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Old Ore Terminal
at Big Bend National Park.
An enthusiast's website.
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Update - Articles on the Tramway and Mine from 1911!
  Del Carmen Zinc Mine, from Mines and Minerals, February 1911
  Boquillas Zinc Deposits, by Carlos Moser(!), March 1911
Research Questions
Quotes from Source Documents Written around 1906 to 1919
  Report of La Mina Boquillas Del Carmen of Coahuila, Mexcio, by J. A. Gregory, 1909
  Del Carmen Zinc Mine from Mines and Minerals, February 1911
  Boquillas Zinc Deposits by Carlos Moser from Mines and Minerals, March 1911
  Selections from the Alpine Avalanch
  Selections from the El Paso Herald
Quotes from History Books
  From Big Bend Country: A History of Big Bend National Park by Ross A. Maxwell.
  From A Most Singular Country: A History of Occupation in the Big Bend by Arthur R. Gomez.
  FromThe Big Bend: A History of the Last Texas Frontier by Ronnie Tyler
  From How Come It's Called That: Place Names in the Big Bend Country by Hallie Stillwell
  Citation from the Handbook of Texas Online

Through my own research and people's contributions to this website, I hope we can answer the following questions about the Old Ore Terminal and its aerial tramway. Please ask questions--and contribute answers--on the bulletin board.

Here are my questions, thoughts, and notes on the terminal and tramway, in no particular order. Notes indented and in brackets are mine.


1907 - First eyewitnees account of the tramway being built identified so far, by Farmer Jennings.
1910 - Tramway hauls first bucket of ore.
1915 - Carlos Moser dies in El Paso and is buried in the Mt. Sinai cemetary there. This ends the first chapter of the tramway, as Moser dreamed up the tramway. Presumably, the International Mining Company buys the tramway as a result, but this till remains to be documented.
1916 - May 5. Glenn Springs Raid. Eight employees of the International Mining Company are kidnapped at the Puerto Rico Mine by the Glenn Springs Raiders.
1916 - May 9. Ore terminal attacked by Mexican raiders.
1919 - The tramway is shut down, presumably by the International Mining Company because of the drop in silver prices after the end of WWI.


Update - Articles on the Tramway and Mine from 1911!

These are the two most important articles about the mine and tramway that I've found, so far.

Del Carmen Zinc Mine, from Mines and Minerals, February 1911, Pg. 437. A great overview of the tramway. It looks like it was written as PR piece to target engineers.

Pg. 1 Pg.2 Pg.3
click on page

Boquillas Zinc Deposits, from Mines and Minerals, by Carlos Moser, March 1911, Pg. 479. Written by the man himself! Describes why he's at the mine. This is a find!

Pg. 1 Pg.2
click on page


Research Questions

We know it as the Old Ore Terminal? What was it known as in its own time?

A: Farmer Jennings (see below), refers to it as the "Cable Terminal." Other accounts, such as the El Paso Herald, refer to it as the "Ore Termina."

Who were the Houston and San Antonio businessmen that raised the $100,000 to build the terminal?

A: Some were part of the Jennings Family in central Texas (see below). Still looking for information on the others.

Who was Farmer Jennings from San Antonio , the person the investors hired to build the Ore Terminal and the Ore Road ?

A: Farmer Jennings was a rancher hired to build the road from the cable terminal to Marathon. Then, he was stationed in Marathon to make sure the supplies arriving on the railway made it down to the cable engineer. He left to return to ranching before the tramway started operating. The same time tramway was closing down in 1919, Jennings was the Secretary of the Old Trail Driver's Association. His father, Robert Jackson Jennings, was well known trail driver in Texas.

The History books seem confused about the dates of operation. (Eg: some say it stopped operating in 1916, others say 1919.) What were the exact dates of operation? How long did it take to build?

A: It took about three years to build, from 1907 to 1910. Not sure about the exact starting date. Carlos Moser ran the mines from conception to his death in 1915. The International Mining Company, lead by F. C. Morehouse, ran the mine and tramway until they closed it down in 1919, presumbly because the price of silver dropped.

