Saturday, September 12, 2009

Salt Mine

A few weeks a go I had the opportunity to take tour of the salt mine museum in Hutchinson, KS. Actually ended up with a personal tour, just me a two tour guides, one of whom used to work in the mine. BTW, the museum is in the mine, yes, that is right, 650 feet Hutchinson, KS. The museum is in an old area of the mine, about 1/2 mile from the active face.

I believe the tour guide said this was a 1932 Chevy. Note the engine, or, in this case, the electric motor. This is an early version of the electric car. It had some real draw backs, other than the obvious fact that it was located 650 feet below the surface in a sale mine, it only have a range of 600 feet from the outlet. That’s right, it used a 300’ extension cord for power. Once a piece of equipment is down in the mine, they are seldom removed, as it is too much work and there is plenty of space to leave things. Most of the equipment for the museum, was already in the mine, it just needed displayed. This piece, they just left where they found it.

This large chunk of almost pure salt is probably 3x4x5 feet. As you can see from the previous picture and the one below, most of the salt is separated by layers of shale, which are the dark horizontal lines in the mine face above. The picture on the below shows a blasting hole, where, for whatever reasons, the dynamite did not go off.
In the early days everything was done by hand, then later, a 42” railroad was installed in the mine to take the salt to the shaft to be raised. According to my guide, they had a least three different sizes of rail and it was mostly salvaged from the trolley lines in and between Hutchinson and Wichita. Below is an early trolley pole electric locomotive. With 6’ ceilings in the early mine, everything had to be short. Most of the mine has now been raised to 9’ ceiling. The rest of the pictures inclued a flat car, and then several ore dump cars, an explosives car and crew cars.

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