Old mining drill to get spit and polish


July 21, 2011

The Haines Borough Assembly at its July 12 meeting approved a resolution to pay Dave Pahl of the Haines Hammer Museum $18,800 to restore the Keystone Driller that for years sat at Lookout Point as a tourist attraction.

Pahl said this week he is still negotiating the contract with the borough, but hopes to begin work on the driller soon.

The borough in March put out a request for proposals for an artisan craftsman to restore the driller. Pahl’s proposal was the only one submitted. The borough had said in the resolution the money for the project would come from the maintenance fund, but it was decided at the meeting that the funds for the restoration would come from cruise ship taxes.

The history of the driller is largely unknown. Pahl said it was likely used in the Chilkat Valley for mining exploration, probably at the Porcupine Mine but possibly in other locations or even in Canada. It was donated to the borough in 1983 in memory of Elroy Ninnis and Harry Elligen, but Pahl said he hasn’t been able to find out any information on the two men, any history before 1983 on the equipment or who donated the driller.

Pahl found a catalog description of the driller from 1906. The driller was made by the Keystone Driller Co. of Beaver Fall, Pa. It was powered by steam with wood fuel and drilled in an up and down motion – as opposed to a circular drill. The steam engine produced 11 horsepower. The catalog lists the driller as 20 feet long, 11 feet high and weighing 22,000 pounds when crated to ship.

"This machine was the up and coming thing in its time," Pahl said.

Pahl said he doesn’t expect to get the driller operating again, but he plans on replacing all the Douglas Fir wood that makes up the frame and clean, treat and paint the metal. He wants to replace the steam stack, steering wheel and operator’s platform. He’s also creating an interpretive sign to inform visitors of the driller’s history and purpose.

"What I want to try to do is make it look like the operator left it last month and plans on coming back to it," Pahl said.

The driller now sits on borough property on Union Street, but Pahl said he may move the equipment to his property to work on. He estimates it will take nearly 400 hours to complete the restoration.

Pahl is locally known as the founder of the Hammer Museum but also used to work as a shipwright and has experience with metal working.

He said he’s excited to work on the driller because it’s an important part of local history.

"There really isn’t much around that still shows our local history," he said. "It’s one of the oldest relics that people can see and that have a connection to the area."

Pahl encourages anyone with information on Ninnis, Elligen or the history of the driller prior to 1983 to contact him at the Hammer Museum.


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