I have always been interested in the Dale Mining District. Probably because thats where my buddy Larry and I started prowling around the mines of the desert and the more we saw, the more we wanted to see. This month we are going way back to December 1969. I venture to say very little is left. During World War II, there was a major drive on to find anything made of iron so it could be converted to steel to make the implements of war. I was living in Florida at that time, and our school yard which ran alongside the grade school and the high school was a giant “tailings pile” of the most fascinating things made of old rusty iron to delight the eyes of any small boy in the 6th grade.
Out here in the West, the same things were going on. Any abandoned mine or mill equipment was fair game. There is the oft-told tale of the resident custodian of the mines of New Dale returning from a trip to town for supplies, arriving back at the mines just in time to halt several wagon-loads of “scrap” iron that were the working parts of some of the mines he was charged with the job of protecting until at war’s end, the owners could return to the mines and pick up where they had left off.
However, when the war was over, several things had changed. Men who were unable to become soldiers, sailors, marines worked in the factories and had become accustomed to the higher wages. There was still “gold in them thar hills” but very few men would work for the much lower pay that was a living wage before the war. The value of the millions of dollars still in the ground, had not yet changed, making it more costly to mine. Then too, in some mines idled by the war, underground water had filled much of the tunnels and shafts, rotting the wood, not only making the mine unsafe, but costing a small fortune to pump it dry, rebuild the mine, and start all over.
There is another curious factor that even operates today. When World War II started, America had just started to recover from an economic depression, never seen before, or since. If a man wanted to keep beans on the table, he had to go prospecting, or work in the many mines of the day. When times are good, there were and are much better jobs in the new era of manufacturing and prosperity. Should America have another depression, plan on seeing a lot more people in the deserts once again eking out a small living by the sweat of their backs.
Within the last thirty years there has come to be a new breed of gold miner; the recreational miner. Because the gold is still out there in the rivers of the North and the rocks and sands of the deserts, the recreational miner will load his truck with his family and friends, join a mining and prospecting club and spend a happy weekend or even a week or two getting dirty, wet, and sweaty scanning the ground with metal detectors, buying or making dry washers and believe it or not still finding the gold. Few make the big strikes; more find what was once hard work, now fun. I have seen the old aspirin bottles chock full of gold nuggets, and felt their heavy weight.
But I digress. Gold mining is for huge conglomerates and they are moving lots of earth to get it.
I promised you, my readers, another exploring adventure, so lets go back to December 1969 in the Dale Mining district-
As usual when Larry and I were both gainfully employed, we had a week between Christmas and New Years off, and away we’d go. Just East of Twenty-nine Palms, on the Twenty-nine Palms Hiway, some 17 miles brought us to the Gold Crown Road. Heading South East this was a well maintained dirt road that would take you not only through all the gold mine activity, but if you stayed on it, it would take you by the Joshua Tree National Monument, changing it’s name to the Old Dale Rd.
We set up camp at what was left of the Virginia Dale Mine; actually right in it’s mill! At that time I did not have a camper shell on my new Ford F-250 Camper Special pickup truck and I was towing Larry’s dune buggy hitched to my dock bumper. After we made camp we readied the dune buggy, grabbed cameras, maps, and canteens and drove further East on the Gold Crown Road for about 1 ½ miles, where the quality of the road deteriorated.
What a sight! Surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Pinto Mountains, with good, bad, and terrible roads scraped just everywhere. Our first mine group on this Northward direction was the Supply Mine where I took a picture of it’s headframe. It was just about ready to collapse (pictures 1 & 2). The Supply Mine group produced $1,500,000 with the Supply mine alone producing about ½ of this total over it’s lifetime.
From there we continued up the road swinging onto a jeep trail to the Lorman Mine, which looked fairly modern with all it’s concrete work. There was no machinery on site at that time.
Most of the mines that we saw on this trip were flat concrete slabs with lots of broken glass and rusty cans. Interesting, but not very impressive.
One of the most interesting things we saw as we continued to explore the Dale Mining district was a multi-station aerial tram! We were traveling on the lower road passing the site of New Dale. Continuing East on this road, we found an aerial tram still in a semblance of its original use, though not safe or in use by this time (1969). Larry pulled the dune buggy over to the bottom station and we got out to really look it over. The remaing pictures in this article are devoted to this tram.
The bottom station, being the end of the line, combined an ore chute and gate for unloading the ore into trucks for further processing. I don’t know whether it was powered from this bottom station or at the last tunnel up the mountain. I think the tram was used with the Ivanhoe Mine, around the corner and up the road as it proceeded to connect with the Ivanhoe Mine. The topographic map showed four tunnels, but we actually saw only three stations. Look at the control works on top of this bottom station. It features a brake drum to slow or stop the tram cable, a half painted cable pully to enable the workers to see that the cable loop was in motion and a toothed gear off to the side yet on the same pully shaft, purpose unknown.
Back in the dune buggy, Larry continued to follow the road all the way to the top of what I call Ivanhoe Peak, where there is also a vertical shaft and a large area for equipment. Leaving the buggy we crawled down the side of the mountain to the middle station. This station takes ore brought from a tunnel at this level. The bottom station where we started, is seen just to the right of one of the cross-braces. Looking at the floor of the tram station, we saw the mine car rails terminate at the grizzly and storage bin. Then to another smaller loading platform a few feet below.
The final picture was taken from the mine tunnel. The tracks would take the ore car from the mine tunnel out to the loading bin. Larry is standing near the mine car track. This is a side view of the middle station. The closed-loop tram cable is above Larry’s head and intersects the loading chute.
Oddly, there is no mention of an aerial tram. We saw as we drove around the various parts of Pinto Mountain strings of 1” tram cables, some coiled and snaked around as if the cable had snapped from the load and back-lashed.
Over the years we have made many trips to the Pinto Mountains and the Dale Mining District, but none recently. Hope you enjoyed the trip. See you next month. Jerome W. Anderson.