Moving Through Time: Transportation

“Probably no feature of mine operation is more responsible for economic results than transportation; and certainly no mine in this country had its transportation system so highly developed as at Britannia.” -- Marilyn Mullan

Transporting anything in a rugged landscape is no easy task. 

The deep water of Howe Sound worked in Britannia’s favour as people and supplies could come and go by boat. Boats were the only way to access Britannia until the rail and roads were constructed in the late 1950s.

In the Mine’s early years, residents reached the camps by hiking with boots or using snowshoes to traverse the deep snow high up at the mine. At Britannia, horses were used to haul heavy supplies, including pipeline materials and concrete for dams. 

Built in 1905, the aerial tram was the first major ore mover in Britannia and brought ore down 5 km from the mine to the Mill at Britannia Beach. It worked in conjunction with other transport methods until 1926 when it was stopped.

In 1915 the train system was built including underground, surface and incline railway to move ore. The underground rail was kept in use until the mine closed, but by 1928 the surface and incline railway were only used to move people and supplies between the Mount Sheer Townsite and Britannia Beach.

As the mine grew, it increasingly used gravity to move ore. The incline railway was replaced with underground chutes which the ore could be dropped down. Some ore was mined lower than the top of the Mill and it needed to be hoisted up and then hauled to the Mill. The Mill used gravity to transport the ore from one level to the next with chutes and slides.

Methods changed over the years – from shovels to haul trucks. With these changes the owners of the Britannia Mine were working towards one goal – to transport ore as quickly and cheaply as possible.

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