June 2001

Randsburg  California has to be one of the most “written about” desert towns along with it’s famous mine, the Yellow Aster, in our great desert areas of the American West.  Having said that, I have to remember that we are  are on the world wide web, and there are undoubtedly a lot of people out there that have never heard of it.


Accessed from either Los Angeles via Lancaster and hiway 14, or  North out of San Bernardino via hiway 395, you are skirting the Mojave (pronounced: Mo hah vee) Desert.


I’ll leave all the details of the Randsburg area to the many books devoted to the subject. My only comment is that the area became saturated with mines; gold, silver, and tungsten.  Larry and I are members of a local prospecting club which had surface or placer rights in the Randsburg area  and we also were able to go into the immense Glory Hole of the Yellow Aster and hear a lecture  by our own Geologist as to the structure of the mine.  I remember and was duly impressed to learn that three faults met in the Yellow Aster’s Glory Hole. 


The first two photographs were taken on the backside of the mine to give some idea of  the rugged terrain.  Later we rode our motorcycles to the top, got off and looked over into the Glory Hole. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise!


That was back in the 1968.  Larry tells me it is now an open-pit mine and that I would hardly recognize it. 


The town of Randsburg hasn’t changed too much after 1968, but prior to that the town had suffered disastrous fires due to lack of water, very dry winds, and the wooden buildings built without space between them.   Some fires were set in the mines during a period of union troubles.


One of the photographs, taken from the street show an abandoned mine with just a skeleton of wood keeping the buildings standing.  Walking around the main part of the town one could see a lot of such sights.


While there we walked down to the small museum and I photographed the small stamp mill on display.  It always amazes me to see how much “equipment” was made of wood, because metal wasn’t available. The Power wheel at the top of the stamp mill is a good illustration. It is made out of layers of wood!  In my earlier column, we looked at giant water pump pulleys made almost entirely of layered wood, with the only metal parts being the rotating shaft.


On the small stamp mill pictured, note  that the power to turn the stamp lifting and dropping cam is obtained from the rotating wooden pulley.  Each cam on the main shaft is a partial spiral; starting at the cam shaft and curving outward to lift the vertically mounted rods attached at the lower end to a stamp and suddenly drop it.  All the moving parts of the stamp mill permit lifting a rod and stamp permanently out of the way until it may be needed again to crush the rocks to flour.  The Yellow Aster had a one-hundred-stamp mill in constant operation twenty-four hours a day, during it’s heyday.  When the amalgamation plates (coated with mercury) required cleaning, the stamps feeding that plate could be uncoupled in groups for safe cleaning.  The actual stamp and its support shaft could be changed too. Some stamp mills I have read about had stamps weighing up to seven hundred pounds each!  I’ll bet it was hard to get to sleep some nights!


If you get a chance to drive North through this area (not in summer) drop by and look into the past of a very interesting area.     --Jerome W. Anderson

Jerome W. Anderson