& Copper Country Historical Page
Copyright © 1996-2003
Six or so
miles, down the hill,
The Condensed History of the Quincy & Torch Lake Railroad
You may be asking yourself why would someone who claims to be Mr. Copper Range write a history of the Quincy & Torch Lake before he wrote a history of the Copper Range. There are two reasons. Reason one, I know more about the Q&TL than I really want to know. I dont know everything about the Copper Range. I will always be afraid of the Copper Range story as it will be hundreds and hundreds of pages that no one will ever read. I could never care that much about the Q&TL and therefore, much easier to write. Reason two. I feel sorry for all those lost soles out there in this world and especially on the Internet that long for something, anything, in writing or picture regarding the Q&TL.
On the Internet I have not found any Quincy material and the many people who e-mail me long for the Q&TL. 1 out of every 5 I would say. I dont have any idea what it is about this railroad, or I should say, tramway, but people got the itch. But I cant give that part of the story away until Chapter Four.
All right, I admit it, I love the Quincy too. Even if everything is called Mason, and it only runs 6 or so miles, down the hill, through the woods. Thats why I wrote it.
The sources for this story are taken from shelf #30 and shelf #85 in my collection. All b-w photos are from the collection of John F. Campbell (except where noted) and the color photos were taken by me over the years. This along with my own research on the Quincy at Techs archives and what I have and havent heard about Old Reliable over the years.
In the late 1880's with the Portage canal quickly filling up with stamp sands the Quincy mining company, along with other mining companies operating on the Portage, looked to Lake Superior and Torch Lake for new sites to deposit their sands. Quincy's choice was the lake which got it's name from the native Americans who fished at night by torch light. On the 5th of July 1888 Quincy decided to build a railroad to connect its mine with the new Stamp Mill which was being built 6.5 miles from the mine in a new 300 acre mill town named Mason.
Mason was named for Thomas F. Mason who was the President of the Quincy from 1858 to 1899 (except for 3 years). Mr. Mason was a very interesting character and one can at least say a little shady. He must have also thought a lot of himself as not only was the town named after him but also the first, and almost the second engine on the Q&TL were also named Thomas F. Mason. The second one was to be named the Thomas F. Mason #2 but in the end it was decided that it would be too confusing, so it was dropped.
The Quincy, or better yet, Mason, had been quarreling with just about every other railroad and mining company within 10 miles of its base for years. The Hancock and Calumet Railroad already had rail connections from the Quincy location to Mason by the 1880's. Quincy felt they would not be treated fairly price wise from H&C. Not that the H&C didn't have a reason, for when the H&C tried, in 1872, to gain the right of way through Quincy property along the Portage the Quincy had flatly refused and bitter conflicts had arisen ever since.
The neighboring mines of Franklin and Pewabic were taken to court over the building of the Q&TL extension into their properties. This is the shady part. In 1888 during the building of the railroad Masons lawyers argued in court that the Q&TL was a public carrier and therefore had the right to cross their neighbors properties. Everyone knowing full well that the Q&TL would just be a 6.5 mile tram way carrying nothing but coal up and mine rock down the hill. Quincy won the case and gained access to quite a large parcel of land. Along with loosing money already the Franklin and Pewabic were ripe for the Quincy taking, and take them they did.
It is interesting to note that one of the jurors in the trial was the brother of the man, that along with Mason owned the construction company that built the Q&TL and the Pewabic/Franklin extension. You have to jump ahead 35 years to really get the end of this story. In 1925 Quincy claimed in court that its railroad was nothing more than a 6.5 mile tramway connecting the mine with the mill. This after the State was planning to take its share of this common carrier in levied taxes. Quincy again won, by very crafty "wordsmenship" but the tax burden was still more than the Q&TL could bare alone. Thus the Company was liquidated and became part of the Quincy Mining Company in 1927. By this time the Q&TL had grown to 14.67 total miles, with the addition of 8 miles of spurs and sidings from the original 6 miles of mainline.
The railroad continued to run until 1931 and through the ups and downs of the final years of "Old Reliable", 1937 until finally shutting down, with the Quincy, in 1945.
The mainline of the Quincy was projected to cost around $100,000 and work had begun to clear the right-of-way in August of 1888.
The Officers of the Company were:
To give you some idea of the power and control that Mr. Mason held on the railroad, the railroad was initally capitalized for $50,000, divided into 500, $100 shares. Mason owned 494 shares and each of the remaining officers owned one share each. No wonder everything was named Mason.
The toughest decision was whether to make the railroad standard or narrow gauge. This is shown in the fact that Quincy ordered 8 ft. wide ties, which would accommodate either gauge or allow for dual gauge operation. The final decision was mainly supported by the surrounding railroads, The Mineral Range and Hancock & Calumet which were both narrow gauge at this time in history. 60 lb. rail was selected for the route, the right-of-way was cleared and track work had started as soon as winter gave way in April of 1889.
As previously stated the railroad was a modest affair starting at the enginehouse which was located south of the mine and was completed for a cost of $5,000 using mainly poor rock from the mine. A material in great supply and low cost, and used for many of the structures at the mine location. The mainline ran 6.5 miles down to the trestle at the back of the mill on Torch Lake.
The only railroad owned structures constructed during the initial phase was the roundhouse, a 60 ft. by 38 ft. stone building, two water tanks and two iron turntables. One of the water tanks and iron turntables resided behind the mill in Mason. Total cost for the entire project was $93,200, almost as estimated. The company of Hoar and Mason, received $56,000 of the total $93,000 for the construction. Mr. Hoars brother, you will remember, was one of the jurors who voted in favor of Quincy regarding the building of the railroad through hostile neighbors claims.
The initial roster of the Q&TL consisted of 30 Wells-French rock cars, 3 thirty foot flat cars also build by Wells-French and a Peninsular Car Company 4 wheel caboose. A total cost of around $12,000.
Two engines were initially ordered and were almost both named the Thomas F. Mason but in the end only #1 bore his name. #2 was also known as the S.B. Harris but ran for only a short time until it was finally scraped in 1915. #1 served the line until the final end and actually made the last run for the Q&TL.
The railroad began operations in March of 1890 and by December of that year was moving an average of 42 rock cars per day down to the mill. Shipping around 20,000 tons of rock per month. The Q&TL grossed $11,960 the first year of operation. During the first year of operation the only construction was the addition of a telephone line along the right-of-way, in order to link the communications of the mine and mill, as well as the railroad.
In the years 1891 through 1893 the Q&TL spent 6 times the initial construction cost on an addition to include the entire Pewabic expansion. The Pewabic takeover resulted in a doubling of the traffic on the line by 1894. Nearly 100 cars per day were moved by this time. The expansion of the railroad into the Pewabic, as well as the balance of the Quincy holdings, created a maze of switches and sidings that resulted in also doubling the length of overall trackage to 14+ miles. The years leading up to 1894 saw the greatest growth for both the mine and the railroad. The railroad extended to any mine building which used coal or produced copper bearing rock. Coal users included boilers, blacksmith and machine shops.
The impressive growth at the mine was duplicated at the mill. At the beginning of this period Quincy built a second stamp mill 1,300 feet from the first. An extension of the railroad was completed but only after bridging North creek with a 122 foot steel trestle. The 280 foot trestle to the first mill was rebuilt with steel during this same period.
The year 1892 also saw the increase of the Q&TL fleet. 20 additional rock cars were ordered from Wells-French, as well as a third locomotive. #3 was also a 2-6-0 Brooks although larger, having 44 inch drivers, 17"x 22" cylinders and weighting 45 tons. #1 and #2 were purchased for $7,800, #3 weighted in at just under $9,000 with its dandy snow plow. In 1894 a third stall was added to the enginehouse to allow storage of all three.
By the turn of the century the H&C and Mineral Range were now part of the DSS&A. The DSS&A was Quincys main coal supplier. By 1904 the mines were consuming 6,900 tons of coal per month in order to reach the depths of their deposits. Long before this time Quincy had realized the inability of the DSS&A to handle its fuel requirements. This compounded by bad blood and high prices forces Quincy to build a new coal facility which would be serviced by the Q&TL. This facility was the pride of Quincy and was 201 feet wide and 385 feet long. It was 40 feet high and had a capacity of 66,500 tons of coal. The plant consisted of 3 steel towers, each mounting a clam shell bucket. It doesnt take long to realize how large this structures was when you discover that it was served by 16 parallel tracks. If all three towers were operating at the same time it could dispense about 7 tons per minute to awaiting rock cars.
With all the increase in traffic the Q&TL added two engines in 1901. #4 was a 45 ton Mogul, again, built by Brooks with 44 inch drivers and 17x22 inch cylinders
This engine served the railroad until being scrapped in 1940. Number 5 was also purchased during this time. This engine was known as the Opechee when it was built for the Hancock & Calumet in 1891. It was smaller than the other Quincy engines. It was a Baldwin Consolidation with 37" drivers and 17x20 inch cylinders.
The first American Car & Foundry cars appeared at this time in the form of 24, 18 ton rock cars. 30 rock cars produced by Wells and French were also purchased from the Hancock & Calumet. 9 rock cars from the Arnold Mine were also purchased at this time.
In one of the most interesting purchases of Quincy history they also purchased standard gauge mineral cars at this time. The DSS&A was reluctant to build a connection for the Quincy from the mill to the smelter but after much negotiation the line was built, but the Quincy was to supply the cars. These cars look like a flat car with a dumpster on top and were very modern, by Quincy standards.. They had hinged lids to protect the concentrate from the weather on the way to the mill via the Hancock & Calumet, which by this time had converted to standard gauge and also was controlled by the DSS&A.
The real end of the Quincy & Torch Lake really came in 1905 when the Quincy Mining Company bought 4 engines, 17 flat cars, 119 rock cars and one turntable from the Q&TL. This purchase was made to remove the $300,000 debt the railroad had accumulated over the years. From this point on the Q&TL ceased to be and was really no more than 6 miles of track, through the woods and down the hill. The "railroad" would continue on the books until total liquidation in 1927, the Quincy paying the Q&TL for use of the tracks.
After the separation, on paper, of the equipment from the tracks the Quincy did little to update the Q&TL over the next 20 years. Engines are reworked and right-of-way repaired but nothing was done to improve the line as Old Reliable was getting lean as record setting depths were reached. One notable exception was1912 and 1913. In 1912 the turntables were removed and replaced with Wyes. The turntables being to costly to maintain and dig out everyday in the winter. 1913 saw the addition of Q&TL #6, the largest and last of the Q&TL. This was also a Consolidation, but weighted in at 56 tons with 38" drivers and 18x22 inch cylinders. The engine was able to pull 44 cars back up the hill to the mine.
Little is known of the daily routine of the Q&TL. Trains running from the mine to the mill were odd-numbered and the mill to mine were even-numbered. 6, 20 car trains each way was the normal for traffic per day on the line up to 1931. The employees of the line were overcome with the amount of paperwork this paper company required to be generated each day. 15-20 forms per day kept these 12 odd trains running each day, as well as 3 weekly reports. More time was spent controlling paper than was spent controlling the trains. The average number of workers on the line was 20 with a high of 40 in 1893-94. During the winter months the force was usually doubled to handle the extra maintenance of snow removal.
The operation continued through 1931 and then again from 1937 until final closure in 1945. After reopening in 1937 things were never the same and the life extension to the railroad was only at the cost of WWII copper prices. After the war the railroad and the mine closed, except for reclamation and exploration work which continued into the 1970s.
Hopes and optimism to one day again mine the depths of the Pewabic Lode has helped to retained more of the Quincy than any other mining company in the Keweenaw. Mason is the site of the only standing stamp mill in the entire region. Quincy #2 is one of only a handful of Shaft Rockhouses extant. Its giant hoisthouse also restored.. The Q&TL roundhouse, water tank and some cars remain, along with engine #1. You can see #3 at Crossroads Village in Flint. You can see #6 in N.J.
In the 1860s Quincy built its first tramway, a 2200 ft. affair that inclined 500 feet down the side of Quincy hill. The rock on this railroad was moved by rope. When Quincy built its new 31,000 foot tramway they required steam over wheels and hence the Q&TL was born. From its inception in 1888 through 1905 the Q&TL was a real railroad in every sense of the word. Mr. Masons vision to have a controllable transportation resource had paid off. But the railroad never paid off in financial terms and if it were not for the parent company it would have never survived beyond this point.
The importance of the railroad to the overall structure of the company was very important as the rock had to get to the mill 6+ miles away somehow. The importance of the Q&TL as a process in mining was very small. To put the railroad in proper perspective the railroad workforce at its peak was only 4% of the total Quincy workforce. On average they only numbered 1%. Minimal maintenance and improvements were made to the line from 1905 onward and with the vast amount of paperwork, the tramway was nothing more than one more process in the Quincy cog.
So why all the interest in a tramway, anyway? Because no one that looks at the Q&TL sees anything but beauty and simplicity. For modelers it opens up many possibilities that are not possible with even a small class one railroad like the Copper Range. The very small size of the Q&TL make it a wonderful railroad to model if you only have a small space or are interested in building modules. Trying to recreate the Q&TL in full would be a waste of space with a mill at one end and a mine at the other with 350 feet (HO scale) of woods in between. But on a small scale whole scenes of the Q&TL can be created. Unlike many of the other railroads of the area many plans exist for the rolling stock and motive power of the Q&TL. Thanks to H.A.E.R. we also have most of the mining structure plans as well.
In addition to my own collection, other visitors to the Copper Range Railroad and Copper Country Historical Homepage, have helped me to compile a list of modeling articles related to the Q&TL, they are listed below. Thanks also go out to John F. Campbell for helping me with this list and for providing additional sources. Discriptions written by John are listed as (JFC). You can also obtain drawings from the Quincy Mine Hoist Association by calling 906.482.2301. So what are you waiting for, grab your 36" track gauge and get started today.
Articles related to the Quincy & Torch Lake:
Don Ross's collection of Q&TL photos on this site.
The Mineral Range Railroad Company: Narrow Gauge Era, by John F. Campbell
The article covers the relationship between the Quincy Mining Co. and the Mineral Range
RR showing how the Q&TL RR came about. The Mineral Range RR ran a spur into Quincy
during 1886 which became Q&TL's connection, both as a narrow and dual gauge line,
until the Q&TL RR shut down. That issue also came with a 1918 foldout map showing the
Copper Range RR and it's Leased Lines. (JFC)
Locomotives of the Quincy & Torch Lake, by John F. Campbell
A brief history of the Q&TL RR locomotives concluding with the moving of No.'s 1
& 5 from the enginehouse to the No.2 shaft & hoist complex. Includes a complete
roster of Q&TL RR locomotives. (JFC)
Q&TL Issue of FINELINES, May 1966, Vol.3, No.1
Short article by D.D.Trent with drawings(plans) by R.W.Browm, D.D.Trent, Al Henning,
Rev. Herman Page, E.H.Cass, Lee Klaus, and a pen & ink cover drawing by Irene Brown.
This was an early attempt to collectively put together info related to modelling the
line's equipment spurred by Frank King's January 1960 TRAINS article. (JFC)
Two articles about the Quincy & Torch Lake RR by John F. Campbell & Rev. Herman
with accurate equipment drawings by Jim Nickoll(along with a couple reprinted from the
above 1966 all Q&TL issue) (JFC)
FINELINES, January 1974, Vol.10, No.5
Drawings(plans) of the Quincy Mining Co. 1939 Russell Snow Plow that was used over the
old Q&TL RR, by Jim Nickoll.(JFC)
Quincy and Torch Lake Tilt Bottom Gondola by Stephen Polkinghorn
Plans for the Q&TL tilt rock gondola.
Quincy and Torch Lake Water Tank by P.H. Meier
Plans for the water tank that resided near the roundhouse on Quincy Hill.
HOn3 Q&TL Rock Car from a D&RGW Gondola by Leon Schaddelee
Quincy and Torch Lake Straight Braced Rock Car by John F. Campbell
Plans for Q&TL rack cars. Some of which still exist near shaft #2.
Modeling the Quincy and Torch Lake Straight Braced Rock Car by Wayne Wesolowski
Drawings(plans) of one of the ex-Arnold & Eagle Harbor rock cars
Quincy Mining Companies Concentrate Car by Wayne Wesolowski
The Quincy Mining Co. ("concentrate") Mineral Cars article also has
drawings(plans) of same by Al Brewster. This car type should be of interest to Copper
Range fans as this latter line had Mineral Cars almost identical to those owned by Quincy.
The top half of the bin area was added in 1937 under the supervision of Louis Koepel, Mill
Superintendant at that time, to handle float copper. In addition Copper Range was also
involved in moving those cars between the Quincy Reclamation Plant and their Smelter.
Quincy & Torch Lake Moguls 1 & 4 by Ed Gebhardt & Paul Meier
Plans and pictures
Quincy & Torch Lake Rock Car by Gene Deimling
This article was in the March 1975 issue of the Narrow Gauge & Shortline
Gazette(first issue of the combined FINELINES and Slim Gauge News publications). This
construction article covered one of the ex Hancock & Calumet RR "Z" braced
rock cars and included reprints of Jim Nickoll's drawings(plans) of same... which also
appeared in the November 1974 FINELINES issue. (JFC)
Quincy & Torch Lake Engine House by Charles Pomazal
The engine house on Quincy Hill near shaft #2
A Quincy & Torch Lake Turntable by Charles Pomazal
The Q&TL turntable that was behind the ore processor at Mason on Torch Lake.
Dead But Not Buried by Franklin A. King
Has some good pictures..
Q&TL Tilt Bottom Gondola by Pete Moffett
The Quincy Mine Hoist by Wayne Wesolowski
Plans for the Norberg hoist used at the Number 2 shaft
Quincy & Torch Lake Rock Car
Modeling Mines by George Conrad
Plans for the Quincy #2 Shaft
A work in progress last updated 9/14/03, brought to you by
Copyright 1997-2004 Kevin E. Musser