Peering inside a shed in 2013, Copper Country resident Gerry Lamppa had no idea that his curiosity would result in a three-year restoration project. That day, while assisting his friend, Ron Whiting, with some volunteer work at the Quincy Hoist Mine in Hancock, Gerry happened to notice an old dilapidated shack with the door ajar. Looking inside, he immediately noticed what appeared to be an old railway pump car. “It was bent and twisted, and in very rough shape,” he recalls, but for the man who has had a lifelong interest in trains and history, it was a diamond in the rough.
Some investigating revealed that the four-man pump car had originally been used by mine workers to patrol the rail line that ran between Calumet and Hancock. Checking for washouts and general railway repair work, the car was readily able to be lifted off the railway by the men when an oncoming train warranted quick evacuation from the tracks.
The pump car was another historic remnant of the magnificent copper mining history of the area. The Quincy Hoist Mine, in operation from 1846 to 1945, was the most successful of the 1840s-era mines and, in 1863, was the country’s leading copper-producing mine. When the mine ceased production in 1945, the shaft number two was, at 9,260 feet, the world’s deepest shaft. After the heyday of the mining era had ceased, the Quincy Mine, along with other Copper Country mining sites remained defunct. But, in 1992, when the Keweenaw National Historic Park was established, the Quincy Mine Hoist and surrounding areas became a part of it and are now a popular tourist attraction.
After initially spotting the car, Lamppa approached the Quincy Mine Association Board of Directors with a proposal to restore the car. The Board agreed and, in the fall of 2013, the car was transported to the heated garage of Gus Haapala, one of Gerry’s neighbors. He immediately got to work on the pump car but quickly discovered that it was going to take some patience to bring the car back to life. “There were no blueprints or guide books to refer to,” he recalls. “I just had pieces, so there was a lot of, ‘measure, drill, measure again.’”
In the spring of 2016, he brought the car to a barn at his own home where he began to reassemble a working car. A true stickler for detail, Gerry states, “Anything less than perfect and I wasn’t going to be a happy camper.” But three years later, and an estimated 400 hours of painstaking restoration, he was satisfied with the outcome and recalls thinking, “Thank you, Lord.”
None of this came as surprise to Shirley, Gerry’s wife of 44 years. “He’s always loved trains.” As for his dedication to the project, she states, “He’s done a lot of things very well in his life. If he pursues it, he can do it.”
In October 2016 the car was returned to the Quincy Mine, good as new, and was met with an appreciative review. According to Whiting, “Gerry’s work is impeccable. He is known for his unique carpentry work, and he is extremely attentive to detail. The restored car truly reflects this.”
Lamppa had support and assistance with the project from Michigan Tech’s Foundry Department, Peninsula Powder Coating, and other friends who all stepped up.
To see what the restored car looks like, visit the Quincy Hoist Mine when it reopens in the Spring of 2017. For more information on the mine, visit the website at quincymine.com.