Montana, Big Sky country.

Well our first stop in Montana was Campground St. Regis a small but very nice campground just outside, you guessed it, St. Regis.

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Our site, nicely shaded if a little dusty!!
View down the site to the Office, and the swimming pool.

We were told by our Canadian friends from Spokane we just had to go back into Idaho and visit a town called Wallace where, among other things, there was a very good Silver Mine tour.

And so it turned out, we really enjoyed the tour of the mine and the rest of the trolley bus tour gave us an orientation of Wallace.

We met our guide (an ex-miner of Swedish origin who had a very good sense of humour) and got kitted out with our hard hats.

He moved!! This was our guide.
Anne and I in appropriate attire.
And off we go into the mine.
Our guide showing core samples from the mine.
Explaining the levels of the mine and mine rescue breathing sets.
Diagram of mine levels. Mine when in production had 14 levels.
Guide demonstrating a pneumatic drill. Water is also sprayed at the face to keep the dust down.
Demonstration of a blast sequence. Luckily only lights flashed.
Child on the tour running the drag shovel.
Steel hawsers running back to drag shovel. Pneumatic powered.
Tunnel got quite tight at times.
Our guide explaining how the mine lifts worked and showing these girls how to work the lift signals.
Flooded section.
A pneumatic dump shovel . Run the digger forward, fill up the shovel, and the shovel goes up and over and deposits the ore into a cart behind. Keep you fingers out of the way!!
Core sample showing silver which is actually the black rock, white is quartz.

We then had a look around Wallace itself. It is quite an old town that has the distinction of every downtown building being on the National Register of Historic Places. This came about because when they were building I90 they planned to knock down most of Wallace for the Interstate to go through, which obviously the inhabitants thought was a bad plan. A local businessman, Harry Magnuson, sued the Road building authorities saying they hadn’t done a proper environmental impact. And he won, and as part of that process got all the downtown buildings placed on the National Register which forced them to build I90 over Wallace on a flyover!!

It also considers itself to be the “Centre of the Universe” which came about because it claimed to be the centre of the silver mining area that had mined over 1.2 billion ounces of silver in the mines surrounding it. With a population of just 784 that is a pretty big boast, but you can see the plaque if you take your life in your hands as it is in the middle of a cross roads!!

Centre (Center) of the Universe Plaque.

There is also quite an interesting museum of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Illustration of the route of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Anne modelling a dressing up hat in the Museum. For some reason this was also in the part of the museum that had a display of bordellos in Wallace, hence the other “ladies”.
Pictures showing how they moved the station building (where the museum is housed) during the building of I90
Apparently Lana Turner, the Hollywood star, was born in Wallace.
Lots of old silver mine sites around the town.
Including one that was blown up with dynamite by the miners in a gun war between the miners and the mining company! The rubble behind is all that is left.

Wallace was a very interesting place and well worth the trip if you are ever close by.

You can see why they call it “Big Sky Country”, blue skies and magnificent views.

The following day we went to a local county fair. Local people displaying their handiwork, and their livestock, plus some events in the rodeo arena. Unfortunately the rodeo itself was not on until after we left the area.

Award winning quilt.
Goat kids having fun.
Lots of pigs.
Rodeo arena set up for dog agility.
This one was very good.
This one hadn’t got a clue and was a bit large for the tunnels!!
Smokey the Bear put in an appearance but had to be taken down when the wind got up (he is already leaning!!).

And then we moved on to Indian Creek Campground, Deer Park which is just above Butte, Montana.

Rest stop and more “Big Sky”.
Blue skies everywhere.
Even the sunsets are huge!!

It never ceases to amaze me what we find on this trip of ours. Deer Lodge was chosen because it is just above Butte, Montana the site of the largest opencast copper mine in the country. But Deer Lodge itself was home to the Montana State prison Museum, a huge classic car museum and at least another 3 museums, plus the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site a completely preserved Ranch.

External granite walls and internal prison brick buildings built by prison labour in the late 1800s.
Execution of two prisoners who killed a guard trying to escape.
Main prison building.
Typical cell, block was very like Alcatraz.
Cell block at rear, shower block and canteen in foreground.

And right next door is a classic car museum with cars from very early Mercedes Benz (1886) to the classic cars of the 70’s & 80’s.

