Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Functionality on the Right of Way

The members of the Cobalt Historical Society are the keepers of the Heritage Silver Trail here in the Town of Cobalt and Coleman Township. Reiner and I joined the group last year and are now board members.

The role of the CHS is to preserve and promote the mining heritage of our area. That means outside the boardroom we are busy keeping the trails clean and safe, raising funds, and promoting our historic community.

The iconic headframe of the Right of Way Mine

One of our current projects is raising funds to replace the roof on the Right-of-Way mine. This site is one of the few with structures that still stand. The buildings are within a very short walk of downtown Cobalt. I think it’s fair to say that this grand old structure is one of the most photographed, and in my opinion, photogenic relics of the town’s mining history. As my neighbour Jane says,  “One can never get enough photos of The Right of Way!”

The information plaque for this heritage site reads:

The mineral rights for this location were originally owned by the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway. Following the discovery of silver at the south end of Cobalt Lake in 1903, The Right of Way Mining Company Limited was formed for the purpose of taking over and mining any veins discovered under the T. & N.O. Railway right of way through the Town of Cobalt. The company purchased those rights over a distance of 50 feet on either side of the rail line in 1906. Two shafts were immediately sunk at the north end of Cobalt Lake to explore the silver potential of the area. The No. 2 shaft was extended down to a depth of 140 feet and is located on this site.

The mine produced profitably for only two years and was shut down in 1909. As was the case with many of the mines in Cobalt, it was re-activated a number of times over the next 78 years. Between 1906 and 1935, 2,969,205 ounces of silver were produced from this property. The mine is now owned by Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited.

Another project we are involved with is the replacement of the tired and worn signage along the Heritage Silver Trail. We met yesterday to discuss funding for this work. One of the first steps is an “inventory” of the existing routes and walking trails. I hope to get more photos of Cobalt and Coleman in the coming days.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this gallery of images of the doors found at the Right-of-Way Mine. Nothing lavish here. No vaulting doorways,  no Corinthian columns, no filigree wrought-iron ornamentation. Plain, functional, and standing testament to the hard-working men and women who went before.

***   ***   ***

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by the Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

Categories: Canadiana, Photography

Tags: , , , , , ,

45 replies

  1. Well those are such interesting doors. Really great post. But in addition to the door content, you are doing such an important job in trail maintenance, I know from where I live/have lived that without trail volunteers, we’d all be limited to sidewalks and roadsides.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think too often we demolish the old to make way for the new, and every time we do that, we lose a little more of our history and our heritage.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are so right Carol. It’s a tricky balancing act that is tipped one way or another by the current need and willingness to acknowledge and defend what went before. In Cobalt there is a very strong attachment to “our” heritage.

      I put “our” in quotes because I am brand new here. But the historic aspect is what drew us here in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m smiling because you too got caught up in joining a club and immediately finding yourself on the Board 🙂
    I agree with J Walters. Trail maintenance is dedicated, hard work that is often thankless. Kudos to people like you who volunteer your efforts so people like me can enjoy them ❤

    I really like the last photo of the rock house and the headframe itself with all its ‘patches’ of different colours. Whenever I see a photo of Cobalt, that headframe is a dominating feature of the landscape.

    btw – you’ve added new terminology into my lexicon. I would have simply called that headframe a ‘tower’ for lack of a better word.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 Yeah, I know. I was thinking about you as I wrote those lines about taking on a role with the board. I am, in fact, interim President of the CHS. Filling in the space left when our dear Vivian passed away.

      Wanna know what else I found out about this mine today? Apparently, the mine also boasted a small sauna and solarium in its adjoining buildings to give miners a warm up and some vitamin D as well.

      Headframe or shaft house – studies from my mining school days are coming in handy. I actually know what people are talking about!


  4. I just love majestic old buildings – there’s a quality about them that speaks of ages past and the durability of what Humans can build when they put their minds to it. Your photos of the old building are stunning.

    It’s good to have people invested in their communities. We could do with more such pockets of folk with their boots on the ground caring about that ground. Keep up keeping Cobalt up.

    And I love your history lessons!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Peg. Cobalt has had its challenges – silver booms and busts – devastating fires and highway bypasses… tenacious is the word that springs to mind when describing the community.

      I’m glad that you like the history lessons. That’s all the permission I need to write more. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is great Maggie, keep these pictures coming. I love learning about history. Had to look twice, but that is a picnic table in your first photo!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the doors and I can see why you’re working to preserve the building. It must help tell the history of a mine, because what else would there be to see? Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! If the headframe came down, and the shaft filled with rocks as has happened on just about all the other properties, there’d be nothing to show.

      People come from all over the planet to visit the area to study geology and mining technology. For the last three years, for instance, Cobalt has hosted field trips for a mining school from the UK.

      The technology developed in Cobalt was the first effort in hard rock mining. Cobalt had the first stock exchange on the continent, the first provincial police force, the first town in Northern Ontario to have a street car system, an opera house AND a hockey team!

      Go Leafs!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Way cool! I like them all. You find the most interesting doors to share here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well those are phenomenal! I love them ALL! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, that ‘fancy’ door sure caught my eye. That and the rock house. I am so glad these are being preserved, Maggie, and that you and Reiner are part of the board to make this happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love the building, the rust (maybe especially the rust), and the doors! I am happy to know that their are people who are focused on the preservation of that wonderful, historic structure. I would explore inside and out with my camera.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Congratulations Maggie. Having the Cobalt Spirit is what truly makes keeping the history alive. I am so happy to see all yours and the members of the Cobalt Historical Society is doing with the Heritage Silver Trail.

    My father, Albert Chitaroni, is the man who is responsible for all those headframes still standing. He fought endlessly to preserve Cobalt’s mining heritage. All the headframes and mining equipment that is still in Cobalt today is because of his efforts. These mining artifacts need to remain in Cobalt. Like the saying goes, “when it is gone, it is gone forever”. He has been acknowledged for all this work time and time again. Gino Chitaroni too is the person behind the Silver Heritage Trail’s work that the tourists see at the sites, plus he was the driving force which helped Cobalt get’s its national designation as a Historic Site of Canada.

    Two years ago I campaigned against the tearing down of the Nipissing 96 and Nipissing 73 “SOS – Save the Headframes”. I do not know the status today but at least these two headframes are still standing. Just goes to show that one small voice and drive can move mountains.

    It is really good to see others see Cobalt and it’s potential like my father and brother did many years ago. Keep up the good work Maggie and the Cobalt Historical Society. Cobalt and the Heritage Silver Trail really needs you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Well worth preserving in my mind, too. My husband is a cyclist and we’re very thankful for the Rails-to-Trails and other trails and all those who contribute to them, whether time, money, or both.


    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s a building that obviously did it’s job – a lesson, if only people would take heed, that these days we waste depressingly large amounts of resources on image.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! Take the first bank that set up shop in Cobalt, for example – it was in a canvas tent – for only as long as it took to bring in a portable building (which still stands today) because no one is going to be impressed by a canvas tent.


  14. Industrial sites hold such stark beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Some great shots in this collection. I love the mix of rust and textured old wood. Wonderful post 🙂


  16. Fascinating bit of history, and wonderful set of doors for Thursday Doors. Good luck with the fundraising.

    Liked by 1 person


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