Painesdale Mine & Shaft, Inc.
and you can help to save Champion #4


Copyright 1996-2006 
 Kevin E. Musser


The Evolution of Champion #4
Painesdale, Michigan

Part I, Support Structures
A site guide provided by Painesdale Mine & Shaft, Inc.

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A rare view of Champion #4 taken probably around 1913-17 showing many of the support structures detailed in this study of the Champion site. (MTU Archives & CCHC)

This site guide was developed to help visitors get a better understanding of the history that surrounds the Champion #4 Shaft-Rockhouse. This is the first of a set of educational publications that document the changes which took place at Champion #4 over the 100 year history of the site. This publication documents the support structures used at Champion #4 Shaft-Rockhouse. The information contained within this document was developed using Sanborn Insurance Maps, personal accounts and additional history obtained from the Michigan Technological University Archives.

Kevin E. Musser, PM&S, 1998

Copyright 1998 by Kevin E. Musser

Mapping the history of Champion #4

Over the 100 year history of the 11 acre area shown on this map over 30 structures were built in total to support the #4 Rock-Shafthouse. Most of these buildings were also supporting the other 3 shafts as well. The entire four shafts of the Champion were spread out for three quarters of a mile further northeast, but the major building boom was surrounding #4. The other Rock-Shafthouses each had a hoist, compressor house (or shared) and a shared Change House (Dry). The Copper Range depot and general store were located just off the top of the map shown here. Although most of the construction was completed between 1899 and 1902 many of the support buildings changed their function and help to show the constantly changing nature of the mining operations in Painesdale.

1899-1908 Early Expansion

Beginning in 1899 the Copper Range worked hard to develop the Champion location. The first exploration pit was dug near the site of the depot (just off top of map) and closest to #3 shaft. Full-scale production did not begin until 1902. The fuel of choice was coal and the Machine Shop and Wood Shop had electrical power. The site had a constant water supply from a dam located just to the southeast and could produce 1250 gallons per minutes at 125 p.s.i. using steam & electric power. Without power, a reserve of 200,000 gallons was held in a storage tank 90 feet off the ground. The tank was built in 1906 and survived until 1981 when it was removed. There was a 12" and 5" water pipe running through this site and the 5" line had a hydrant located just below building I. A 500 foot, two and one half inch hose was nearby and could reach any building on site. This was the only supply of water for this site. Most of the waterworks throughout the town of Painsdale was constructed in 1906.

The site plan in 1908 consisted of:
A: Champion #4 Shaft-Rockhouse
B: Hoist House
C: Second Boiler House
D: First Boiler House (no longer used)
G: Rock Crusher and Storage Bin
H: Poor Rock Pile and tram track from the Rockhouse
I: Change House (Dry)
J: Oil House
K: Hose House (top section), ? Shop (middle), ? (bottom)
M: Wood Shop
N: Wood Shed
O: Shed (top section), Store Room (lower), Shed (outbuilding)
Q: Blacksmith and Forge (mainly for repairing drill steel)
R: Machine Shop
S: Steel Rod Shed
T: Blacksmith Shop (other ironwork)
V: Tool House and Office

Copper Range RR Features:
X: Concrete Trestle under mainline, and two coal trestles
Y: Copper Range Mainline
Z: Copper Range spur to #4 and western leg of Painesdale Wye (also ran north and east) in the center of the Wye was the main Change House for this end of the mine (#3 and #4). The smaller Change House might have been used in the early days for mangers. Later, post WWII, the small change house at #4 was the only one used.

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The second Painesdale Depot built in 1916
(MTU Archives & CCHC)

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Champion Shaft-Rockhouse (MTU Archives & CCHC)


1908-1917 The Glory Years

These were the glory years at Champion and for the Copper Range Railroad as well. The Copper Range RR purchased everything they would ever purchase by 1921, well almost, but that’s still to come. By this time at Champion almost all of the major construction is complete, functions are changing as production drives deeper into the mine. Shaft-Rockhouse #4 proved so productive, that in fact, stamp sands are dumped back into the shaft to support the mine. The dump was located next to the Shafthouse.