What was the relationship between between this Ore Terminal and ASARCO, if any?

A: While there doesn't seem to be a formal relationship, there's a possibility there was an informal one between Carlos Moser and people from ASARCO. Is it coincidence that when the Guggenheims consolidated all their smelter operations, closing down the Boquillas smelter in the process, that Moser appears on the scene in Boquillas?

Where, exactly is the old Puerto Rico mine?

Are there ruins on the Mexican side of the river, such as the embarkation terminal? Where?

Are there any personal accounts (diaries, interviews, etc) of building or working the terminal?

There are hints that the mine was closed from time to time. Was this because of Pancho Villa?

A: Eight employees of the International Mining Company were kidnapped by the Glenn Springs raiders the night before they made their raid in May, 1916.. There is some debate amongst historians whether or not the raiders were affiliated with Pancho Villa. The leader of the raid, Lt. Colonol Natividad Alvarez, said he was just a bandit when he got caught and it seems like every historian took him at his word. However, according to an account in the May 9, 1916 El Paso Herald, Nick Postrius, who was one of the men captured at the mine, said he heard a Mexican tell Dr. Powers (the mine's physician and fellow captive), "You have been looking for Pancho Villa, now we will show him to you at Laguna."

Did the people who packed up the Ore Terminal in 1919 think that they'd be back, or was this closure for good?

How was the cable line powered? Steam engine? Where are the remains of the engine in the ruins? If they're not there, this suggest the team that closed it down in 1919 did so for good.

It looks to me that there is less wood at the ruins than their should be. Is some wood buried? Was some wood taken for fuel or building supplies by area residents? Are there remnants on the Mexican side?

Where are the buckets, there are only a few on the trail and only one at the terminal. Where are the "trucks", the wheel's that attached the buckets to the cable? Were the buckets and trucks salvaged for scrap?

At the terminal, there's a bucket in field of black stone. Is this coal? What drove the wheels that pulled the cable? If it was a steam engine, then coal makes sense. If it's fuel, they could have received from the Southern Pacific railway in Marathon and shipped via the same mule trains that hauled ore.


- When did the terminal begin operations 1914? 1916? Is the two year discrepency attributable to a two year building time? Or, was it 1909? 1910?

- According to Tyler, Pg. 138, the tramway took ore from Corte Madera Mine in Mexico. Maxwell says it was the Puerto Rico mine. According to the Alpine Avalanch, it's the Del Carmen mine. Are these the different names for the same mine? Or are they different mines?

- The "K" in KSARCO stood for "Kansas City". The Guggenheims folded KSARCO (and many other companies) into ASARCO. By the time the tramway was built (around 1910), it sounds like ASARCO was winding down it's involvement in Boquillas, if not completely pulled out. According to The Magnificent Marathon Basin, the Kansas City Mining Company built the traction engines that were supposed to haul ore. Was this the same company as KSARCO/ASARCO? If so, was this their only involvement in the Ore Terminal?


- There was a customs inspector assigned to the terminal. His name was Rutledge. Who was he? Where did he go after the terminal closed?

- Big Bend has a Graphic Documentation of Ruins project. Maybe they have information.

- J. A. Gregory wrote his master's thesis on the Puerto Rico mine and discusses the tramway at length. This was at the time the tramway was being built. Who was he? Did he return to work at the mine?

Quotes from Source Documents

Here are pertinent quotes from many of the sources I've come across. The point is to provide you a comprehensive view of the history of the Ore Terminal and the Aerial Tramway. I see the history through these documents as fairly confused, which I find strange, seeing as this was a big operation. That's what's fascinated me about the terminal and tramway; the history of it should be something that's easy to obtain, but it remains elusive. Why?

Update: Two reports from Mines and Minerals from 1911. The first identifies the tramway manufacture, A. Leschen & Co. from St. Louis (finally!). And then, the piece de resistance...and article by Carlos Moser himself. Finally, the story is getting filled in.

