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Links to Research Sources

Here are some resources that may have historical information on the Old Ore Terminal and aerial tramway. I haven’t used all of them.

The Archives of the Big Bend/Museum of the Big Bend


Part of Sul Ross University in Alpine, TX. While I haven’t contacted them, I imagine they’ll have the most information available of any resource because they’re close to the area.

Big Bend Natural History Association

Many of the booklets and books sold at Big Bend National Park are produced by this organization, in conjunction with Big Bend National Park.

The Center for American History at UT Austin

Has a collection of the Alpine Avalanche on microfilm. That’s the only newspaper I know of that was published in the big bend area in the early 1900’s.

Friends of Big Bend National Park

The Hand Book of Texas Online

A joint project of The General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas State Historical Association. Good historical overview.

Kansas City Public Library Online

Some historical information on KSARCO, which some books say built the first, short, tramway across the Rio Grande.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Library at the state capitol.

U.S. National Archives & Records Administration, Records of the United States Customs Service

http://www.archives.gov/research_room/federal_records_guide/us_customs_service_rg036.html
Seeing as there was a customs officer assigned to the terminal, some records may still exist which would shed light on who paid the customs tax.

The Wilfred Dudley Smithers Photographic Archives at UT Austin.

Smithers was a photographer who lived in the big bend area and began taking pictures around 1916. Many of the pictures of the time period in history books are from his collection. The collection is housed in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at UT Austin. The database is in a Macintosh Filemaker Pro database, so you have to go to the library to search it.


Primary Resources

Alpine Avalanch Newspaper for Alpine, TX. Covers large portions of Brewster County and Big Bend as well, including Boquillas.

Mines and Minerals, a mining journal that seemed to be preferred by Moser. Engineering & Mining Journal would have been it's main competitor, I think. Rolled into Colliery Engineer in 1913, which was then rolled into Coal Age around 1916. Coal Age is still around.

Del Carmen Zinc Mine, February 1911, Pg. 437.

A good overview of the recently built tramway, for engineers. It looks like it was either commissioned by Leschen, the tramway manufacturer, or they worked closely with Leschen because it looks like a PR piece, to my eyes. Many of the pictures are the ones I received from the National Park Service. They said they were from 1919. Actually, they're from at least 1911. Were they publicity photos shot by Leschen, or were they shot by the Del Carmen Company?

If you only read one thing about the tramway, read this. It's the single best article on the tramway. Funny how it was never mentioned by any other author...

When I brought the volume home to read the article, I told my wife, "This is going to open a new door to finding out the story." When I read it to her, it was like exploring a new room in a house the light filled the darkness and I could finally see this one room. But, I still wanted to find the owner. It gave me a few new leads and gave me inspiration for continuing my quest for finding Carlos Moser.

Boquillas Zinc Deposits, by Carlos Moser, March 1911, Pg. 479

Moser was the president of the Del Carmen Company and the driving force behind the mine and the tramway. A fabulous first person account of why he's there. This is currently my only real connection to Moser. I happened upon it by luck. While I had pored through the Engineering Index for 1909 to 1919 in the hopes of finding an article (which is where I found the Del Carmen Zinc Mine article), I knew I could still be missing some things. So, I decided to flip through each volume. When I turned the page and found this article, I was surprised and excited, but was mainly dumbfounded by good luck.

An article written by the man I'm trying to find. What could better? How about finding a descendent or two...

Report of La Mina Boquillas del Carmen of Coahuila, Mexico: Thesis for the Degree of Engineer of Mines by J. A. Gregory June, 1908. Missouri School of Mines, M&M Historical Collection.

Probably the single best source for understanding the business of running the Puerto Rico mine I've found to date. (Update: Del Carmen Zinc Mine and Boquillas Zinc Deposits are better. For a long time, though, this was the only first person account I had.) Gregory wrote his master's degree thesis at the time the the tramway was being constructed. He makes detailed financial estimates on the value of the ore in the mine; the cost for transportation from mine to Marathon, TX; as well as the net profit the mine can be expected to make.

He's the only source I've found that discusses a "cutout" of the tramway used to load water for use in the mine and the ore terminal. He also mentions a 1900 foot "gravity cable" to transport ore from the mine entrance to valley below, but it's not clear if this was installed or he was making a recommendation. He does recommend a narrow guage rail line be installed from this point to the tramway, but I don't know if his recommendation was taken. Barring the narrow guage rail line, the ore was hauled from the mine to the tramway by way of wagons. Why wasn't the tramway built to the entrance of the Puerto Rico mine?

He also discuss the total cost of ownership advantage of using a gasoline engine to drive the tramway as opposed to a steam engine. The engine was at the Ore Terminal. Because of the presence of what looked like coal at the Ore Terminal, I believe the builders decided upon a steam engine.

Another interesting factoid: Gregory discusses using steam traction engines to haul the ore from Ore Terminal to Marathon. These are essentially tractors with a steam engine. This was also mentioned in other sources; however, it looks like the attempt was a failure and Mexican freighters were used, as was the custom.


Secondary Resources

A Most Singular Country: A History of Occupation in the Big Bend by Arthur R. Gomez. ©1990, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Brigham Young University.

A good, comprehensive history of the area written by a National Park Service historian. Gomez was kind enough to correspond with me via email and give me a pointer or two.

The Big Bend: A History of the Last Texas Frontier. by Ronnie C. Tyler. ©1975 by Nation Park Service, Department of the Interior

A good, comprehensive history of the area. Ronnie Tyler is currently the Director of the Texas State Historical Association. He was formerly the curator for the Amon Carter Museum in Ft. Worth. Amon Carter was instrumental in getting Big Bend designated as a national park. Tyler was kind enough to respond to an email of mine.

Big Bend Country: A History of Big Bend National Park by Ross A. Maxwell. ©1985 Big Bend Natural History Association, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834.

A good, comprehensive history of the area written by the first Superintendent of the Park. I've found this to be particularly readable.

The Magnificent Marathon Basin: A History of Marathon, Texas, It's People and Events by AnneJoe P. Wedin. Copyright© 1989 by the author. Nortex Press.

While a comprehensive history of Marathon, contains only tidbits of new information about the Ore Terminal. The most interesting is the discussion of the traction engines titled "Kansas City Mining Company's Adventure". The traction engines were intended to haul the ore from the Ore Terminal to Marathon. They were all built in Marathon and according to the oral history, were all failures.

However, I think the oral histories may have stopped short. According to the article Del Carmen Zinc Mine, published in March 1911, traction engines were used. In fact, there's a picture of one.

Riding the Highwire: Aerial Tramways in the American West by Robert A. Trennert. ©2001, University Press of Colorado.

Good coverage of the major tramway suppliers in the late 1800's and early 1900's along with a nice mechanical explanation of how tramways work. However, none of the examples come from Texas, they all concentrate on Colorado, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Alaska.


 

Books/Articles/Other Printed Resources About the KSARCO/ASARCO Aerial Tramway in Boquillas

Handbook of Texas Online , Texas State Historical Association

The big enchilada when it comes to a comprehensive history of Texas. Fairly detailed and very convenient. But like other sources, not too detailed when it comes to the terminal and tramway. It seems that every librarian and archivist I ran into asked me if I had checked the Hand Book. It was a ritual.

How Come It's Called That: Place Names in the Big Bend Country by Virginia Madison and Hallie Stillwell. Copyright 1958 by the Authors. University of New Mexico Press.

Hallie's the quintessential Texas cowgirl, now deceased. An interesting oral history of the Marathon and Big Bend area with some minor discussion of the KSARCO tramway, although "real" historians gripe about its inaccuracies.


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