“Granite Rock Company Works Day and Night to Fill Orders for Large Construction Area”

Posted by Rose Ann Woolpert on Mar 18, 2015

October 16, 1929 – Register Pajaronian

“Granite Rock Company Works Day and Night to Fill Orders for Large Construction Area”

Nine miles from Watsonville at Logan crossing a granite mountain is fighting a losing battle with a group of determined workmen under able supervision of Arthur R. Wilson, president of the Granite Rock Company, which is furnishing crushed granite for industrial progress, from railroad ballast rock down to the finest dust. 

The war on the grim granite mountain, standing 185 feet in height and occupying hundreds of acres in area, has been going on for 30 years with President Wilson on the directing end of the attack, and the substance captured daily along that rock front has resulted in the building of one of the most complete and up-to-date rock quarries and rock crushing plants on the Pacific coast. 

The granite quarried is sold in sizes from two inches in diameter, graduating in size according to the industrial purpose for which it is to be used, and it is handled in trainload lots and distributed daily from Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo on the south to San Francisco on the north.

B.H. Kirkmon, manager and H.L. Purtill, foreman of the Just-Rite Electric Company, which makes a specialty of installing electric equipment and illumination to large industrial plants, took the writer on a tour of inspection to the plant one moonlight night last week.

Builds Small Town

Before reaching the mountain, we passed through a small town which one might aptly call the barracks of the army of workmen, which is blasting and crashing away with the object being the extermination of the great rock front.

Here we found the town that A.R. Wilson had gradually constructed in the 30 years that he had been building up the Granite Rock Company. There were rows of neat little homes for the men and their families and individual houses for the single employees, a club house, boarding house, huge machine shop, office buildings and store rooms grouped a short distance from the crusher, the great hulk of which roared and rattled through the night, performing its seeming endless task of filling car after car with the granite products.

The machine swung around a curve into the quarry and there with the concentrated power of five flood lights, of 1,000 watt units, making a total of 12,000 watts, the bare side stood out like some great back stage drop curtain, vivid in the calcium light.

Hydraulic Work

To place the sheer face of rock in a condition to properly work for market and eliminate the common dirt, which is disastrous to rock used for concretes, great hydraulic hoses are put to work. A three and one-half inch hose with water pumped from the river rips and tears a 25 foot layer of waste which lies on the bedrock. This is floated and washed away and the rock is ready to quarry. 

The night shift is being operated for the purpose of supplying the demand for a long stretch of double tracking being done by the Southern Pacific railroad and the Granite Rock Company is delivering the goods and we might say – and how. Drilling crews work long holes into the base of the cliff, loading them with several hundred pounds of dynamite.  When this powder is exploded, the whole mountain seems to tremble as hundreds of tons of granite drop and slide from that 185-foot cliff, followed by a grinding and cracking of small rock slides that last for hours.

Two huge power shovels, one electric and one steam, located close to the face of the cliff like great war tanks.  A small railroad track, starting from the crusher and running in a circle along the base of the quarry wall and back to the starting point are traveled by three trains, each drawn by a small engine, known as a “dinkey”.

One of these trains draws along-side of the big shovel.  The engineer on the machine throws on the power and the huge shovel snout delves into the side of the mountain and swings about on a boom depositing the contents into one of the rock cars.  The shovel fills halt the car and the engineer of the train pulls forward a car length and the operation is repeated until the train has passed and approaches the next shovel which burrows into the blasted rock and with one powerful scoopful fills the other half of the car and, ultimately the train. 

As the first train leaves the first shovel another train is there ready to load.  When this is loaded the third train rolls into place while the first train is being dumped automatically into the crusher,  ready to speed out and fall into loading position as the third train leaves. Thus an endless chain of cars is formed and lost motion or delay is eliminated.

Dangerous Work

The work beneath the cliff is dangerous and Superintendent John Porter keeps an eye on the treacherous walls and can detect a rock slide almost before it starts. His base voice booms “Look out” and the men are at attention immediately ready to flee to safety. 

Wilson Enthusiastic

After 30 years, President Wilson is as enthusiastic and as much interested in the development of the project as he was when the quarry first started. Often he goes out into the night and directs operations, knocking off work and eating supper with the men. His heart is in his work and his presence on the firing line.

The same operations are going on during the day. The night shift being used only under conditions which exist at the present time. The crusher is something to see both intricate and wonderful under the eye of the layman. It is next to another plant that turns out the finer finished product from the quarry. The power that runs both the crusher and in fact the whole camp, from electrical illumination to all power purposes, comes from a sub-station of the main line of the Coast Counties Gas and Electric company.  

The sub-station handles 22,000 volts and is distributed to the camp through two sources, one through the regrinding plant, the other being distributed through a station in the crusher from a four and one-half inch conduit with three 1,000,000,000 circular copper mills while the conduit into the grinding plant has a conduit carrying 750,000 circular mill copper. Thus the power is brought into the plant with a voltage that makes a blanket power of 440 volts. 

Many Powerful Motors

The interior of the crushing plant and regrinding plant is as light as day and has many motors that have horsepower running from five to 200. All of the equipment was installed by the Just-Rite Electric company under the supervision of foreman Purtill. The Just-Rite people also keep the equipment in perfect working order.

The granite is dropped down a long chute that leads to the crusher, the largest rocks being about two feet in diameter. The rocks are then dropped into a big crusher. After the first crushing, the rock is carried over conveyors and revolving screens from one crusher to the other, each crusher turning out a certain grade of material which is conveyed back and forth, each size being deposited in large bunkers that overlap the railroad track of the Southern Pacific Company, where any grade of material can be loaded into 100,000 pound railroad cars.  Each day a freight train pulls into the private siding and a whole train load of material is sent on its way to make ballast, pavement, sidewalks, concrete walls, oil station driveways and many other uses that the granite product finds in building work.

The Granite Rock Company’s operations mean a good payroll not only to this district but furnishes employment for men at various distribution points of the company.  The Granite Rock Company and its founder are an asset to the community deserving of praise. 

Editor’s note: October 19, 1929, three days after this article was published, Arthur Wilson suffered a heart attack and died on his way home from work.  His widow, Anna Wilson, became Granite Rock president. Lee Purtill was hired as Logan Quarry superintendent, and was a trusted advisor and right hand man to Anna Wilson. Purtill remained with the company until his retirement in the 1960’s. He was a mentor and friend to Bruce G. and Betsy Woolpert, who served as presidents of Granite Rock Company from 1952 until 1986. John Porter, son of Granite Rock’s first president and California Lieutenant Governor, Warren R. Porter, was a company employee and shareholder until his retirement in the 1950’s.

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