding with a burnt orange roof and my grandfather remembers it being in better shape back in the 30's and 40's.

After getting out of the car, I walked up tank road and then took a path that led me directly to the old mill footings below the No.1 shaft. From there I scrambled up a little incline and found myself on the switchbacks right in front of the machine shop. Interestingly, the machine shop is in decent shape. It wasn't fenced off or marked with any "No Trespassing" signs so I hoped in for a peek. One of the boilers is still there along with several overhead pulleys. There's still one large piece of machinery along the eastern wall.

From the machine shop I walked up to the next switchback, which put me in front of the large ore bin just below No.1. This bin was much larger than I was expecting. From town it doesn't look like a very significant structure, but it certainly is imposing up close. I walked up an incline just east of the bin and that put me right in from of the No.1's headframe. The head frame and shaft were fenced off with "Stay Out, Stay Alive" signs, but the rest of the area, including the hoist house was open and unmarked. I finished my exploration by taking a lot at the hoisting machinery in the hoist house. It looks like it would still work if you gave it some power. I took one last picture through a dark doorway to see if my flash would illuminate anything of interest, but it looked like an old locker room. Later, after showing the photos to my grandfather, he explained that this dark room was the shower room for the miners. He said his dad took him up there when he was little to show him what a shower was like.

This trip raised a few more questions. In Myrick's book, I see one early photo of the No.1 with a wooden headframe and what looks like narrow gauge track passing right in front of it, with some sort of engine house beyond the headframe. I don't see this marked on any of the drawings of the Pioche Pacific's right of way. On the maps in Myrick's book, it looks like the rail road ran in front of the machine shop and under/through the mill below the ore bins, which is quite a bit further down the hill than the headframe. For some reason I thought the switchbacks leading up to the headframe were meant for wagons or trucks, but did the Pioche Pacific use the switchbacks to get up to the headframe back in the early days of the mine? On page 693 of Myrick's book there is an image at the bottom of the page that shows an engine house down near the machine shop. I think I can make out the remains of the concrete foundation of this engine house on Google Earth. Do we have any info on this other engine house? It looks like there may have been a few sidings near it, maybe with a water tank, and I'm assuming there would have been a stub switch or two at this position.

I'll be happy to upload some photos of my trip if there is interest. I'm toying with the idea of starting a blog to document my exploration and keep track of the information I learn.

On a future trip I would like to take a closer look at this engine house foundation and the potential yard area around it. I also want to take a closer look at the aerial tramway and see if I can figure out its workings. Just North of the cemetery is a large tension station that marks the halfway point on the tramway. There are a lot of photos of the support towers, loading terminal, and unloading terminal, but I can't find any close up shots of tension tower online. I'd like to get some pictures to see how the tension system worked.

I would also like to walk more of the hill line to get a better feel of the average grade and radii. I know the line was relatively steep with tighter curves, which is why the shays were acquired, but I haven't found any mention of the grade or minimum radius.

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