By 1917 the entire complex was under electric light and the fuel of choice was steam. The Trimountain Fire Department was now on call to support this site. In addition to the Hose House was a new Hose Wagon. The effects of the 1913-14 copper strike can also be seen, as there is a 15 man fire team from Champion mine who are paid extra for serving. The water line by this time is also connected to the blacksmith shops and the Shafthouse.

The rise in production also brought a rise in housing needs. The largest building boom for residential homes was in 1916 when 63 additional homes were built to bring the total to around 200. 1917 saw the end of house construction in Painesdale, near this site. A Sawmill was constructed just behind the Shaft-Rockhouse during this time and was about the size of the Carpenter's Shop. I believe it was used to aid in all the new consturction as it was removed by the 30's.

The site plan in 1917 consisted of:
A: Champion #4 Shaft-Rockhouse
B: Hoist House with Air Compressor House addition (New Construction)
C: 2nd Boiler House, larger steam pipe added
D: Old Boiler House section over hoist cable is dismantled, main section remains vacant
G: Rock Crusher and Storage Bin with the addition of an electric motor house and additional storage bins.
H: Poor Rock Pile and tram track from the Rockhouse, pile is getting bigger
I: Change House converted to Painting and Glazing Shop
J: Oil House
K: Hose House (top section), Electrical Shop (middle), Electrical Storage Shed(bottom)
L: Lime House (New Construction)
M: Wood Shop, electric motor added
N: Wood Shed
O: Shed (top section), Store Room (lower), Shed (outbuilding), a platform is added that extends out to the far storage shed and the CRRR spur.

Q: Blacksmith and Forge (mainly for repairing drill steel), north section added to enlarge this shop
R: Machine Shop
S: Steel Rod Shed
T: Blacksmith Shop (other ironwork)
U: Captain’s Office (New Construction)
V: Tool House and Office is converted into the Change House (Dry)

Copper Range RR Changes:
Spur exiting Shafthouse is lengthened to support growing production and longer trains. A passing siding is added north of the concrete trestle. The Copper Range depot is replaced with a new style (off map).

1917-1928 The Great War to the Depression

If it were not for the Great War the Champion would have been a complete loss over this time period. Production was now at half the 1908-17 levels and no one was willing to pay high prices for deep shaft copper when you could get it in many other locations in the world right on, or near, the surface. With a drop in production the need for an additional rock crusher was not required and the poor rock pile was taking over so it was completely removed. The bottom line is reflected in the small amount of capital investment in the property over this period.

The building modifications and 
additions from 1917 to 1928 were:
D: The Old Boiler House section which remains is cut in half, one half removed and the other turned into a Storage Shed
G: Rock Crusher and Storage Bins removed.
H: Poor Rock pile grows larger and overtakes Rock Crusher site
I: Painting and Glazing Shop is also used as the Electrical Shop
K: Hose House is moved next to the water hydrant (to small for the scale of the map) and this building is only used as the Electrical Supply Warehouse (note the need for additional electrical storage as the whole facility converts to electricity)
Q: Blacksmith and Forge (mainly for repairing drill steel), south section added to enlarge this shop
W: A vehicle garage is added to the Change House, which supports the idea that mangers and officials used this change house. Cars also first appear in numbers at Painesdale during this period. 

Copper Range RR Features:
Coal trestle to the Hoist House is removed. Spur exiting the Shafthouse is shortened or was incorrectly drawn in 1917.

1928-1942 The Depression to WWII

The Net income for the entire Copper Range Company in 1929 was the highest in ten years, this still down over 60% from the Glory Years. The Copper Range made more money in 1929 than in the next ten years combined. This meant bad times for Champion. Again a war saved the Copper Range and production and profits were good through the war years on inflated copper prices and government contracts. By the end of the war the three other Champion shafts had closed for good, leaving only #4 operational and only running one shift.

New construction stopped except for a new hoist to reach the lowest levels of the mine. The new hoist house required the skip rope to run along the ground from the hoist house to a concrete footing with two wheels (structure F) in front of #4. The cable ran up at a sharp angle to the Wheel House. It was quite dangerous to be anywhere near the cable, related an employee of Champion, as there were no fences or barriers, it was just there, running a couple of feet off the ground.

