The Vulture Mine Engines


| January/February 1995



Cylinder-head of the Western engine.

Cylinder-head of the Western engine.

3682 Millcreek Road, Salt Lake City, Utah 84109

Cylinder-head of the Western engine the intake manifold and its complex fuel metering linkages are shown. The automatic oiler sits atop the cylinder driven by a slender pushrod. The crudely-marked disk above the drum rotated past a fixed pointer to indicate rotations of the winch drum and thus the position of the cage in the mine shaft.

In the hot, dry Arizona desert about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix lies an idle precious-metals mine, the Vulture. Discovered in the 1860s by Henry Wickenberg and named for the nearby Vulture Mountains, the mine produced in excess of $200 million in gold and silver in its lifetime. The Vulture was shut down in 1942 by a government order that closed all precious-metals mines to concentrate mining efforts on strategic war-materials production. Except for a brief period when the tailings were being leached to recover trace gold, it has lain idle ever since, waiting for better times and for men to return to dig for its treasures.

But treasures besides gold and silver lay hidden in the Arizona desert at the Vulture :Mine. The guarded property still retains many of its antique engines, air compressors, and other mining machinery. Though none are operating, several are unique. The equipment ranges from a little 4' bore hit and miss to an enormous six-cylinder diesel engine built at the turn of the century. Their condition varies from near run able to frozen with rust and stripped of parts. Some are protected from the elements inside buildings while others rust away slowly, fortunately very slowly, in the dry Arizona air.

The mine property covers about 700 acres and is open to tourists who, for a small admission charge, may take a self-guided walking tour around the grounds and 1 through the old buildings. The mine itself goes down 3,000 feet on a 30 degree slope, but is closed I to tourists. The main chamber near the surface at  the mine entrance has collapsed leaving 30 to 35  miles of deeper tunnels closed and dangerous.

Mine-Head Winch Engine