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Old 8th Jul 2019, 2:55 pm   #1
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Default From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

It's the lack of ventilation around granite that's nasty in the longer term.

A Radio & TV Engineers recollection, from 60/40 to Radon, the hard and sometimes tragic end of solder, the unseen bit, a journey what I wrote a while back now, please excuse any bad English, composition etc:

Ok this is just some recollections of some typical days working down my first mine, that mine was South Crofty tin mine at Pool Crossroads between Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall.

"It was around 1972, I was in my early 20's, I only worked there for couple of years at most but boy what a learning curve.
I was working as a radio/tv engineer back then, I finished half day one week and drove over to South Crofty tin mine to see if I could get a job (heard the money was good) I had never been underground before except when we were kids exploring the copper mines at Alderley Edge in Cheshire.
I found the Mine Captains office and he happened to be there “Can you give us a start” I said “Yes” he said “Be in the miners dry by 5.30 am this coming Monday” 5.30 am, I was normally going to bed then!
I turned up with some spare old clothes, a flask of tea, some butties and crisps and a bottle of Robo's Barley Water, they fixed me up with some boots, a hard hat, an Oldham cap lamp and battery belt and a tally tag. There were about 10 of us or so as new recruits that day.
“Ok pard' “ (Cornish for partner) said the mine captain “ Your all going down to the 310 fathom level” (below adit) “The shift bosses name down there is a Mr Salmon” We were duly escorted to the headgear by a miner, he was to ride down with us in the cage down to 310 fathom, the cage was a double decker very small floor plan, the banksman squeezed 5 or so of us in the top deck and 6 or so in the other then he dropped the cage gates on, the miner shouted to us to switch our cap lamps on, the cage slowly started to descend until it reached maximum speed which was quite fast, all we could see was the granite walls of the shaft broken by the blur of the shaft timber setts as we went on down, every so many feet was the lights of the various shaft level stations, eventually the miner shouted out “290 fathom, 310's next”

The cage began to slow down, coming to a halt at the 310 fathom level, it was bouncing as the rope stretched and contracted, one of the new recruits wasn't looking to good, after a few seconds the miner unhitched the cage gate and out we poured, it was my first glimps of life in a working mine, the poor lad who wasn't looking to good wanted to go back up again, that was the last we saw of him. 310 fathom shaft station was a gloomy place, lit by a single light bulb, the only other light was a bulb in the shift bosses “office” which consisted of 1 round blasted out of the side of the shaft station with a wooden door slung across it, inside his office consisted of two planks for a desk and an old wooden dynamite box to sit on, we were all introduced to him his first name was Vernon he was in his sixties.
By this time the cage had come back down again full of miners, as they passed us by Vernon shouted to one of them “What are we going to do with this lot then” “Stick 'em up a raise” was the reply” Vernon laughed, we all looked worried, what was a raise? Not that long to find out!
What struck me was how quiet it was at the shaft station, I was expecting to hear a lot of noise but all was quiet except for a steady stream of water running down the shaft, the shaft station was warmer than up on surface (grass) quite cosy, I was soon to change my mind.

The shift boss told us that he was going to give us all a tour of the level for the first day just to show us what's what, most of the tin lodes in Cornwall run East West, to intersect these lodes a North South crosscut tunnel is driven from the shaft, this was refered to as the main crosscut, intersecting the various lodes as it progressed. The main crosscut and the lode tunnels or drives as they were called had rail track installed, from memory it was 22 inch gauge.
Off we all went up the main crosscut, all the crosscutts and drives are graded back to the shaft for drainage purposes.
The roof at the shaft station was quite high, as we walked up the main crosscut the roof (the back) got lower, I was tall so it meant watching my head some of the other guys and the shift boss were shorter than me, the main crosscut also got narrow in places, running along the crosscut were two pipes, a 2" and a 4", the 2" was for water and the 4" was for compressed air, both these would be connected eventually to the various rock drills in the various work places, on we proceeded, occasionally there would be a lode drive shooting off to the right and the left, we were starting to hear some feint noises and rumblings by now.

