Bruce Mine Headframe Trailhead

Above are the final plans for the Bruce Mine Headframe Trailhead being constructed at the site of the Bruce Mine Headframe near Chisholm. The park is designed to showcase the history of the Bruce Mine with walking paths around the remaining concrete foundations that once held various offices, buildings, and the old sintering plant for the mine. It will also serve as a trailhead for the Mesabi Trail, a 132-mile bicycle trail that runs from Grand Rapids to Ely.

CHISHOLM — Anticipation is growing for the completion of the new Bruce Mine Headframe Trailhead for the Mesabi Trail.

The Bruce Mine headframe is located just east of Chisholm, and is visible along Highway 169, and dates back to 1925.

It was named to the national historical record in 1978, and is the last remaining headframe from the underground mining days on the Mesabi Range.

Running alongside the headframe is the Mesabi Trail — a 132-mile bicycle trail that runs from Grand Rapids to Ely, which is operated by the St. Louis and Lake Counties Regional Railroad Authority in cooperation with the Itasca County Rail Authority.

Volunteers with the Chisholm Beautification Association (CBA), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving historical landmarks, enhancing aesthetic qualities, and fostering pride in the community of Chisholm, have devoted the past nine years to the project originally introduced as Bruce Mine Park.

A couple of years ago the CBA teamed up with the St. Louis and Lake County Railroad Authority on the trailhead project. A CBA committee consisting of Ed Waters, Dave Pessenda and Roger Johnson are working with Bob Manzoline, Director of the St. Louis and Lake Counties Railroad Authority.

The CBA committee members said that early on in the project a company evaluated the headframe and identified work that needed to be completed, including a piece of metal that needed to be removed, rivets that needed replacing, a new sheave wheel to replace the one that was once at the top of the cable, new fencing, and steel and concrete work.

In 2021, the Railroad Authority was awarded $400,000 in state appropriations for the project.

“So, what we had to do is go back and include the new funding and redo the plan, which the architect has pretty much done and then it has to go to the state historical society for review,” Manzoline explained. “Hopefully, it will get approval and continue with work this spring.”

Along with improvements identified by the previous inspection, plans call for removing graffiti from the iconic headframe in order to keep its appearance as original as possible.

“We don’t plan to do any painting — we want to keepit the historic color of rusty red,” Johnson said.

Despite a busy construction season, there was much progress made at the headframe site as electrical work, lighting, grading of the road and parking lot were completed.

Curb and gutter work, paving, and additional brushing and additional signage are part of the finishing touches planned at the project site when construction resumes in the spring.

In May 2020, two ore cars were transported from Duluth to the Headframe site. This past summer construction of the road and parking lot at the construction site continued, electrical work and lighting was completed, and a concrete pad was poured with rails set atop to display the ore cars on.

“The people can see the lights at night now,” Johnson said, commenting on the view from Highway 169 near Chisholm’s east entrance.

To give visitors an idea of how the headframe once operated, a mock up is being planned to show how a metal cage was used to lower the miners underground, and how the skip was used to lower rail cars and equipment.

“We hope to mock that with a piece of metal, so the people will know exactly what happened,” Johnson said.

Pessenda noted that the idea is for the trailhead to be an educational experience as well as being a rest stop along the trail.

Future plans call for the addition of picnic tables and portable restrooms, creation of trails and an inerprepratative tour with information on the headframe, sintering plant, shop buildings and other structures at the site.

Manzoline said the goal is to have the heavy concrete work and other major construction completed at the construction site ahead of paving to avoid damaging the paved surface.

“I think the project is right where it needs to be,” Manzoline said.

The CBA has been in contact with the Chisholm All Class Reunion Committee about the possibility of having an event at the Bruce Mine Trailhead during the Chisholm High School All Class Reunion, taking place Aug. 3-7, 2022, provided the project is completed on time to allow for planning.

“We’re patiently hoping that everything comes together,” Johnson said. “We want to get it done.”

The St. Louis and Lake Counties Railroad Authority was awarded $400,000 in 2021 for the Bruce Mine Trailhead project, and a $1 million grant in 2021 from the Minnesota Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

A $9,000 donation from the Ron and Carole Gornick Fund of the Chisholm Community Foundation (CCF) jump started the project.

Since 2016 the CBA secured more than $50,000 in funding from the CCF, along with a $100,000 grant from Iron Range Resources, and various other grants and donations.

Bruce Quick of Kitzville was the first donor with a $300 contribution to the project. Quick was born in Bruce Location, and was the son of mine superintendent George Quick.

The City of Chisholm is also supportive of the project, providing in-kind services, including donating aggregate material needed for constructing the road and parking lot.


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