The Never Mine. Abandoned to the elements back in '85, some folks claim the old place is haunted.
Legend of the Never Mine
High above Big Thunder Creek, on the rugged slopes of Baxter's Butte, rests the Never Mine. This is old Badwater Baxter's original claim, the oldest developed mine in these wild canyons and the same rich find that started the gold boom in Thunder Mesa Country. According to legend, when Baxter first set out from Fort Wilderness in 1865, the naysayers and local know-it-alls at the fort canteen told him he'd never find anything prospecting in that weird hoodoo country. Old Baxter just grinned beneath his big mustache, slapped his burro on the rump and said, "Never say never!" And the rest, as they say, is history.
Though it was undoubtably a rich find, misfortune and strange goings-on seemed to plague the Never Mine right from the start. Mysterious cave-ins, inexplicable equipment failures, frequent accidents and more than a couple of grizzly fatalities soon gave rise to rumors that the claim was cursed or haunted. Evidence of an old Indian burial ground had been found nearby and it was commonly known that the local Ute people held the entire Mesa as sacred. It's no small wonder then that Baxter became a little addled by all the misfortune and eventually sold the claim in 1877. He drifted west to Discovery Bay where the remainder of his years and his fortune were spent experimenting with outlandish airships. The Never Mine was taken over by the Rainbow Ridge Mining Co. which was later acquired by the TMMC. By all reports, the strange happenings continued until the rich ore finally played out and the mine was abandoned in '85.
Today, the dry desert wind whistles through the timbers of the old head-frame and the mine opening has been boarded up to keep out the curious. Or perhaps, to keep something in. Rumors of hauntings persist. Some foolish mortals say that on certain nights, when clouds obscure the stars and the zephyrs howl down the canyons, strange apparitions and ghostly voices seem to emanate from the long abandoned shaft house and the dark, gaping drift of the Never Mine.
The shaft house and head frame of the Never Mine; a little less spooky when photographed outdoors in the brilliant Arizona sunshine. The crooked smoke jack is a nod to the original Rainbow Ridge Mine that helped inspire this structure.
Inspiration for the Never Mine came from several sources. The design is loosely based on the Rainbow Ridge Mine, a tiny structure that once stood above the first tunnel on Disneyland's original Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland. The overall look and weathering was inspired by scouting trips to southwestern Colorado's Red Mountain Mining District. The name, "Never Mine," is a direct reference to a bit of Imagineering humor: A signpost in the queue area for Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad points the way to several local landmarks, including Dinosaur Gap, Coyote Canyon, Busted Flats and Never Mine.
A signpost at Disneyland. 79 miles to the Never Mine? I think it's closer than that.
I began the structure with no real plan, just modeling by the seat of my pants. Generally, I wanted a small and interesting looking abandoned mine to help round out the scenery near Big Thunder Creek. I had long thought that something which looked a little spooky and haunted might be just right for this spot and a paper model mock-up of a generic abandoned mine held the space for a couple of years. Follow along with the photos and captions to see how the shaft house and head-frame for the Never Mine went together.
The tiny shaft house is a scale 8'x8' with a 24" wide catwalk on two sides. The illustration board structure was spray painted flat black.
A foamcore jig was created to keep the head-frame supports straight and true during assembly. The head-frame was built up with scale 8"x8" timbers following photos of similar structures I'd seen in Colorado.
The head-frame was glued in place to the side of the shaft house. For added visual interest, the head-frame sits an inch (4 scale feet) lower than the shaft house.
Another view. The hoist cable is black painted elastic thread.
With the shaft house and head-frame complete I can now turn my attention to the mine adit and ore dump down below. There will be a lot more on how I built those coming in a future post. For now, thanks for checking in. Comments and questions are always welcome. Adios amigos!
Click here for part II