To be continued if possible.

Lawrence.
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Old 8th Jul 2019, 7:58 pm   #2
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

Pt 2.

"As said we were making our way up the main crosscut on the 310 fathom level this was the Northern crosscut from Robinsons Shaft at South Crofty, Robinsons Shaft was the man riding shaft and New Cooks Kitchen shaft was the ore shaft where the ore was hauled up in skips to feed the tin mill.

The Northern crosscut from Robinsons shaft headed out under what is now Cornwall College, the shift boss was explaining to us all how all the drives and levels were driven at a slight incline gradient from the shaft so that the water would find its way back to a sump near the shaft, from there it was pumped up to adit level where it was discharged some was diverted to the tin mill for the tin proccessing.
Along the side of the drives and levels was a drainage gully for the water to run in.

As we proceeded we were starting to hear the sound of compressed air drills, at that point we saw a light coming towards us down the track, the shift boss said it was the trammer pulling dirt from one of the stopes (the stope is where the ore is blasted out) the shift boss took is hard hat off and waved it (and hence the beam) side to side, this was done to alert the trammer to our presence and to take caution, the trammer replied by nodding his head up and down and hence his beam, this was to acknowledge that he was aware of the situation.
The loco approached us and came to a stop, he had a bit of a natter with the shift boss for a minute or so, the electric loco was pulling 15 one ton wagons full of broken ore (dirt or muck) or should I say that 15 tons of dirt was pushing the loco..!
He then continued on his journey.
The air was starting to get a lot warmer as we proceeded and was full of dust, we started ditching our sweaters and shirts leaving just our tee shirts on.
After what seemed a fair old walk we came to another lode drive, it went both East and West from the main crosscut, the entrance to to these drives was curved in order to take the rail track, there was also a turntable a bit further up, to facilitate all this busy junction a large area had been blasted out leaving some square natural rock pillars for the roof support.
We carried on, he said he was going to show us something interesting, about a hundred yards further up the main crosscut the country rock changed from granite to killas, killas is like a metamorphosed shale, this was formed when the granite magma came up at a later geological period in time, the junction of these two different types of rocks was like night and day, in mining terms down here it's called the “contact” We proceeded further up the main crosscut until it came to a dead end, clearly there were no more tin lodes to be seen.

We turned around and headed back to that East West track junction, when we arrived there the shift boss said do you like heat, we all looked at each other, he took us into the Eastern lode drive, this he said was No: 9 Hot Lode, the hot air suddenly hit us, it was like walking into a hot greenhouse, a few yards on we hit a veil of funk, funk is the mist in the air from both the heat, humidity and the compressed air exhaust from the drilling machines.
By now sweat was pouring from us from only walking, around 90 F in there, the shift boss smiled and said you'll like it in here.
The No: 9 drive was narrow and crooked as it followed the lode, the track was in the middle and about 18” either side to the walls, he explained how the tunnel was driven on lode and pointed out the mineralization in the roof (aka back) of the tunnel, a narrow white quartz vein with dark streaks running through it, that's cassiterite he said, that's what we are down here for, to blast it out. Mixed in with the vein was arsnic and heamatite, a lot of the hematite was decomposed, turning into a red clay.
He explained that the lode dips at an angle, in Cornwall this angle can vary from almost flat up to nearly 90 degrees, typically at South Crofty it would be 70 to 85 degrees ie: 30 to 15 degrees from the vertical, most tin lodes were narrow mainly averaging 6 inches to a foot in width,

We carried on, the funk (mist) was getting worse, about 4 yards visibility, it was getting hotter and the roar of the machines was getting louder, we eventually came to a timber structure on the foot wall side of the drive, he explained that when the ore has been blasted out this left two walls the foot wall on one side of the dip and the hanging wall on the other, he explained that the hanging wall was the most dangerous because if left unsupported then it, or slabs of rock on it can come in on you, he explained that this can happen also with the foot wall but less so, a loose slab on the foot wall would break away and slide down the wall, a loose slab on the hanging wall would simply break away and fall vertically. It was an important lesson.