Report of La Mina Boquillas Del Carmen of Coahuila, Mexcio, by J. A. Gregory, 1909

The following is probably the most extraordinary document I was able to find concerning the Aerial Tramway and the Puerto Rico Mine. It's a master's degree thesis by J. A. Gregory from the University of Missouri School of Mines in Rolla, MO. It provides some historical background, analyzes the condition and ore potential of the Puerto Rico Mine, calculates the costs for mining the ore and transporting it over the tramway, and calculates net profit. It mentions the aerial tramway, which was being surveyed at the time Gregory visited Boquillas, so that places hime there in 1906, or 1907.

The following is an excerpt from Gregory's thesis. It was published prior to 1923, which makes it part of the public domain. If you believe you own the copyright to this, please contact me at "webmaster at joelandkaren.com."

"The several denouncements embracing the group known as the Boquillas Del Carmen Mines are located in the western foothills of the Boquillas del Carmen range, and about eight miles in an air line, east of the small town of Boquillas, just across the Rio Grande River and in the state of Coahuila. The post-office address is Minas Boquillas del Carmen, Boquillas Coahuila, Mexico.

"The mines were originally exploited for their lead silver values by the Mexican owners at what is reported as large profit, but were subsequently taken over on a fourteen-year lease by the Kansas City Smelting Co. This lease was forfeited after running six years or until 1900, owing to what apparently proved an excessive royalty (33.33% of the gross output). Reverting to the owners, various properties in the group were gradually allowed to lapse until only on the Puerto Rico, which is by far the most important and valuable, were taxes being paid in Spetember, 1906 when the present operator negotiaited a five-year lease. Since then he has had dencounced in his own name properties adjoining this on both sides following the main outcrop of the Puerto Rico.

"A list of these properties and their areas follows:

"Vencedora....................29.69 pertencencias
2d Vencedora............... 6.00
3d Vencedora................16.98
2d Zaragoza................... 2.00
El Tigre...........................15.00
Boquillas del Carmen....51.16

"These, with the Puerto Rico, 18 pertencencias give a total area of 179.68 pertencencias."


"The mine at present has two oulets.

"There is an old wagon road on which thousands of dollars must have been originally spent, but which is now fallen into disuse, winding around the maintains for some fifteen miles before reaching Boquillas Mexico, crossing the Rio Grande it is an easy nine-mile drive on to Boquillas, Brewster Co., Texas before nightfall the same day. Thence over slightly rising country for two days stage drive north ninety to marathon, a town on the Southern Pacific between El Paso and San Antonio.

"The second outlet is by means of a good road south. Three cars of lead ore have been marketed recently by means of this road, which is in regular use by the district freighters; it is a distance of 225 miles to Quatro Cienegas where railroadconnections are made."


"By means of three chutes and cars and tram now installed in different levels, ore can be delivered to the lowest or Puerto Rico tunnel and then trammed out by mine cars and dumped into the bins of the upper terminal or the aerial mine tram. There is also a fine patio at this entrance which will serve for hand picking and will hold several hundred tons of ore in case of emergency. This gravity cable is a 1900-ft. jig backwith two buckets of 10 cubic feet capacity each, requiring four minutes for a round trip, one man to operate, and costing $2,500.00 and $1,000.00 additional to install. It has a capacity of 75 tons per ten-hour shift.

"At the lower terminal there is a 70-ton bin, besides an immense new patio on which can be stored 5,000 tons of ore.

