The Gravel Train

Beginning in 1948, the town experienced five years of less than peaceful nights after a rock slide at the mine resulted in a huge gaping hole underground that needed to be filled. Originally, mining operations consisted of extracting the ore and not replacing what was taken with backfill (sand and gravel). One day, a large layer of rock slid into an old mine shaft, creating a hole that stretched from the 200 foot level all the way to the 1,100 foot level.

The mine engineers were forced to come up with a creative way to solve this problem. They determined that the easiest (and least expensive) method to repair the damage would be to cut a hole from the surface, connect it to the large expanse underground, and dump truckloads of backfill into the hole until it was filled in. The mine borrowed a diamond drill from the United States and proceeded to drill a three foot hole from the surface to the 200 foot level. From there, it became an issue of getting enough backfill to fill in the hole. Normally, backfill was transported by truck from a local gravel hill to the mine and then shifted into small underground cars for use in the new stopes. However, with an operation of this magnitude, something more drastic was needed. So began the gravel train, a locomotive with numerous cars loaded with backfill. In order to get the train to the gravel hill, a new spur line was built extending from north of the river, right through High Street, and ending directly at the hill. To load the millions of square yards of needed backfill into the railway cars, a large dump shovel was used. Twenty-four hours a day for five long years the gravel train traveled back and forth between the gravel hill and the mine.

With the racket of the locomotive running day and night, sleep was a rare gift for the townspeople. Since sleep often eluded them, the residents of Levack decided to make babies. In the years from 1949 to 1954, when the gravel train was in operation, there were more births recorded than at any time either before or after this event.


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