Back to the timber structure, this was called a chute and was constructed from baulk timbers and thick boards with some iron work as well.
The chutes were installed at the draw points at the bottom of the stope at intervals along the lode, the chutes were connected to the bottom of the stope by short vertical shafts called box holes, these box holes were driven up from the roof of the drive for about 20 ft, they were spaced at intervals along the lode, the tops of the box holes would be all connected together by a very small tunnel called an inter or inters, the name being derived from sub or above level interconnecting drive, there is no track in them, once the inters had been driven and all the box holes were connected then stoping (ore extraction) would begin, this was done by first drilling and blasting a cut upwards from the roof of the inter, once this free space had been created then mining proper could begin by drilling and blasting a series of benches into the free space made by the cut, all the broken rock would fall down and fill up the box holes and the timber chutes below them, as the rock pile in the stope increased in height then the chutes would be “pulled” to draw the rocks (dirt) down into the trammers wagons, this reduced the height of the broken rock pile so the miners had enough vertical height to operate the machines in, this would continue, blasting upwards and upwards and for the full length of the stope until within about 20 ft or so of the next level up, that 20 ft block of ground being left for support, the pressure from the hanging wall in a fully excavated stope is very large, if the blocks of ground left for support are to small then the pressure from the hanging wall can crush them.

The timber chute is a basic construction, a bed is blasted out of the foot wall at about 6 to 7 foot up from the track level, the bench would be about 18 inches deep and 6 ft wide, two 12 x 12 timbers or “stulls” would run from the back of the bed on each side and up at a steepish angle across to the hanging wall, the timbers were cut to the exact length and the ends to the exact angle so once in place they could not drop or fall. From the hanging wall ends the tops of the stulls were double lagged with 3 inch boards, an opening was left further down, this is where the broken ore passes through. From the foot wall side of the rail track two large timber legs would run up from the level up to support each stull, these were the support legs and also supported a sloping timber bed.
An 8 x 6 was bolted across the two legs about a foot higher than the top of the ore waggons a double layer of boards were then run up from this cross support up at and angle to the back of the bed, the ore would (if you were lucky) run down this bed into the waggons.
Timber sides were then put in, these were then trimmed vertically at the end of the timber bed (the waggon end) Attached to these timbers and the chute legs were large “U” irons a gap was left within the “U” irons to slide some loose fitting stop boards, lifting these boards up would allow the ore to run into the wagons, when a wagon was full the boards were pulled down again to stop the flow of rocks."

To be continued.

Lawrence.
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Old 8th Jul 2019, 9:59 pm   #3
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

Mining for whatever mineral is dirty, hot and dangerous. My dad worked in the coal mines all his working life, 50 odd years and he said to my brother and me.
“Neether of yon is gooin darn theer”, and neither of us did.
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Old 8th Jul 2019, 10:15 pm   #4
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

I once had a tour of a coal mine, down the shaft, loco ride to the active face and then a crawl along the full length of the face, negotiating hydraulic pit-props in a seemingly endless series. Can't remember how long the face was, but I do remember it was a 2 foot 6 seam, and I remember the noise of the cutter. Very much not fun. The walk back to the shaft, along a tunnel we could stand up in was absolute luxury!

I have utmost respect for those who can work in such conditions.

David
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Old 9th Jul 2019, 10:25 am   #5
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

I never did coal, just tin and gold, there were quite a few ex coal miners working in the tin mines down here, a lot of those came down when Consolidated Goldfields re-opened Wheal Jane, a few of them ended up at South Crofty, I worked with one of them.