From this lower terminal a wagon road five miles long and costing $1,100.00 has been constructed for hauling ore over to the upper end of the main aerial tram for which a survey and estimate have been made, and whose towers are now being erected. This tram has an upper terminal elevation, 3,280 feet, drops to the Rio Grande, an elevation of 1,968 feet crosses it more than a mile below Boquillas then rises to the American terminal, an elevation of 2,706 feet. This gives a total drop of five hundred and seventy four feet in a total cable length of 29,300 feet, 2/3 of which is on the Mexican side of the river.
There is one intermediate loading station on the Mexican side where a cutout is to be installed for transportation of spring water by means of detachable buckets. This cable has a capacity of 75 tons per 12-hour shift. Its actual cost is $24,000 and freight and installation together with a 26-h.p. gas producer engine to insure power sufficient to tram return supplies and water to mine will bring total cost to $40,000.000.


Custom houses have been established at either end of the terminal by the respective governments to look after ore duties, supplies, etc.

From the American end of the cable it is proposed to use steam or gasoline traction engines and haul the ore to Marathon. From all information I can obtain, gasoline engines which have a greater first cost, but would undoubtedly prove a great saving of time and fuel if feasable, have never proved a continued success in hauling such heavy loads.

Steam traction engines capable of hauling fifty tons in one train of five small cars can be obtained. These engines are guaranteed to have a speed of 2-1/2 miles per hour on level ground which is firm, that is, ground which will pack and leave a track under an ordinary wagon wheel. 40-h.p. engine with a single back wheel base extedned to 40" can be bought F.O.B. Marathon, for $2,800.00--ore cars would cost about $350.00 each. Coal is figured at an expense of 8 pounds per h.p. per hour or 320 pounds per hour. At a cost of $5,000.00 it is proposed to repair and shorten the present route so that the total distance from the terminal to Marathon will be 81 miles. Figuring a speed of two miles per hour this would take 40 hours and allowing for stops, changes of crews, etc., 50 hours is a liberal allowance in figuring coal cost.

320 x 50 = 16,000 pounds or 8 tons.
The return triop can be made for about half the power.
160 x 60 = 8,000 pounds or 4 tons, or a total of 12 tons per round trip per engine, at $5.00 per ton, is $60.00.

An engineer and fireman would be required at an expense of $4.00 and $1.00 respectively per shift; for eight shifts would be $54.00 per trip per engine.

A mechanic to overhaul and repair all engines would also be required, then loading, oil and waste are to be considered and an allowance of $16.00 per engine per trip would about cover this;

Or a total of $120.00 per trip per engine or per 50 tons of ore. This is $2.40 per ton.

Eight engines and 35 cars costing $35,000 would about correspond to the proposed 75 tons daily mine extraction. including a platform for loading at Marathon and tanks, buildings, etc., along road $85,000.00 is required for transportation, equipment, and road improvement.

Mine tools, supplies, etc., are all in readiness. Hauling from the mine cable to the long cable can be arranged for at no additional expense, by contracting with the Mexican freighters. Six Mule-teams can average three tons a day at contract price of not over $1.10 at ton. A narrow gauge would probably save money here in the long run. Summing up these costs results as follows:

Transporting over mine cable....................0.05
Hauling to long tram....................................1.10
Transporting over long cable......................0.50
By steam traction engines to marathon
and including loading..................................2.50
Administration including custom officials..0.75

Boiler scale if allowed to depost, as is almost sure to be the case with this water, will increase this estimate, but a fair estimate of all necessary expenses would be $6.00 per ton.

Superintendent's house consisting of two bed rooms, office, dining room, and kitchen, is in every respect satisifactory; additional houses for living quarters, company store, and supplies valued at $2,500.00 tool house, assay and chemical laboratory, blacksmith's shop, carpenter shop, machine shop, water tanks, etc., are worth $12,000.00.

Mules, horses wagons, $3,000.00.

Additional expenses including operating, developing, repairing, road building, bring present expenditures to $35,000.00.

There are at present ready to be mined without additional development:

In Chimney.............................................11,500 tons
In sheet deposit.....................................24,000 "
In dumps and refilled waste.................. 2,000 "
Total.......................................................37,500 tons

Allowing for Sundays and Mexican holidays it would require nearly two years to mine this quantity of ore at the proposed rate of 75 tons per day.

