Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Salt of the Earth Revisited

Two years ago I wrote a blog post about my great grandfather having to work in the salt mine during World War II when the able bodied miners were off fighting a war. Recently while scanning some of my grandparents pictures, I found a series of them taken from the salt mine and thought I would post a few of the more interesting ones.

Caves make me nervous and I've never really enjoyed being inside them though that hasn't stopped me. I just scramble along in the dark never really able to focus on the cave instead of being trapped in one forever. Still if opportunity arises and someday I'm standing outside of the Hutchinson Salt mine which is a tourist attraction to this day, I would jump at the chance to descend and see where my great grandfather worked for a couple years. I'm sure the experience was enough to not take his normal salesman job for granted once the war was over.

From the pictures, it appears as if the process was to saw the underneath side of the open face of the mine with a big saw which gives a smooth floor to operate upon with all the rest of the machine. They then used a jack hammering machine seen in the top photo to bust it into large "rocks" of salt. They then had a machine that swept all the chunks off the floor and conveyed them up into another conveyor cart which is what you see above. That car drove from the spur to the main shaft where the rail cars ran and dumped the salt into another conveyor that deposited them into the rail cars to be removed to the surface, see below.

At the surface the salt was dumped into various grinders to reduce it to power and processed to remove impurities. I don't know if Carey (the name back then) or Hutchinson (the current name) ever packaged and sold salt or if they just saw the raw salt in bulk quantities. From what my grandfather remembers, the salt my great grandfather sold was more industrial salts and not table salts for food. I'm sure if I ever went on the tour, I would learn much more and so I have a note to do so the next time I'm in Kansas, even if I will be nervous as heck the entire time I'm below the surface.


sage said...

Great photos--some of the equipment look like older ways of mining coal, but I am sure the salt is less dusty which would be a good thing.

Bob said...

This is great as I have never known anything about salt mining. I'm with you on caves, probably worse. If I had had to make a living underground, well, let's just say I'm glad I didn't.

Ed said...

Sage - My skin just dries out looking at those photos!

Bob - I never really considered salt mining until I learned that my great grandfather worked in one for a short time and sold the product as a career.

Kelly said...

It's one of those products I think many of us take for granted.

I've visited one cave that I can remember (during college) and found it fun and interesting (including white, eyeless fish).... but I would have NO desire to work underground on a daily basis (nor spend time in a submarine, which might even be worse!).

Wonderful photos!

Ed said...

Kelly - Now that you mention it, somewhere in my distant past I have seen white eyeless fish perhaps from a cave. There are two caves that I have explored in Arkansas but both are fairly short with one passage way so you can't really get lost. The other caves I have been in were both well lighted and with a group so I would have a hard time getting lost. They all still make me nervous as heck though!

Vince said...

I seem to remember reading that iron survives remarkably well in a salt mine, it's people that don't. I'm not sure how it works chemically speaking but I believe rust requires water or at least water vapor to form. And a salt mine is about the one place that has little or no humidity.
I wonder if those that started the mine were from southern Germany, Austria or Poland.