Location: Iron Mountain, Michigan
General Description: The museum houses the largest Cornish Pumping Engine ever built in the US rises 54 feet above the floor and is 75 feet long. The flywheel itself is 40 feet in diameter and weighs 160 tons. Normal speeds are only 10 RPM, but this pump out 3190 gallons of water per minute or an amazing 4,593,600 gallons per day. This pump was only one of 4 pumps on the Chapin Mine, which was one of the wettest mines ever worked and the most productive producer of iron ore in the Minominee Iron Range. Besides the pump, the museum also contains extensive exhibits on the history of iron mining in the Minominee Iron Range, including exhibits about each of the iron mines in the region. Along with numerous artifacts from this era, there is a good sample of underground mining equipment including “Engines, ore cars, jack hammers, drilling equipment, pumps of various types, tuggers, scrapers, skips used to transport ore to the surface, man cars to transport miners to work areas, a dynamite car, a head sheave which held the cable on the cage moving the men to the surface and a steam boiler.”
1) This location also houses the WWII Glider Museum, which was our main reason for visiting, so at first we were not sure we were interested in looking at a large steam driven water pump. I am glad we decided to pay the extra fee as this museum is MUCH more than the Cornish Pump Engine. The pump is certainly HUGE easily dwarfing any mining machinery we have ever seen and easily dominates the museum. However, after taking a couple of pictures attempting to capture its size, your attention is drawn to the other exhibits in the museum.
2) The historical exhibits include displays detailing the history of the discovery of the rich iron deposits in the Minominee Range and first attempts to mine the iron ore. The history of iron mining in the late 1870s was dependent on the construction of railroad lines from the port at Escanaba on Lake Michigan. As more track penetrated the Minominee Range, more mines and towns sprung up. There are exhibits detailing the history of each of these mines along with artifacts from the daily lives of the miners. The largest was the Chapin Mine which produced 297,883,000 long tons from 1879 to 1934.
3) There is also an extensive collection of mining equipment ranging from the jackhammers used to drill holes for dynamite, scrappers used to collect the broken ore, ore cars used to haul the ore, and many other examples.