Figuring from a quoted value of $20.00 per metric ton for 40% ore, a 6-ct. variation for each 1-ct. variation from $5.00 St. Louis spelter, and $1.10 for each percent difference in grade, this ore would be worth $17.60 F.O.B. Marathon. (Spelter $4.60, April 6, 1908).

37,500 x $17,60 = .........................................$660,000.00

Less expenses of:
Mining 37,500 x $6.00 = $225,000.00
Present incurred epxense,
development, etc. 35,000.00
Proposed for transporta-
Net Profit............ $315,000.00


Signature of

James Asa Gregory Jr.


From Alpine Avalanch

Here are some citations pertinent to the Old Ore Terminal.

October 14, 1909. Pg 2: "Custom Officer Rutledge and wife returned home from a visit to San Antonio."

Feb. 10, 1910. Pg 3: "Parties from Boquillas write the Avalanche that arrangements have been perfected for the immediate movement of ore to the Southern Pacific station at Marathon. On the dump at the mine, it is said, there are 250 tons of lead bearing zinc, which will be put across in baskets on a cable six miles long and transported to Marathon in cars handled by traction engines."

[Did the traction engines ever work?]

March 17, 1910. Pg 3: "Custom officer, Rutledge, has moved to the terminal of the cable which brings the ore from the del Carmen mine eight miles over in Mexico. The cable works very successfully and the ore is being dumped in large quantities and will be transported to Marathon by means of electric engines which will be in operation in a few days."

March 31, 1910. Pg. 4: "Hauling Ore to Marathon. The Del Carmen Company this week shipped two cars of zinc ore to the Bartlesville, Oklahoma, smelter, this being the first of a 30,000 ton contract. The ore was hauled in from the cable station by [mule] teams and this mode of transportation will be kept up until the electric cars are put on the road. The Texas Motor & Transportation Company is now building their cars for this service. Marathon Eagle."


From the El Paso Herald

May 8, 1916. Pg. 4. President of Boquillas Mine is Hurrying Here. F.C. Morehouse, president and general manager of the International Mining Company, will arrive in El Paso tonight and leave at once for the mines at Boquillas. Mr. and Mrs. Morehouse were in St. Louis on business and left immediately upon receipt of a telegram from his agent, John P. Denny, at Marathon, giving an account of the raid at Glenn Springs and Boquillas.

May 8, 1916, Pg. 4. "Boquillas is 92 miles south of Marathon and the International Mining company operates a string of wagons south to that point for the ores from its mines, which are seven miles in the interior of Mexico from Boquillas. The ores from the mines are hauled by motor trucks from the mine to a tramway which is 6 1/2 miles long, and brought by this tramway across the river to the Texas side, where the wagons get the ore and haul them into Marathon for shipment by rail."

May 9, 1916. Pg. Boquillas Raid...:Overpower Three of Their Captors; Are Now Holding Them in Texas. Four Others Not Yet Heard From. Col. Sibley's Command Is Making 40 Mile March Toward the Border. Marathon, Texas May 9 -- Overpowering their guards, the eight Americans, seven of whom were employees of the Puerto Rico de Boquillas mines, 7 miles south of Boquillas, Texas, in Mexico, captured by a body of Villistas last Saturday, made their escape and are today on American Soil.

Dr. Homer Powers, of San Angelo, was among those who made his escape. News of the escape was brought here today by Carl Halter, the min superintendent, who also said that J. Deemer, the Boquillas storekeeper, and Monroe Payne, a negro, were still prisoners of the Mexicans. Halter did not believe that either had been killed.

The party of Americans who made their escape consisted of Carl Halter, mine superintendent; R.R. Hasbrouck, assayer; Dr. Homer Powers, of San Angelo; W. T. Butler, Nick Postrius, N.R. McKnight, George Scott and Austan Swayze.

NATIVIDAD ALVARES LED RAIDERS. "A body of a doze Mexicans," said Halter, "came to the mine Saturday morning, brining with them two of our truck drivers. They robbed me of my watch and sacked the house and then ordered us into a truck, which they loaded with oil and gasoline. The bandits, led by Col. Natividad Alvarez, who was a Villista, treated us courteously, saying they were going to take us to Torreon, but would send us back in a month.

ROBBED DEEMERS STORE. "We started toward Ocampo, but returned to Deemer's store to take on supplies. We then moved on to a water hole and stayed there until Sunday morning. I reckon we made about 18 miles that day, but the truck go into trouble and we worked on it Sunday night, when we went to sleep under the truck.

"A Mexican was sent forward to get some mules form a wagon, which had been seized. Monday morning other Mexicans went forward, leaving only three men to guard us.

BRING CAPTORS BACK "We then determined to escape and, while the bandits were pushing on the truck, we jumped them from behind, jerked their guns from their pockets and made the Mexicans prisoners. We then walked 12 miles across country to save distance and turned the prisoners over to sheriff Walton at Boquillas. One man will be brought here soon."

Halter said that Deemer was undoubtedly being held for ransom.


WE'LL SHOW YOU VILLA Nick Postrius, who was captured but escaped, was brought here on a motor car by Lloyd Wade, a rancher. Postrius says that the bandits declared they were hunting for "gringoes, ammunition and guns," and that he heard one Mexican say to Dr. Powers, "You have been looking for Pancho Villa, now we will show him to you at Laguna."

"I wa working at the tramway one the Mexican side of the river, " said Postrius, "when a dozen Mexicans rode up with the men they had taken at the mine and on the roadway.

"The Mexicans lined us all up and left an armed guard while the hunted around for more gringoes, they said. The bandits siezed two truck drivers and Dr. Powers on the road.

HOW POSTRIUS ESCAPED "While the MExicans were hunting around I walked leisurely down to the tramway and hid under the feed floor. If I had run I would have attracted the attention of the guard and I would have been shot. Then the took one man away. This was Saturday after noon about 2 o'clock."

POSSE INTENDED TO SEEK DOCTOR. Dr. Homer Powers was visiting the home of J. Deemer, the storekeeper, near Boquillas, who is believed to e dead. Dr. Powers came from San Angelo, Texas, and a posse of nine men came in here from Spofford today with the intention of going into Mexico in search of the captive physician.


May 12, 1916, Pg. 1. Raiders Attack Near Boquillas; Are Repulsed. Marathon, Texas, May 12 -- Civilians and soldiers four miles north of Boquillas were attacked Wednesday night by Mexican raiders who fled after a short skirmish. The attack was delivered at an ore terminal station and behind Maj. Longhorne's column which up to that time had not entered Mexico.

May 23, 1916. Pg. 1. Bandits Infest Big Bend Region: Mining Man Says Protection Against Raids Inadequate; Rob at Will. R.R. Hasbrouck, the mining engineer and assayer of the Puerto Rico mine of the International Mining Company at Boquillas, Coahuila, who was captured, with six other Americans, and carried captive for a distance into Mexico by the bandits who raided the Boquillas and Glenn Springs districts on the Big Bend country two weeks ago, arrived in El Paso Monday night and probably will return to his ranch near Ysleta, in the El Paso valley. Mr Hasbrouck was one of the men who turned the tables on the bandits on the road south of Boquillas, made three of them prisoners and brought them to sheriff Walton at Boquillas. hasbrouck says that was "only a simple matter." He has been acting as a guide for Maj. Geo. T. Langhorne, commanding the flying cavalry column into the Cerro Blanco District.

The entire Big Bend region, a sort of no man's land, is infested with bandits on the Mexican side, according to Hasbrouck's statements. Headquarter for many o f them seems to be on the Castillon ranch, near Cerro Blanco, Coahuila. There has been no adequate protection from their raids and small and large bands of them roam the country at will, robbing everyone they chance upon. The group that raided Glenn Springs and the Boquillas mine and the Carrancista customs collector's office were headed by Rodrigo Dominiquez and Natividad Alvarez, who said they came from the Laguna district near Torreon. They say the are just bandits, and have no military status.

Mr. Hasbrouck says that superintendent Carl P. Halter, who led his men in the escape from the bandits, remains at the Puerto Rico mine, but that operations have been suspended there. George Butler, one of the Boquillas men, is in El Paso. Austin Swasey, machinist, J. McKnight, truck driver, and a boy named Scott, of San Antonio, are understood to be at the mine.

Quotes from History Books

From Big Bend Country: A History of Big Bend National Park by Ross A. Maxwell.

PP 28-29: "There were as many as 250 wagons hauling supplies to the Puerto Rico Mine and back hauling ore to the smelter. Following the cessation of ore importation by aerial tramway during 1919, the activities at Boquillas, Texas waned...

[OK, now we know that Boquillas was wholly dependent on the mine(s) that fed the tramway during this time period.]

"...When the aerial tramway began operating during 1916, a branch from the Old ore Road, beginning near the north end of Cuesta Carlotta, extended southward to the aerial tramway terminal.

[Why 1916? According to the Alpine Avalanch, it began operating in 1910. Why the discrepency?]

"The ore wagons were drawn by burro and mule teams to Marathon. From there the ore was shipped for processing, most of it to smelters at Picher, Oklahoma. Steam engines with flat-rimmed, smooth-tread iron wheels were tried unsuccessfully for hauling the ore...In addition, the smooth wheels on the steam engines did not provide the traction necessary for ascending steep inclines. Only one of the engines that departed from Marathon on the ore haul returned successfully with its load." [This probably happened sometime after March, 1910. See Alpine Avalanch, below.]

[This is the only account that talks about ore shipping to Picher, OK. Others discuss shipping the ore to the ASARCO smelter in El Paso. Seems to me that the owners would ship the ore to anyone that paid them, so multiple citations make sense to me.

This is also the only account that discusses a successful ore haul using a traction engine. The account in the Magnificent Marathon Basin implies there were no successful ore hauls using traction engines and that the prototypes were strewn around the countryside.]

The book also has a nice photo of terminal in operation, with three men in view. Pg. 29.

From A Most Singular Country: A History of Occupation in the Big Bend by Arthur R. Gomez.

Good history. The mining district near Boquillas was discovered in the Sierra Del Carmens in the 1890's and was known as the La Mina de la Fronteriza (pg. 115.) In 1897, KSARCO bought the land at the current Barker Lodge and built a cable tramway (pg. 116). This is the tramway mentioned in How Come It's Called That.

Here's the most interesting quotes, from pp.117-119: "In 1914, a group of San Antonio and Houston businessmen hoping to make good their claims in Texas lead and zinc production, renewed interest in the Boquillas mining district. Their plans focused on the Puerto Rico Mining Company, a promising Mexican-owned operation near Boquillas del Carmen.

"While Mexican engineers supervised the actual mining, the Americans designed an expensive and complicated plan for processing the ore. ASARCO's closure of the small smelting plant in Boquillas in 1911 made its El Paso facility the only one in West Texas. This required that ore produced in Mexico be transported across the Rio Grande and hauled by wagon train to Marathon, where it was loaded on Southern Pacific cars and shipped to its final destination.

[This implies the tramway was built for the sole purpose of ASARCO. But was it? J.A. Gregory's master's thesis implies that KSARCO/ASARCO rented the mines in Boquillas, Mexico, but pulled out in 1900 because the rents were too high.]

