Monday, December 7, 2009

Salt Collection Equipment in the Middle of Lake

Salt Tram history is rapidly disappearing, and we are striving to rediscover the efforts of our forefathers in order to give proper recognition to their hopes, dreams and abundant sweat from an era that is rapidly fading from our memories. We are actively seeking out information about the mining of Salt in Saline Valley between 1903 and the 1950's, including: documents, photos, articles, stories, artifacts, etc. If you can help us out, please email us at the address above - Thank-you! --Tim and Brian Waag, the Waag brothers (aka E. Clampus Waagus).
Caution (PLEASE READ): Climbing around on the tramway is dangerous because its really old and defnitely unsafe, so don't even think about it. Shoot, just getting to it requires some perilous hiking, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the Zig Zag Access Trail (or what's left of it). Plus, climbing on it weakens it and endangers your life. Also, the Saline Valley Salt Tram is on the National Register of Historic Places and should be treated with the respect that it deserves. What little remains is of great historic value, and should not be disturbed in any way. Heck, its probably against the law to move parts of the tram around, and certainly a crime to take home some of the few bits of it that remain (though you'd have to ask your friendly local BLM agent for details). So please treat it with the respect it deserves, so that future generations can enjoy whats left, without you messing it up. Really. Please. You can see its listing on the National Register of Historic Places at these web links:
National Register of Historic Places 1          National Register of Historic Places 2

We recently scanned some newly found historical Salt tram photos, which have been very helpful in our research. The next 2 photos are very interesting. As soon as we saw them, we believe they matched the equipment that is found out in the middle of the Salt Lake today. Here they are:

We haven't analyzed this equipment in detail, although it definitely was used in the salt gathering process. The individual scoops are shown to be full of salt in the photos, and clearly the scoops dumped salt into the ore carts sitting on the ore cart tracks. We don't know what era this salt collection equipment came from, as there were at least 4 companies that ran 4 different salt mining operations, all of which used the tram at some point for transporting the salt in buckets over the lofty Inyo Mountains. There is also a monorail associated with this piece of equipment, though I do not have a photograph of it, but I know I have seen a photograph of it somewhere, and will have to track it down (I believe there is a photo of the monorail at the Eastern California Museum in Independence). In fact, you can BARELY see the monorail in the second photo, to the left of the person on the left side of the photo. Strangely, these two pieces of equipment seem almost identical, except that one is rather tall and high above the salt plain, and the other is low and almost touching the ground! Strange....

Here is the tall one as it sits today in the Saline Valley Salt lake, followed by the shorter one, and then both of them together!

I wonder if the monorail track is still out there somewhere, submerged under the lake? I decided to rummage around in some photos from 2007 that Brian and I took out at the lake and found these:

Obviously, they are the buckets from the Salt Collection System in the first 2 photos of this post! Cool. On that trip in 2007 when the photos were taken, Brian and I walked around different parts of the Salt Lake and took photos of every piece of junk that we found, hoping that some of them were related to the salt Tram. Victory! Now we have to figure out more about this equipment.

Finally, here is a photo of the taller of the 2 Salt Collection Systems, taken by Farmer Dean and provided to me by Alan, proving once again that taking pictures of any old piece of junk does sometimes pay off. Note that the photo was probably taken in the fall, when the Lake had dried up, and he could walk out to it. The taller Salt Collection System is pretty tall, so it is buried pretty far into the lake - maybe about 5 or 6 feet down into the Salt. Wonder how much of it has been corroded by the salt.


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