Lowering the stone

Once the granite blocks were hoisted from the quarry pit, they had to be moved to the sheds at the bottom of the steep hill for cutting and finishing. In the quarry’s early days, teams of horses were used to move the blocks. As the quarry slowly modernized its operations, the horses were replaced with a cable railway system that was controlled by an operator in a hoist house at the top of the incline. The cable system was used because the hill was too steep for a conventional railway.

(Left) A 1924 view of the incline at the shed | Source: Frank Goderre; (Above top) A 1928 view showing the enlarged shed. Source: New York State Library; (Above) A flat car arriving at the shed | Source: Frank Goderre

A derrick lowered the stone block onto a small railway flatcar which waited on level ground in front of the railway hoist house. The flatcar was connected by wire rope to an electric hoist engine with a large winch drum. Using a hand-lever-operated drum brake to control the speed, the hoist operator lowered the loaded flatcar down the almost 1,000-foot-long incline to the cutting shed. (In the quarry’s early years, 12 teams of horses using skids were used to transport the cut stone from the quarry to the finishing shed.) Once the flat car was unloaded, the operator pulled it back up to the top of the quarry pit using a 60-horsepower electric hoist motor with a lever-operated clutch. Return trips at up to 600 feet per minute carried boiler coal, supplies, tools — and even workers back to the top.

(Above) An illustration of a cable railway | Source: Dahl Taylor; (Right) A 1928 photograph of the incline railway operator in the hoist house at the top of the incline | Source: Milestone Heritage Consulting

Alongside the incline are several “motions,” small, short-lived quarries. Sylvan Glen Park Preserve contains scattered motions and soil pits made by workers looking for good granite. These workings reflect activities from the 1890s to the 1930s and also earlier, before the Mohegan Quarry opened.  

Read about the next step in the quarrying process: Working the Stone