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All aboard new tram at Quincy Mine

HANCOCK – Jim Curtis appreciates the new electric tram now in service to take visitors into the Quincy Mine for tours.

Curtis, tour guide and tram driver for the Quincy Mine Hoist Association, said the new machine is nearly silent compared to its predecessor towed by a diesel-powered tractor.

“It’s a much quieter ride for the guests,” he said. “We can talk during the ride.”

With the diesel tractor, Curtis said conversation was very difficult because of the noise the machine made.

With the diesel tram, Curtis said it was an arduous process to turn it around in the tight space of the mine tunnel, where the tours start. The new tram has two cars that are articulated in the middle. There is a steering wheel on each car, so the driver just needs to change ends to drive out.

Glenda Bierman, Quincy Mine Hoist Association manager, said the new tram has 16 batteries, which have to be recharged at the end of each day.

The idea for an electric tram began to be talked about in 2013, Bierman said. Once the QMHA decided to go ahead with the idea, funding had to be found for $116,000 project. Money came from a combination of a Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission Heritage Grant, a loan from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program and revenue from visitors to the mine.

Bierman said Prime Design of Atlantic Mine oversaw the project, which included Davis Village Solutions of Baraga, Royale Incorporated of Kearsarge and Erico Electric of Hancock.

Bierman said many visitors didn’t like the diesel tram.

“Quite often we would hear comments about the diesel smell,” she said.

To begin the tour, the tram enters a tunnel called an adit, Bierman said. At first it was a 3-foot-by-5-foot tunnel used mainly to allow water to exit the mine.

Eventually, Michigan Technological University became involved at the site using it as a classroom for its mining school.

“In the late 70s, Tech enlarged it,” she said.

Tours of the adit began in 1993, Bierman said.

“We take (visitors) almost half a mile into the tunnel,” she said.

Some of the tour takes place on foot, Bierman said, but most of it is in the tram.

The idea for the electric tram came from QMHA board member Ron Whiton, who said the tram drivers were a bit apprehensive about the new vehicle at first, but they did come to appreciate it, mostly because it’s so quiet.

“They used to have to wear hearing protection,” he said.

The electric tram has been operation for about three weeks, and Whiton said some minor additions have been made to it since it went into use, such as handle bars for passengers to hold at the entrance to each of the two cars.

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