Part 3:

"We carried on up No: 9 drive past the stope chutes, the shift boss explained that this particular stope was now worked out up to the next level which was the 290 fathom level and that all the chutes were empty as all the dirt had been pulled from the stope, he also explained that because of the grade of the ore the natural rock support pillars between all the box holes might be drilled and blasted out by a pillar recovery crew once the rest of the other stopes along that lode had been fully worked out.
If a section has all the pillars blown out then that whole section is blocked off with a timber “No Road” this is because once the pillars are removed there is nothing supporting the hanging wall as it soars up 120 ft or more into the dark, it's an erie site and can be a very dangerous place to be. Some times these old empty stopes are used to dump waste rock or “deads” in from the level up above.

We continued, the noise was getting quite loud now, we came to a ladder way at the beginning of the next stope, the air and water pipes were tapped off the main supply pipes and went up by the side of the ladders, the shift boss rattled the pipes with an iron bar to alert the miners above that we were coming up, the drills kept roaring, they obviously had not heard anything, not suprising really.
The shift boss climbed up the ladders first, we all followed, it was a near vertical climb, the ladders were made from wooden runners with round iron bars for the rungs, at the top of each ladder was a small wooden platform or sollar, this supported the base of the next ladder.

The ladders ran up the footwall of the stope, the hanging wall was behind us and overhanging as it towered above, the left side of the ladder way was the end of the stope, the wall being solid granite, the right side of the ladder way was timbered all the way up to contain all the dirt from the stope, this timber structure was called a rearing. Two parallel holes were drilled into the footwall and the hanging wall, into these were inserted iron shoe pegs, these consisted of two iron pegs joined together at the ends by a shoe, the pegs were pushed into the holes leaving just the end of the pegs and the shoe protruding, into the shoes was jammed a 8" x 8" timber which span between the foot and hanging wall, these were placed about every 4 to 5 ft vertically up the stope, the inside of the timbers beams were lagged with 3" gapped boards, the gaps were there to let the concusion through when blasting otherwise the whole lot could blow out.

The ladder way was cramped it was around 2ft 6 inches wide at most by about 4ft, the sollars were littered with broken rock. As well as the air and water pipes two detonating lines ran up the ladder way as well, we climbed up about 60 ft, this was how far the stope had advanced in the vertical direction, the distance between the 310 fathom and the 290 fathom levels was around 120 ft so the stope at that time was about half worked.
As we climbed we looked up, the shift boss was standing on the top of the rearing waiting for us, by this time we were soaked in sweat.

Nearing the end of the climb I popped my head over the top of the rearing, the noise was almost unbearable and the funk was thick, there was an unusual smell, it was the smell of granite with a tinge of arsenic and dynamite (I can still smell it to this day!)

We advanced along the stope over the broken rock, we could stand up in places but not in others, through the funk we could see two dim cap lamps and the shadow of the the miners drilling, the miners worked in pairs, they were still drilling, both machines going full bore, the noise at such close proximity was at the threshold of pain in such a confined space, we were about 10 ft away from them, they shut the drills down, the two men were drenched in sweat, one was in his underpants the other in a pair of shorts, the only other things were boots, battery belt and hard hat, the shift boss had a natter with them and introduced us to them.

They were drilling horizontal benches in the back of the stope in preparation for blasting using jack leg machines, the drilling machine was a Holmans 303 (a drill known world wide in hard rock mining circles) The drill was hinged on the end of an extendable jack leg, the jack leg was powered by the same compressed air line as the drill, it could extend from it's closed position of around 4 to 5 ft to 8 ft or so in length.
For vertical drilling a stoper machine was used, on these the drilling head is intrigal with the jack leg, they were used to drill vertically or at a steep angle.

The stoper machine was called the widow maker, that name being derived from the early machines that did not have a water feed facility to damp the dust down, granite dust is bad stuff, the old miners soon contracted silicosis, once that set in bad then their days were numbered.

The miners who were drilling were known as machine men.

We continued along the stope, climbing up and down rock piles until we reached another ladder way at the other end of the stope, the machines fired up again, what a place, we finally climbed down back to the main level, what we considered to be a hot level seemed positively cool now...."

To be continued.

Lawrence.
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Old 9th Jul 2019, 12:40 pm   #6
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

Re the Crofty tin mine, I understand it is long closed and I got Pam a necklace for an anniversary present with tin from there.