"To accomplish this task, the Texas investors built a second cable tram a few miles downstream from KSARCO's earlier model. A more elaborate undertaking, this tram spanned six miles of desert terrain including the Rio Grande. The designers placed the American terminus near La Noria, a small community located along the southern extreme of Tornillo Creek. This way local residents would supply the wagons needed to freight the ore to Marathon. While contracting Mexican teamsters was not a problem, the success of the undertaking demanded that a road be built from La Noria to the Boquillas-Marathon highway (probably the Old Ore Road). The Texas businesssmen hired Farmer Jennings of San Antonio to supervise both construction of the road and the tram. The latter demanded a great deal of engineering know-how as well as plenty of muscle. The design of the aerial tramway called for a line of 75-foot towers spaced at close intervals. The towers, made of timber, supportred a 3/4-inch steel cable extending the entire distance from the terminal to the mine and back. The tram carried ninety iron buckets, each capable of transporting ore at the rate of 7.5 tons per hour. Built at an astounding cost of $100,000, the cable tramway experienced short-lived success because the Puerto Rico Mine remained opened until shortly before the end of World War I."

From The Big Bend: A History of the Last Texas Frontier by Ronnie Tyler

Pg. 138: " Some of the more interesting artifacts in the Big Bend - remains of old wooden towers and pieces of cable and ore buckets - owe their existence to the Corte Madera Mine in Mexico near Boquillas. The editor of the Alpine Avalanch reported in February 1910 that 250 tons of lead and zinc ore were to be transported across the river on a 6-mile-long cable, then shipped to the Southern Pacific station at Marathon in cars pulled by traction engines. The cable tramway was an ingenious device to avoid hauling the ore over rought terrain and floating it across the river. The tramway's 90 ore buckets and 15 water buckets could carry 7 1/2 tons of ore an hour. The mines, offices, and living quarters were in Mexico; the terminal was in Ernst Valley, on the American side. Today, the ruins of the tramway can still be seen by hiking along the Ore Terminal Trail."

[This is the only mention I've found concerning the Corte Madera Mine. J. A. Gregory doesn't mention it and he gives what seems to me a comprehensive listing of the mines in the Boquillas area. What's up?]

Pg. 221: "Ore Tramway Line Visible just off the Boquillas Canyon spur road, the tramway line and terminal were used near the turn of the century to transport ore from the Del Carmen silver and lead mine in Mexico, across the Rio Grande, to the terminal on the American side. The mine was closed about 1906."

[OK, but the Alpine Avalanche mentions the tramway and the Del Carmen Company in 1910. What's going on here? Could this be the KSARCO tramway that simply crossed the Rio Grande at Boquillas?"]

From How Come It's Called That: Place Names in the Big Bend Country by Hallie Stillwell

Pg. 45. "D.E. Lindsey brought in a wagonload of supplies from San Antonio to stock the trading post which he established at Boquillas, Texas in 1894. His first customer was a Mexican woman from "el otro lado," who had to be carried across the Rio Grande by two Mexicans on account of high water. However, water in the Rio Grande was not always too high to cross and the cable bucket that was used on a cable from the silver mines in Mexico was handy for human transportation, so the trading post flourished."

[This is just about the only mention I've been able to find about the KSARCO tramway.]

"...The Lindsey's stayed on for a time and then moved to San Antonio to bring up their family."

[Maybe the family is still in San Antonio. An oral history would be cool.]

Handbook of Texas Online

"Also in 1911 ASARCO closed the Boquillas smelter...In 1914 a group of San Antonio and Houston businessmen renewed interest in the Boquillas mining district. The Mexican-owned Puerto Rico Mining Company was operating in the Sierra del Carmen, but the closing of the Boquillas smelter meant that the ore had to be shipped to Marathon and carried by railroad to the ASARCO smelter in El Paso, the only such facility in West Texas. The Texas investors built a second and more elaborate cable tramway across the Rio Grande, a few miles downstream from the old KSARCO tram. This new tramway terminated at La Noria and necessitated the construction of a road from that village to the Boquillas-Marathon highway. The tramway was briefly successful, but the Puerto Rico mine closed before the end of World War I."

[This implies that the tramway was built around 1914. According to a phone call with a National Park Service ranger from Big Bend, Mary Kay Manning, the tramway and terminal was sold in 1916 (I still haven't found documentation to confirm this). Still, the selling of the tramway could be what the handbook mistakenly took for the building of the tramway.]


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