Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cliff Patterson Leaves the Salt Tram ... Forever

QUESTION 1: No doubt, after leaving the Salt Tram in October, 1913, Cliff went on to other work and never returned to the Salt Tram. What did Cliff do after leaving the Salt Tram?
QUESTION 2: We believe that Cliff stayed in the Owens Valley area for the rest of his life. Brian needs to investigate the Census records to see what he lists as his occupation.
QUESTION 3: Perform periodical search of the Owens Valley Herald for Salt Tram information.
QUESTION 4: The tram was re-started on August 11, 1916, after the weak grip problem was solved. However, the newspaper article indicates that the tram also had new cables installed. Why? The tram should have had minimal wear, and new cables should not have been required. The only thing that makes sense is that they had new grips, which required different traction cables than the ones currently installed. If this was the case, they would have had to install 13.5 miles x 2 or 27 miles of new 3/4" traction cable, which would be very expensive and labor intensive. Also, it appears that the original 3/4" traction cables are still on the line, so this mystery continues.
Above (click to enlarge): Cliff Patterson reports in his diary on October 25 - 26, 1913 that he is packing up his stuff, unloading the tram line, and heading down to Swansea. That can only mean one thing. Here's the diary entry for those dates.

In the Patterson Diary Book (available for purchase at the Waag Brother's cost to print it!), we document Cliff's departure from the Salt Tram ... forever:

"If you have made it this far in reading Cliff's diary, then it is my sad duty to inform you that Sunday, October 26, 1913 (see diary page above) was his last day to ever work at the Salt Tram. That fateful day marked Cliff's completion of a grueling 2 years and 7 months of dedicated work committed to the planning, construction and operation of the Salt Tram. He notes on October 25, 1913 that he "worked all day packing my duds", then the next day "ran [the] tram and unloaded [the] line", then "gathered up [my] tools" and "came to Swansea" (the location of the discharge station show below right). Cliff gave us a clue that all was not well with the Saline Valley Salt Co. when he indicated that he "unloaded [the] line", meaning they moved the tram buckets off the track cables and into the control stations until the time when the tram would run again."
Corroborating Evidence of Cliff's Departure: Our intense periodical search has revealed corroboration of Cliff's (and his brother, Earl Patterson) departure from the Salt Tram workforce, in the form of an article from the October 30, 1913 edition of the Inyo Register, which announces his return to Bishop in the column that Chalfant labels "TABOOSE". This column also announces the return of Ambrose White (White Smith's older brother) from the Salt Fields as well. Scroll down to the section highlighted in yellow 
Much Salt is on Hand: We were fortunate to locate another key article in our search of the Inyo Register, also appearing on Thurs. Oct.  30, 1913 (click to enlarge). 
The above article gives a plausible explanation for the sudden shut-down. It implies that the Salt Tram is working so well that too much Salt is being accumulated at the Discharge Station (i.e., the end of the Salt Tram line, i.e., the "delivery end") in Owens Valley at Swansea. It goes on to explain that the massive 5,000 ton accumulation of Salt has to be sold and shipped before the Salt Tram restarts its operation. This story is convincing, as the photo archives of the discharge station repeatedly show massive salt piles. Photo Courtesy Eastern California Museum (click to enlarge):

Where's the Conveyor System? What is missing from these Discharge Station photos (taken over several decades of intermittent operation) is the "conveyor system" that was to deliver salt to the dryer and the grinder.
The above 1920's photo is just one of many that gives evidence that the conveyor system alluded to in the article was never built. What was built is seen in this photo: a conveyor system designed to dump salt all over the ground. This is what our photographic history of the Discharge Station tells over and over again: Salt is piling up at Swansea, its pure salt contents getting contaminated with the persistent dust of Owens Valley. Where are the storage bins to keep the salt pure and protect the product? Where is the conveyor system and the automation required to process a large volume commodity such as Salt? 

First, that little automation detail was never fully dealt with, and as they say, the devil is in the details. The pre-occupation with the salt collection operation at the Salt Lake, along with building and operating the monsterous 13.5 mile tramway over the Inyos apparently precluded serious thought about salt processing operations at the "delivery end". This problem would never adequately be addressed, and in fact, we believe that the salt piled up in the above photo was wheel-barrowed (!) to the drying facilities - yikes! Evidence for this is in the form of multiple historic photos of workmen and their wheel barrows moving salt from the pile to the dryer. Here's one of those photos, courtesy of Eastern California Museum of course! (click to enlarge):
Grip Problem Rears Its Ugly Head: Unfortunately, the problem of salt accumulation at the discharge station was nothing compared to a much larger problem: the grip mechanisms on the buckets were failing, causing the salt carrier buckets to fall off the line! This problem would be solved by designing a completely new grip mechanism, but it took years to do it. More on this elsewhere in this website. 

After shutting down on October 30, 1913, the Salt Tram would not be run again until August 11, 1916. Evidence for this is provided by the article (Courtesy of the Eastern California Museum) below that appeared in the Owens Valley Herald on August 11, 1916. No doubt, after leaving the Salt Tram in October, 1913, Cliff went on to other work and never returned to the Salt Tram. The article below also indicates that for some reason, not only were newly-designed grips needed for the tramway, but also new cables were needed. 

1 comment: