Our Mining Train


History of the Train at the Blackstone Mine

The Vinegar Hill Zinc Co. operated the Blackstone Mine near Shullsburg.  This mine was large, and eventually had over seven miles of underground passages.  Because the mine was spread over a large area, it became inefficient for the miners to move the ore to the shaft using their own power.  Vinegar Hill purchased a 5-ton  locomotive manufactured in 1931 by the George D. Whitcomb Company of Rochelle, Illinois. The locomotive was delivered to the mine site, but because of its weight, it could not be lowered into the mine in one piece.  It was taken apart, pieces were lowered down the shaft, and then put back together.  The locomotive ran on 20-pound rail that was twenty-four inches apart.

While working in the mine, the locomotive hauled the miners to and from the working areas in man cars that were made from old ore cars.  The majority of the shift was spent hauling ore cans full of ore to the shaft so that they could be hoisted out of the mine and emptied.  Empty ore cans came back down the shaft and were pulled back to the miners for another load.

The locomotive was used in the Blackstone Mine until the mid-1950s.  Health and safety regulations no longer permitted the use of gasoline-powered equipment in mines.  Also, by this time the Blackstone had been connected to another mine that was using an adit or tunnel to allow the use of trucks to carry the ore out of the mine.  A truck hauled the locomotive and cars out of the mine.

Purchase of the Train by Andy Banfield


Andy Banfield was born in 1912.  His father was a miner who was killed in an accident in the Bull Moose Mine in 1931.  Andy started his own business in 1930, operating construction and excavation equipment.  Because of his experience with heavy equipment, he often worked for mines in the district.

In 1960, Andy Banfield purchased the Whitcomb locomotive, along with the two man cars and rail.  He had enjoyed his days working in the mines and wanted to save the train as a reminder of those times.  Andy laid some rail at his home and ran the train for his children.

Sometime in the late 1960s, Andy began to move rail and ties to Chestnut Mountain Resort outside of Galena.  His goal was to lay rail and operate the train there as an attraction.

Purchase of the Train for the Mining Museum



In 1974, museum director Tom Hendrickson, Jr. negotiated the purchase of  the locomotive, man cars, rail and metal ties from Andy Banfield.  Funding was arranged through the Platteville Optimist Club.  After the train arrived in Platteville, it was moved to various locations so that restoration work could begin on the motor and transmission.  By the time of the dedication and opening of the Bevans Mine in July of 1976, the train was part of the outdoor displays at the museum.  Further work was carried out in the museum's train shop.

Restoration of the Train



As you can see in the photographs, there was work to be done before the locomotive was ready to run again.  The original six cylinder Waukesha engine was replaced with a six cylinder Chevrolet truck engine.  This would make future repairs easier.  The change in engines made it necessary to make changes in the clutch and accelerator mechanisms.  The cab structure was re-created using illustrations of original locomotives.

It was decided that the original man cars would not be suitable for carrying passengers at the museum.  Ore car chassis were bought from an iron mine in Bessemer, Michigan and the car bodies were built at the museum.

Laying Track


The roadbed was laid out in 1976 and track was laid through the spring of 1978.  By May of 1978, the train was ready to carry museum visitors.

Dedication day was June 6, 1978.  Since that time, over 225,000 museum visitors have ridden the mine train.

8 comments (Add your own)

1. John Taubeneck wrote:
Vinegar Zinc bought three identical Whitcomb locomotives, two in 1928 and one in 1931. You probably already have this information but here it is anyway.

#13113 8/1931 0-4-0 24” gauge Model WV
Wauk V 4x5 3 ½ Tons 18” wheels
Vinegar Hill Zinc Co, Badger Mine, Hazel Green, Wisc

Wed, March 16, 2016 @ 8:28 PM

2. Larry Oestreich wrote:
The unusual track layout was dictated by the playground for the school, in what is now the Jameson museum, being in use throughout the construction. Helping in building this great train made up for my pitiful toy train set as a kid!

Fri, March 18, 2016 @ 9:06 AM

3. wrote:
I worked there in college and have never seen the pictures of the train purchase. What a shot of nostalgia that was.

Wed, June 22, 2016 @ 6:17 PM

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