701 W. Lake St., Chisholm, Minnesota
When Minnesotans speak of “the range,” they aren’t referring to a string of mountains or to vast grasslands; they are talking about the Mesabi, Vermilion, and Cuyuna–some of the richest iron-ore ranges in the United States. Located in the heart of this area is a sprawling museum that rewards visitors with a vivid sense of the sheer magnitude and ruggedness of iron mining.
Fascinating exhibits of antique miners equipment, old photographs, and models of ore-processing operations are just the beginning. On the museum grounds visitors can tour a variety of heavy mining machines. One of these is a piercing machine that uses a high-velocity 5,000-degree flame to drill through rock. Dominating the area like some great mechanical dinosaur is a 1910 Atlantic steam shovel weighing 110 tons. But perhaps the awesome scale of iron mining is made clearest in a simple exhibit of ore truck tires, some 10 feet in diameter and weighing nearly three tons, each more costly than today’s average automobile.
The most moving display is a life-size underground replica of a 150-foot turn-of-the-century mine drift. Visitors descend a short stairway to enter the miners daily world, where well-worn picks and drills, electric pit-mule carts, water pumps, columns of carefully placed support timbers, and wire-covered rescue stretchers make it easy to imagine the courage and determination of these early diggers of ore.
In the museum is a diorama of railroading by world-famous naturalist and artist Francis Lee Jaques.
Open daily early May–Sept. Admission charged.