Saturday, January 16, 2010

Doc05: Agricultural Survey, June 1917

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 1940'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:

QUESTION 1: Compare manpower estimates from different sources, with different salt company owners of the Saline Valley Salt Works and Salt Tram, from the different sources that we have access to.

QUESTION 2: Obtain copies of reports from the State Mining Bureau (I believe that we have a copy of just such a document, dated December 1917); will need to determine the frequency of publication, and get all known copies generated during the Salt Tram era (typically considered 1910 - 1920).

QUESTION 3: Who is W. W. Watterson of Bishop? White Smith, President of the Saline Valley Salt Company, married a Margaret Watterson, so there may be a connection, though the Watterson family was said to be a very large one in the greater Owens Valley area, and there may be no connection.

QUESTION 4: Article references a tramway in Germany that is longer / bigger in some capacity than the SVST. Since we are doing a chapter in the book on comparison with other tramways, we should try to track this down.

QUESTION 5: Find the 2 artesian wells at Swansea (we already found one, but neglected to take a photo of it, and it still spews out water - now we need to find the other one!)

Doc05 Document Analysis:

Article Title:
Agricultural and Industrial Survey of Inyo County, Calif.
Made by the California Development Board of San Francisco, California
at the request of the Board of Supervisors of Inyo County, June – July 1917
Thalia Wood Newcomb, Field Agent
Copyright applied for September 1917

Synopsis: Short, 4 page article written in 1917 on the prospects of the salt mining operation in Saline Valley. Provides some useful information on staffing and operational statistics of the Salt Tram at that time (June – July 1917).

Source: Sue found this document in the Independence Courthouse – somewhere, somehow

Current Status: We have a readable copy of the document (see 4 page document below). Note that front page of document is severely stained by what appears to be some type of liquid.

Information Rating (out of a scale of 1, 2 or 3, with 1 being the best information, 2 being so-so, and 3 being nearly worthless): 2

Salt Tram New Information and Leads: Suggests that for much more detailed information, see the State Mining Bureau, which issues minute and elaborate reports on mineral interests for every section of the state
• Lists W. S. Proctor as Superintendant of the Owens Valley Salt Company in Keeler, when other documents of around the same time period list another person as superintendant
• W. W. Watterson of Bishop is listed as an “authority” (assumedly for this document, and assumedly for the salt company)
• References one tram line in Germany that has a “longer carry” than the Salt Tram
• At discharge station, the salt is run through different grades and sacked for shipment after going through a drying process and “super-crystalization”
• Grades of salt: table use, crystallized rock salt in large pieces (for use in ice cream manufacture and for tanning), and powdered salt (used in pancake and other ready-to-use flours), and put out under the trade name “Red Mountain Salt” [apparently, a lot more was going on in the Discharge Terminal than we thought - we wondered why the building was so large - probably the drying, sorting, milling, and sacking operations; also, need to track down the brand name "Red Mountain Salt" - maybe its in one of our many salt brochures from Saline Valley salt companys?]
• Tram capacity: 200 tons in a 9 hour day
• Salt Mill capacity: 20 tons in a 10 hour day [this gives an explanation for why the tram was run only in the summer, yet the mill at Swansea was run year 'round: the tram delivers 200 tons per day over the summer (lets call the summer 4 months, for it surely is in Saline Valley) 4 months x 5 days per week = 86 days of tramway production x 200 tons = 17,200 tons per "summer", ok, lets cut that down by 20% to account for breakdowns and maintenance, and that gives you 13,760 tons of salt; then lets process that salt year 'round at 52 weeks x 5 days x 20 tons per day gives you only 5,200 tons processed per year, then we take 80% of that, giving 4,200 tons per year, only 1/3 of what the Salt Lake produces ... maybe the problem was not enough production at the discharge station???]
• 18 men employed on the tramway, 45 in Saline Valley, and 15 at the plant near Keeler [umm, believe that should be Swansea?]
• For the works at Keeler [Swansea?], there are two artesian wells that furnish a constant flow of “palatable” water
• Many mining prospects in Saline Valley “will probably take advantage of the means afforded by the tramway, to convey their ore to the smelters and railroad.”
• Notes that “the Owens Valley Salt Company” in many instances has been large purchaser of ore and conveyed it out over their tramline”. [interesting].

Interesting Facts Not Related to the Salt Tram: None

• Mistakenly lists the tram summit elevation at 9,800 feet, rather than 8,600 or so that it actually is
• Document is typically optimistic regarding mining prospects, reflecting the attitudes and promotions of a community that is heavily investing in mining.


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