[photos] Bodie Stamp Mill

The Bodie Stamp Mill reminded me a lot of the Badlands area in Team Fortress 2.

Here's a stitched panorama viewed from down the hill.

And closer.

The track delivered ore from the mines to the hopper above the stamps; stamp mills were built on hills to allow gravity to do much of the work. For the first decades of operation, the mill was driven by a steam engine. Early in the twentieth century, the first long distance transmission of alternating current was delivered to Bodie to run the electric motor that replaced the steam engine. Some of the hardware here, such as the step down transformer for the motor was supplied by Nikola Tesla.


Bodie has no forests, so all the wood was brought in by a railroad built especially for the purpose. The railhead didn't connect to anywhere else.

This picture shows some of the electrical equipment, in elegant decay. The giant motor on the left is slowly sinking into the building's foundations.

Here are the stamps in the stamp mill. Ore is fed in from hoppers on the floor above; it is passed under the hammers visible at the end of the ramps. The hammers were timed by tappets and cams to beat out of phase in order that a constant overall force could be maintained by the motor. The single motor drove a series of rods, pulleys and belts that ran through the entire building. The stamps beat ninety times per second, twenty four hours a day, six days a week. At its peak, there were ten stamp mills raising a cacophony in Bodie. It was said that a baby born in Bodie couldn't sleep on Sunday when the din abated.

Once the ore was crushed it rolled down the ramps where at the bottom, copper sheets were primed with mercury by workers who painted it on from buckets. The mercury bound chemically with the silver and gold in the ore, and when the mercury was fully loaded, it was scraped off into balls which were stored in the foreman's safe. Later, the mercury would be boiled off leaving solid gold and silver amalgam to be processed and separated elsewhere. The mercury was then condensed and recycled; very little mercury escaped into the environment.

After the ore was passed over the mercury, the remainder was dissolved in cyanide; gold dissolves in cyanide like butter into boiling water. Zinc was introduced to the solution because it is has a higher affinity to the cyanide than the gold or silver, which precipitated out of solution in the Merrill-Crowe process, which I went on about in a previous post.


Content by Nick Porcino (c) 1990-2011