I have been to the coal face once, which was a school trip to Armthorpe colliery Doncaster.
No, I did not go for a job there. Straight into TV/radio servicing.

My Grandad was a miner at Silverwood nr Rotherham and the dust killed him in the end.
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Old 9th Jul 2019, 1:46 pm   #7
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

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Originally Posted by HamishBoxer View Post
Re the Crofty tin mine, I understand it is long closed and I got Pam a necklace for an anniversary present with tin from there.
Yes long closed now, various "attempts" at re-opening but these seem to be gravy train exercises so far as I can see, can't see it happening some how, environmental standards etc have moved on.

Part 4.

Back down on No:9 level we continued, we came to a sub drive off to the North, it was only a short walk to the end, the place was full of hematite and red ochre, the air was pretty foul and the temperature was still hot, in the face at the end of the drive were some flow valves and pipes that had been grouted into the rock, the shift boss explained that this is where they holed through into the old East Pool mine in order to drain the water out at that point.

East Pool had closed years before and had flooded, Crofty wanted to pick up some of the old lodes in East Pool and discover new ones, before this could be done the old workings had to be drained, originally there would have been many fathoms head of water in there and the point where we were standing was one of the places that it was drained from, the breakthrough point from a mining point of view (an access hole) however was not here but in another drive on the 310 fathom level, they had not broken through yet but that was to happen soon, I will talk about that later.

No: 9 lode drive fizzled out and a cross cut had been driven to connect to some other workings that eventually led back to the main crosscut, the temperature had dropped from hot to quite warm, still tee shirt only weather,
we eventually got to a section where a couple of miners were drilling a development tunnel, this tunnel was larger than the ones in the older workings, it being an 8 ft x 8ft drive, they were advancing 8 ft per day shift, the night shift did the mucking after the blasting fumes had settled down.

We headed back West to the main cross cut, it felt cool now compared to what we had experienced earlier on, by this time it was around 10 am and dinner time or “croust“ time as it is locally known as, we met up with a bunch of miners in a short stub drive, this was one of the croust places, the miners croust seat was a couple of blocks of wood on the floor with a plank across, behind the plank between it and the wall was a plank slotted in and leaning back at a preferred angle, over that was hung the rest of their cloths that they came down the shaft in, the seats were low, about 8 inches off the ground, there wasn't enough room for all of us to sit so they found a couple of short handled miners shovels (known as a banjo or a Mexican drag line) these were turned the other way round and upside down, the handle was lodged into the floor about a foot or so from the wall, the now upside down blade which was angled was placed against the wall, instant seat, I still do that today when I'm out digging or down in the woods cutting timber.

Croust time was typically half an hour or so, butties, lumps of cheese and cans of baked beans seemed to be popular, quite a few drank lemon tea as opposed to milk tea, a right laugh was had, lots of p*ss taking and jokes, after croust the miners left to resume the daily grind and we carried on, the shift boss took us into No 3 lode drive East where they were mining, we came to a hole in the roof with a roaring noise coming down from it, this he said was a raise and there was only enough room for two of us up there, I volunteered as you do, the shift boss explained that the raise was being driven up to the next level and that they were almost through, it's about a 120 ft haul, yes ok I'm up for that.....I was expecting to climb a long series of ladders, no such luck, the only ladder was a short one from the floor of the drive up to the roof where the raise started, the shift boss climbed it and off he disappeared up into the dark, two of us followed, all that was at the top of the ladder was an iron chain hanging down the bottom wall of the raise, we started hauling ourselves up the chain, the raise was driven on lode, and at an angle that could be climbed with the aid of a chain, the raise was only about 4 ft by 5 ft, this was hard work!

We finally got up to where two miners were drilling, the noise was painful especially on the rib cage, much louder than in a stope, the funk as usual was everywhere, hardly any visibility in such a confined space.