1914 Detroit Electric Car with an advertised range of 80 miles although in tests it did over 200 miles on a single charge.
1926 Chevrolet Superior Coupe
Ford Model T cabriolet, very rare.
Early air conditioning a Thermador Car Cooler. You filled it with cold water and the air was cooled as it passed through the unit into the car.
Beautifully restored green Chevrolet circa 1951. The paintwork was immaculate.
Chevrolet Impala Convertible
Another classic Chevrolet.
“Gone in 60 seconds” Mustang GT500 “Eleanor”
1965 Shelby Cobra.
Corvette Stingray.
Guess what this is?
The first jet ski!! 1958

I could put up more pictures but there are over 160 cars in immaculate condition.

And outside were two immense trains.

This massive diesel loco is nicknamed “Little Joe” as they were originally built for Russian railways after WWII, but the contract was stopped because of the Cold War, so they were converted to work on US railways but that meant a change of track width, and they did it!!
And then the “Milwaukee Road” was electrified and these were used to pull passenger trains. Funny how now the entire network out here seems to have reverted to diesel and freight only.
And when we got back to the RV there was a “Big Sky” sunset.

The following day we came back to see the other museums and the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site.

A small town exhibit.
Another house in the town.
Dentist price list (notice “Without Pain”!!)
Gun exhibit in the Western Museum.
Dolls in another museum. There were at least 20 exhibits like this.
Grant-Kours Ranch.
Ranch House
Longhorn cattle on the ranch.
Ranch cat in the Blacksmith’s shop.

All I can say is we were amazed that so much was available in a town with a total population of 3,111!!

So on to Butte, the reason we stayed in Deer lodge in the first place. We took the Trolley Bus tour.

Butte is a copper mining town established in 1864 and grew to become the largest copper mining town in the USA and at one time in the world. Incredible amounts of copper were mined using conventional techniques i.e. digging a shaft and then cutting galleries into the seam. Some of the mines were over 6,000 ft deep. In its heyday there were 19 mines (14 mine headframes are still standing) and in 1910 alone copper ore mined from the Butte mining district totalled 284,000,000 pounds (130,000 tons). It attracted miners from all over the world including Cornish miners from the tin mines hence why there are these.

We actually ate pasties in this shop and they weren’t at all bad.
Mine Headframe
And another one at the Museum of Mining.

In the 1950’s underground mining gave way to open cast mining leading to the creation of one of the largest open cast pits in the world, the Berkley Pit.

The Berkeley open cast pit, which flooded when mining ceased in 1983 and was replaced by an equally large and productive open cast pit called the Continental Pit. The water came in from the old mine shafts when pumping also ceased in 1983.
A 4,263 ft deep lake was formed, which is highly toxic and they have to scare water birds away as they will die if they ingest the water. They are gradually reducing the level by purifying the water and pumping it elsewhere as it mustn’t be allowed to seep into local aquifers and poison the drinking water. 
Lots of “old” buildings around Butte including Dumas House, a house of Prostitution opened in 1890 and wasn’t closed until 1982 even though prostitution was illegal in Butte!!
Example of a pre 1900’s house.
And another, mainly built for the mine owners. They liked their round towers!

After the trolley bus tour we visited the World Museum of Mining which included another mine tour.

Down we go into the mine.
Imagine going to work in this every day. This is a mine cage for lowering the miners into the mine. Apparently it was usual for 6 to go down but 9 to come up!! This was about 3ft square so it was a tight fit!!
Looking down the shaft to the levels below. This mine when it was in production was 2,600ft deep. Now the bottom levels are flooded.
The mine signals universally used by hoisting engineers. This one goes from 100ft to 5,000ft but we have seen them down to 6,000ft. At that depth the temperature reached 50C (122F) and ventilation was very important.
View from the top of the headframe about 100ft up. Big Sky!!
This is Our Lady of the Rockies. The statue was built by volunteers using donated materials to honour women everywhere, especially mothers. The base is 8,510 feet above sea level and 3,500 feet above the town. The statue is lit and visible at night. It was put there by helicopter and they plan to build a cable car to visit it. It looks down on Butte and I got this photo from the top of the headframe.

The Museum also had an old town section and a collection of dolls houses.

The drug store.
The Soda store.
One of the dolls houses.
And another.

As always there is so much to see and we ran out of time.

From here we moved on to Livingston Montana and Yellowstone Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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