The Kimberley Underground Mining Railway will begin weekend operations on May 18, and has already done some special tours. The most recent tour group was BC Building Inspectors, who were meeting in Kimberley on Monday. Two trains took 101 conference attendees through the underground — where Bill Roberts provided the commentary and demonstration of working underground equipment — and a tour of the powerhouse, where Mick Henningson guided the tour.
The powerhouse has been the focus in recent days for the volunteers who keep the railway running.
The volunteer crew has been working on the Pelton Wheel, which drives the main compressor in the powerhouse.
When the Sullivan Mine was still operating, the huge Rand compressor was driven by this Pelton Wheel which was powered by the flow of water from the Mark Creek. Railway volunteers now have this huge 120 year old compressor running, driven by electricity instead of water power.
It was up and running last year, and according to railway personnel, a huge hit with visitors, as it is probably the only Pelton Wheel of its size still in working condition in the world.
Late last year the 2000 foot, 100-year old hemp rope began to fray and the wheel was stopped.
Volunteer John Wiggin did a lot of research and together with the rest of the shop volunteers, and came up with a new magic potion/preservative that will hopefully preserve the rope, keep it supple and allow Railway to run the Pelton Wheel for guests.
The Powerhouse was an essential part of the Sullivan Mining Operation as compressed air is safe, clean, and simple to use.
It houses D.C. generators which supplied direct power to the electric trains that were used to transport men and equipment to and from the various destinations underground and on the surface.
It also houses several different types of huge generators powered by electricity, which produced compressed air.
Compressed air was piped underground from the Powerhouse and used to power rock drills, fans and many other types of mining equipment.
The escaped air supplemented ventilation in the mine. Large fans pushed or pulled air into and through the mine to clear dust and gasses created by the mining activities.
An overhead crane, which was built and installed in 1929, travels on tracks that run the length of the Powerhouse to facilitate the installation and/or the removal of machinery. It is powered by three electric motors: one for hoisting and lowering, one for east-west travel, and one for north-south travel.
Almost all of these machines, which date back to 1912 and the 1920’s were operable until the mine closed and are a fascinating piece of mine history.
A model of the Sullivan Mine, which is housed in the Powerhouse, gives you a better sense of the huge scale of the mine and of how it was laid out.
Learn more about this unique Kimberley attraction at www.kimberleyundergroundminingrailway.ca