2017 Mining History Association Tour

 

Tour of the Fairbanks Exploration Co. Shops
June 17, 2017

PHOTO GALLERY
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Fairbanks became well known for gold dredging, but operating a fleet of dredges would have been impossible without a fully equipped repair shop.  The U. S. Smelting Refining and Mining Company, parent company of its Fairbanks Exploration Company, built a machine shop in 1927 to support its dredges in the Fairbanks District.  When operations were shut down in 1964, the company simply closed the shop doors leaving everything in place.  All of the equipment, including industrial machine tools, large-scale welding equipment, and even a blacksmith shop were left in the condition they were in when they turned out the lights.  The workers clothing still hangs in the lockers.  John Reeves purchased the shops and has preserved them.  We are grateful to John for affording the MHA the opportunity to visit the shops to see a different facet of historical Alaskan gold mining operations. The site in listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is not normally open to the public.

(Above) A group photograph of the attendees at the Fairbanks MHA Conference.

 

(Above)  Paul White (right) introduces John Reeves, owner of the Dan F. Eagan Machine Shop, the original 1927 shop complex of the Fairbanks Exploration Company which operated a fleet of gold dredges in Alaska.  Reeves demonstrated several of the historic belt-driven machine tools which have been preserved in full operating condition.

 

(Right) This belt driven lathe can turn a 30 inch part.



 



 

 

 

(Above)  In addition to the metal working machine tools, the facility also contains an extensive blacksmith shop complete with its hearth, bellows, and blacksmith tools, many of which are hand-made. The shops in this centralized complex could repair or make nearly all of the tools and parts needed for the dredge fleet.  This was necessary to ensure maximum productivity because of the long delivery time for parts from the Lower 48.

Many types of mining tools can be seen lining the shop walls including steam points for thawing placer deposits (left) and miners’ hand tools (above).

Photos courtesy of Mike Kaas

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