The Hose Wagon was replaced by a Nash Truck with 700 feet of hose and a 48 foot ladder. A tractor pulling a trailer, similarly equipped, was used in winter. 15 Champion mine employees manned the fire fighting equipment. Water was now being drawn from the Shafthouse via electrical pumps in the mine.

The building modifications and 
additions from 1928 to 1942 were:
B: Air Compressor House removed, air pumped from #1 Compressor.
The pipes and supports are still in place today and run in a northern direction from the front corner of #4 Hoist House. The pipes run a long way, first in a poor rock walled trough. Then up ten feet or so above the ground as they pass through a ravine on the way to the Compressor House.
D: Shed (1st Boiler) removed
E: 2nd Hoist House (New Construction)
F: Concrete footing and Wheels (New Construction)
N: Wood Shed removed
O: Supply Warehouse enlarged to cover the area previously containing the platform and shed
P: Oil Tank (New Construction) 

Copper Range RR Events:
Almost half of the Copper Range fleet is retired in 1935. The Range purchases 10 all steel PS-1 box cars in 1941, 22 more in 1948.

1942-1998 The end of WWII to today
Champion #4 limped along through the 50’s and was still active when the Copper Range White Pine mine went on line in 1955. Dwarfing the output of Champion, the White Pine went on to become the world’s second largest underground mine. That, in as much, spelled the end for Champion and in 1967 delivered its last load of rock to the mill in Freda.

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The last skipload of ore was removed from Champion Mine in
Painesdale and loaded in cars for the trip to Freda, September 11, 1967
(CR News, Copper Range Company)


The old Hoist House was returned to service in order to cut expenses and the requirements of the mine and is still intact today. The newer Hoist was removed.

The Machine Shop continued to do repair work for the White Pine. In the 70’s the facility was a separate division of the Copper Range and actually developed a mining vehicle that was produced at another Copper Range Division. The building shut down in the early 1980’s.

Final Status of all structures at this site and changes from 1942 to 1998:
A: Champion #4 or E Rock-Shafthouse (Restoration in progress by Painesdale Mine & Shaft, Inc.)
B: Hoist House (Owned by Adams Township, although it is sometimes open to support PM&S events)
C: Removed (Foundation remains)
D: Removed (No trace on surface)
E: Removed (Foundation remains)
F: Concrete footing remains, wheels have been removed
G:. Removed (No trace on surface)
H: Poor Rock Pile, tram track removed
I: Storage Building now with metal siding (Privately Owned)
J: Oil House, small wooden addition added that now has fallen into disrepair. Oil House looks just like the day is was built. (Privately Owned)
K: Removed (No trace on surface)
L: Removed (No trace on surface)
M: Removed (No trace on surface)
N: Removed (No trace on surface)

O: Replaced by metal storage building. The roof of this building has since collapsed. (Condemned, or close to it)
P: Removed (No trace on surface)
Q: Storage Building in very good condition (Privately Owned)
R: Storage Building in very good condition (Privately Owned)
S: Storage Building in fair condition (Privately Owned)
T: Removed (No trace on surface)
U: Captain’s Office (Restoration in progress by Painesdale Mine & Shaft, Inc.)
V: Storage Building in very good condition (Privately Owned)
W: Garage in very good condition (Privately Owned)
X: Concrete trestle remains

A 250,000 gallon water tank was added in 1981 when the first tank was removed. This is a cinderblock building (solid red near shafthouse) which is up on higher ground and is actually at the same level as the old 90 foot high tank.

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Champion Site today during Springtime

Copper Range RR Events:
Baldwin diesels (3) enter in 1947 and 1951. Steam roster of 23 are all retired by 1953. The railroad struggles on timber for five years after Champion closes on hopes that new reserves will be located on Copper Range property. The end comes on October 27, 1972. The Copper Range tracks were removed from this site in 1973 except for a small section of track around the shafthouse. COPR PS-1’s number 4014, 4018 and 4021 stood silent on these tracks until 1997, when they were ripped up for scrap by the property owners.

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Champion #4 and the Oil House today.

Thank you for visiting our restoration project. Please stop back again soon and see our progress.

Painesdale Mine & Shaft, Inc.
P.O. Box 332
Painesdale, Michigan 49955

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