April 16, 2012

Flume-Building, Victorian Style

Drive along Colorado 141 in the red rock country of far southwestern Colorado, and you will see what is left of the "hanging flume," originally a ten-mile long wooden trough built high on a canyon wall, part of a hydraulic-mining operation from the 1890s.

The Denver Post describes how carpenters, engineers, industrial riggers, and other volunteers have rebuilt a portion of it as a sort of experiential industrial archaeology project.
But as was done in another era, they use ropes to ease 200-pound ponderosa pine frame pieces and rough-sawn planks over a cliff face to two men balanced on bits of antique wooden braces 100 feet down the red-sandstone wall. Those men, who rappelled to their spots, fit the unwieldy pieces into what shapes up to be a 6-foot-wide and 4-foot-high wooden trough. The trough is perched on the original wooden braces that look like a long line of number 7s pinned with iron supports into the rock.
Good photos at the link.

Maybe it's just the reporter's style, but how big is the "mystery" here? It's not like we're talking about how they build the pyramids of Egypt or moved the stones for Stonehenge. This was just great-grandad's generation, albeit with hemp ropes, no portable power tools, no hard hats, and at most hobnailed boots for safety gear.

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