The Saratoga Sun -

The Big Tramway Is Running!

Reflections from the Grand Encampment Herald


Rudefeha, Wyo., June 9, 1903.—(Special Correspondence)

Slowly, but surely, the mighty cables pull the loaded buckets up the mountain, while the empty ones keep coming down, only to be filled in their turn and sent on their journey again.

Notwithstanding the importance of the event, there was no great celebration at Rudefeha. There were no fireworks, no shooting of guns. There was no brass band to make memorable the occasion with the blowing of horns and the beating of drums. There was no great gathering of the inhabitants to watch the first bucket, decked with flowers and bunting, climb the hill. There was no orator present to make a dedicatory speech and to thrill the audience with his eloquence as he described the significance of the event and foretold in glowing terms the future of the camp.

No, there was nothing of this sort. There was nothing extraordinary to mark the occasion. The tram had been running with empty buckets for two days before, and so on Sunday morning when it started up, there was nothing unusual in the sight except that the cables seemed to bear down a little under the weight. And as for the first bucket, we could not even make it out as it went by.

It was not decorated as we had wished it might be. It was not wrapped with canvas, as would have been appropriate, with big letters proclaiming it the first bucket of ore over the longest tramway in the world. There was nothing, so far as we could see, to distinguish it. It was marked, however, so Omaha Jack says, as you will note farther on.The night before the trammers had been dumping their cars of ore into the bins at the terminal, and in the morning all was in readiness. No crowd had gathered to witness the loading and departure of the first bucket. The only ones present were the two men who manipulated the work, L.T. Blake and J.W. Sparling, better known as “Omaha Jack.” The former took his stand on the platform beside the iron chute, with his hand on the lever, while the latter stood below, holding the monkey wrench with which he was to clasp the edge of the bucket and steady it while it was being filled.

It was at 7:45 o’clock, Sunday morning June 7, 1903, when the bell gave a sharp ring, which was the signal to start. There was a rumbling sound, and the great, long cable began to move. With a shout, “Look out, here she goes!” Blake pulled the lever and the ore went crashing into the bucket below. A moment later an empty bucket came rattling up to take its turn, the filled one was released and it started up the hill. Thus the mine was again shipping ore, and the great tramway was in operation.

When asked what sort of a ceremony they had performed that was worthy of such a momentous occasion, Omaha Jack said, “It was a sad oversight on the part of the company that they had not given us a bottle of champagne with which to christen the first bucket. We wanted to mark it in some manner and the only thing at hand was an old worn out broom. We stuck that in the bucket upside down and as it started out of the building I drank some water, (at least that’s what he said it was) to the health and success of the Encampment Tramway Company.”

Thus started the tram— with no great outward show in honor of the event, but in their hearts the people were rejoicing. For there were many among them who remembered the days of the beloved Ferris, when the place was all hustle and go. They had seen it go down after his death until but a handful of men were left. But now as they see the ore going out again and a steadily increasing force of men at work producing it, their joy is great.


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