Saturday, April 24, 2010

Salt Tram Part Numbering

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

QUESTION1: Check on the numbering described below ("Update April 2010 from Bob"), regarding markings at the Summit Station.

QUESTION2: Examine Tower below that is well-marked with tower numbering to determine how that affects our assumptions about how these structures were built; some options regarding construction of the "Stick built" nature of Towers and Stations:
  1.  "Stick built", numbered and pre-drilled bolt holes with powered drill presses at the timber mill in Oregon from whence they came, then shipped by rail to the Salt Tram and "reassembled" in the field.
  2. "Rough cut lumber" from Oregon shipped to the Salt Tram Discharge Station, and then processed as in no. 1 above.
  3. "Rough Cut Oregon Lumber" transported to Station and Tower sites, with wood cut and drilled bolt holes on site.
QUESTION3: Take a photo on the westside of the tramway to match the historical photo below (the one showing the spooling of the cable over the westside of the tramway.
The construction of the Saline Valley Salt Tram, along with the associated facilities at the Salt Lake to collect the salt, the Loading Station, and the Discharge Station, was a complicated affair. It was performed during a time without cell phones, satellites, or other wireless communication of any kind (heck, cell phones don't get a signal out in Saline Valley to this day). Coordination was crucial, and to support the goal of having tram parts coming off the railroad from Trenton New Jersey (home of Trenton Iron Company, who designed and built the tram parts), they were frequently numbered. One of our goals when we examine the tram is to observe all notations on the manmade tram parts to further our knowledge of how the tram was constructed.

Below is an excellent example of a tram part at the Summit Station (Control Station 3 and Station 20) that is labeled with the Station number. This photo was taken by Alan E. Click to enlarge.

Below is another recent example of tram parts being labeled with the Station Number. In this case, this is a photo taken by Tim in March, 2010 at Station 29. This photo is of the side of the Weight Box at Station 29, and clearly marked with "S. 29". Click to enlarge.

Update April 2010 from Bob:
 Tim, In reference to your post on Salt Tram Part Numbering. April 24

I forgot to mention to you in my previous e mail about the location of a marking on a beam located in the Summit Control Crossover Station. You may have already seen it but If you have not I wanted to bring it to your attention as it is hard to see. I am not sure at this time if it is a letter & a number or just numbers.

Standing inside the tram station looking down the right hand tram cable line which goes down to the Owens Valley. The location of the marking is on a large wooden timber that the outside metal sheeting is nailed to. It is to the right of the cable line and about 10-12 feet up from the wooden floor. When I first saw the markings I thought that the Tram Station had been built down in the valley and then assembled up on top. Good luck.  Regards, Bob

We discover much about the Saline Valley Salt Tram by spending hours looking over the 100's of scans of old photos which are in our posession due to the generosity of the Eastern California Museum of Independence, who in their infinite wisdom has seen fit to let us scan their Salt Tram collection for our use in doing this "knowledge excavation" that is found on this web site. Below is a photo that has decent resolution (most do not), and depicts activities that greatly expand our knowledge of the tram's construction. First, let's look at the entire photo (click to enlarge):
This westside tram photo above shows a number of important Salt Tram Construction activities:
  1. A large number of men (10 to be exact) engaged in tram construction activities.
  2. A closeup of the various clothing worn in construction of the Salt Tram
  3. One of only two known photos of cables being strung out along the tramway. In this instance, the photo shows a harnessed pair of mules playing out a Salt Tram cable (which appears to be the 7/8" traction cable), which is draped over the traction sheave of the Tower.
  4. At the base of the Tower in the foreground is a cable spool being played out by 3 men at the base of (and inside the footprint of) the Tower. We believe that the Tower was used as a support for the base of the heavy cable and despooler, as much force must be applied to the cable to despool it. Note that this cable is NOT the one that is being played out by the mule team, distanced ahead in the photo.
  5. In the foreground are 4 or 5 tram power poles, with their ends coated in a black substance (creosote) to protect the wood that is buried in the ground from rot (note that it has worked well, as most tram power poles that were not sawed off at the base to salvage the copper wire are still standing). This indicates that the Tram Stations and Towers were built before the Power Pole installation was completed, unless for some reason that these are extra poles that happened to be stored in this location - unlikely, in our opinion.
  6. Last and very important: each of the beams, including one of the ladder cross pieces (!) is labled with "23 C 4", which I interpret to mean Tower 23, Section IV (although this will need to be calcualted and verified).
Anyways, here is the photo, with an enhancement in photoshop at right to make the markings more clear:
 On an interesting side note, we believe that we have located this tower, and it is one of the rare westside towers that are still standing, owing largely to its distance from the road. It has not, as you shall see, escaped all vandalism. Let's take a look. First, here is a location that matches that of the full size photo above:
The photo above shows the 3 towers (A, B, C) located above (or east) of the marked tower in question. We note with fascination that Tower B was lowered from its original construction, as one of the many "tweaks" to the tramway to make it function properly. Below shows the same towers A, B and C in our historical photo:

Unfortunately, we don't have a modern photo (but we will!) of Towers A, B, C and what we shall call Tower D (the one with the "23 C 4" markings on it), but I believe we do have a photo of that tower by itself, and here it is:
This photo shows Brian standing at the base of this Tower D (aka Tower "23 C 4"). Note the discrepancies with the historical photo of this tower: there are no horizontal boards at the base, which would seemingly rule it out as the same tower. However, note a detail of the photo above:
It seems that the original horizontal and diagonal beams were attached to this tower, but removed, as evidenced by the red box in this photo; you can also see the bolts sticking about where the cross beams were removed. Plus, both towers have 6 ladder steps nailed into one of the four corner supports, and it is the same corner as in our historical photo. Seems pretty conclusive to me!

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