The World Museum of Mining is just south of the Mineral Museum in Butte. It's located on
22 acres of land that is the site of the Orphan Girl mine. The purchase of a mine tour ticket includes
general admission to the museum. The main museum building has a gift shop, rock and mineral room, and various
exhibits. Most of the museum is outdoors. There are 50 exhibit buildings on site, many of them comprising
the fictional old west mining town of Hell Roarin' Gulch. After walking the streets of Hell Roarin' Gulch
head over to the mine yard for all kinds of exhibits about hard rock mining. Then comes the main
attraction - the mine tour. The tour starts in the Orphan Girl Hoist House. A tour guide leads you on
a walking tour 100 feet down into the Orphan Girl Mine. Along the way there are various pieces of hard
rock mining equipment, and your guide lectures on the Orphan Girl and hard rock mining.
I took the tour in Aug 2021.
Hell Roarin' Gulch
Hell Roarin'Gulch is a re-creation of an 1890s mining town that includes some 35 buildings. Fifteen of the buildings are historic structures that were moved to the museum, including the schoolhouse and a couple of churches. The town has some unique businesses such as an optometrist and music store, and some really interesting exhibits like the medicinal herbs pictured below.
Rock and Mineral Room
The museum has a nice collection of rocks and minerals. The majority of the speciments were collected by miner Roy Garrett and donated after after Roy passed away.
The mine yard contains 66 exhibits mostly about mining. (There are a few exceptions, like for instance Peterson's Sauerkraut Factory). The Orphan Girl headframe dominates the mine yard. It is 100 feet tall and you can climb to the top of it if you're so inclined. Mine headframes provided the support for the pulleys and cables attached to mine cages that were hoisted up and down the mine shaft. The stamp mill broke ore rocks into smaller pieces that were then sent to the smelter.
Orphan Girl Mine Tour
The Orphan Girl mine (nicknamed "Orphan Annie" and "the Girl") produced primarily silver but also some zinc and lead. Tour of the Girl begins at the hoist house. There is an orientation session during which safety procedures and rules are covered, and everyone is issued a hard hat and lamp. Next comes a tour of the hoist house with its various equipment and exhibits. The Orphan Girl hoist house contains a huge double drum hoist used to raise and lower the 2 cages 2700 feet up and down the mine shaft. There is also a large Imperial compressor that was used to power the pneumatic drills. Numerous exhibits line the walls. The tour continues out to the mine yard past more mining paraphernalia on the way to the mine entrance (no, you don't get to ride the shaft cages into the mine).
Into the Mine
The mine is entered through an inclined tunnel that gradually descends into the mine. Along the way our friendly tour guide lectured on the fine points of hard rock mining. One thing I found fascinating was the use of rock bolts and chain link mesh to stabilize tunnel walls and ceilings. The tour concludes at a shaft station 100 feet below the surface. Shaft stations are analgous to the space near elevator doors. Finally there is the walk back up out of the mine which gives you a chance to ask any last minute questions.
Source material: World Museum of Mining website and brochures and Mining History Association articles.
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