Tuesday, February 1, 2011  
   Volume 81 - Issue 5 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
Return to Home Page
Quote of the Week
“We need to protect and conserve the water in the area.”
- Dale Paton  
- Conservation Biologist   


Looking Back - John Kinnear

Exploring the Zinc Smelter Chimney
John Kinnear
I had long been curious about that horizontal stone structure that runs north up the hillside behind Goat Mountain Get-A-Way Bed and Breakfast on the west side of Frank. Years ago I thought it to be an old stone aqueduct that may have fed water to the old town site. I was surprised to eventually learn that it is in fact a horizontal chimney constructed in the spring of 1905 to be the flue for a zinc smelter that was built nearby that same year.
Recently I took a walk up that amazing stone and brick structure all the way to its end. It stands out remarkably well on Google Earth, as a thin white scar that measures 138 meters (453 feet) by the Google ruler. It follows the natural slope of the hillside and empties into a round stone circle that has 12 large threaded bolts sticking out of the ground around it perimeter.
It was fascinating to explore the flue and to study its construction and try to make sense of what I was finding. The large bolts cemented into the perimeter of the circle were obviously used to mount and hold what was the final vertical component of the structure, a steel chimney stack. I am told the stack was lined with brick and painted red. Must have been quite a sight.
It was a common practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the north of England to have horizontal/vertical chimneys. Smelters produce large amounts of toxic fumes and many near-horizontal chimneys were built there, often more than 3 km long. They typically terminated in a short vertical chimney in a remote location where the fumes would cause less harm.
As I wandered around the north end of the flue an unusual sight caught my eye. About 30 meters away from the vertical stack foundation a piece of railroad track was sticking out of the ground angling away from the chimney base. It stands about 3 meters high and has two figure eight fastening hooks mounted to it. The wording on the rail is: “Krupp 1888 S.N.J.” and it looks like regular heavy gauge track. Interestingly enough Friedrich Krupp built Germany’s first cast steel factory in Essen in 1811 and the company was known for its steel throughout the world. I found it amazing that a piece of Krupp rail that is 123 years old is sitting up there on the hillside like that!
It dawned on me that this rail was planted to act as an anchor for the vertical chimney and the two figure eight attachments were undoubtedly where anchor cables were connected to the rail and at the other end to the chimney. Knowing what the winds are like in Frank at times this was probably a pretty prudent move.

I figured there would need to be three more and sure enough there were, strategically placed in all four directions, all angling away from the now long gone chimney. One of the other rail anchors has the name Carnegie 1898 stamped on it. Andrew Carnegie was an immigrant from Scotland whose company's great innovation was the cheap and efficient mass production of steel rails for railroad lines. It was based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, the center of the American steel industry until the late 20th century.
Pass Powderkeg
John Kinnear photo
The Carnegie Rail - 1898
In the late 1880’s, Carnegie Steel was the largest manufacturer of pig iron, steel rails, and coke in the world. Eventually they consolidated with J.P. Morgan to form U.S. Steel and by 1900 were the biggest producer of steel in the world. Kinda neat that clues to some of the worlds steel history are kicking around on that hillside!
The horizontal tunnel itself is a marvel of stonework and where it has not collapsed it stands about six feet in diameter so I was able to walk up right inside it at times. I have seen a lot of mine stone work through the years and if decent stone was available in an area it made sense to build things like foundations and footings out of native rock.
Time has severely weathered the tunnel and given it an ancient look, as if it is of another age earlier than Pass development. Another notable feature of the tunnel is that its perimeter was finished off with three rows of thin tapered brick. Sort of a keystone lock that allowed the masons to get a nice even closure using mortar and the predictable widths of the bricks. Tapered bricks can also be found in old beehive coke oven construction.
There is not much written about the Frank zinc smelter but that intrepid historic researcher Ian McKenzie is hot on the trail and claims to have put together about 12 pages of documentation on why it was built and why it never produced even a single ingot of zinc. If you really want to dig deeper into the story Ian tells me the research will shortly be turned over to the Crowsnest Museum.
Return to Home Page

John Kinnear Archives

   Volume 81 - Issue 5 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
All information on this website is Copyright (c) 2011 Pass Herald Ltd. All rights reserved.
12925 20th Ave, Box 960, Blairmore, Alberta, Canada T0K 0E0
| passherald@shaw.ca
403.562.2248 | 403.562.8379 (FAX)