There was no room on the staging for us to stand or rest, we had to hang on to the chain, the staging consisted of two iron “L” pegs pushed into a couple of short holes that had been drilled into the bottom wall of the raise, the pegs stuck out by about 2 ft or maybe less, across the pegs was laid a 3” timber board or two and that was yer lot, it was a case of a quick intro then head back down the raise to the main level.

Further in was another stope being worked but this time it wasn't a climb up it was a climb down, this was a underhand stope, the stope we were in earlier was a overhand stope or shrinkage stope, shrinkage referring to the shrinking of the rock pile via pulling dirt from the chutes in order to maintain a working height up in the stope. We arrived at a hole in the bottom side of the level, again a machine was roaring, the shift boss explained that this was the entrance to the underhand stope and some of us would be going down, he explained that this hole was in fact the top of a raise driven up from the level below which was the 335 fathom level, he explained that about 20 ft down the raise were two sub level tunnels (inters) driven on lode.

These inters were used as an advance for the stope development, the shift boss again said there was only enough room for a couple of us to go down to where the miners were drilling, I climbed down the access ladder about 20 odd feet to the inter and waited there with some of the others while the shift boss and a couple of the lads descended into the stope proper, like the raise it was by chain, they got down to the point bench where the miners were drilling.

The shot holes have to be drilled downwards, the drilling machine isn't fitted with a jackleg, a starter drill steel is inserted, the starter drill is 2 ft long, the holes first have to be collard, all holes drilled in any part of the mine have to be collard, as the drill steel will initially bounce all over the place until the hole has been started for an inch or so in depth, collaring was done by the machine man's mate, in a underhand stope it's a hands and knees job, you have to climb down to the bench that is going to drilled off, the benches aren't very high, each bench is about 4 ft or so in depth, to collar the drill two hands were cupped around the bottom end of the drill steel with the sides of your hand firmly pressed down on to the rock, the machine man would then fire up the drill and it was the mates job to make sure that the drill steel didn't wander all over the place, once the start of the hole was established you could then let go, it's a bit of an art at first, get it wrong and you could end up with broken fingers or worse a smashed hand.

As said there is no jack leg when drilling downwards so to give the drill some driving force the machine man's mate stands on top of the drill with one leg whilst bracing himself against the foot and hanging walls, the stope being narrow, these drills are rotary percussive and very powerful, pressing down with your body controls the bounce and forces the drill in to the granite, it's a bone shaking, teeth shaking job.

We climbed back up to the level.

To be continued.

Lawrence.
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Old 9th Jul 2019, 3:44 pm   #8
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

What a fascinating account Laurence! By coincidence I had just been reading about gold and silver mining in Colorado in an earlier period when the drilling was all by hand. One man holding/turning the drill whilst the other smashed its end with a hammer. I don't know what's worse the toil of the manual drilling or the compressed air machine drilling that you are describing?

Horrific work!

Thanks,

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Old 9th Jul 2019, 5:03 pm   #9
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

Beating the borer....They still hold a competition for that (In a reduced fashion for H&S reasons) in the International Mining Games, a classic photo of a pair beating the borer overhand was taken by J.C. Burrows in the East Pool mine, you can find it in Google pics.

The problem I'm having at the moment is that my files on this subject are all over the place since I wrote them some years ago and some need either adding to/editing, hopefully all will come good.

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Old 9th Jul 2019, 7:58 pm   #10
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Sorted most file locations now....

Part 5.

“We headed back to the main cross cut and headed back towards the shaft station, just before the shaft was the main ore pass and grizzly, shooting off along side the grizzly was the old No: 1 lode drive, the shift boss took us in there.

The drive had been condemned years previously but was still being used, a lot of the support pillars had been blasted out at the top of the old stopes below us, these large open gunnisses had been bridged with timbers and decked out and track laid along, it sounded hollow when a load of wagons was running over those sections, the huge pressure of the hanging wall was starting to crush the pillars above in places, instead of timber setts in the drive steel half hoops had been fitted and lagged with timber boards, the drive was very crooked and narrow, in parts just wide enough for the track and a loco plus wagons.

We eventually came to a branch lode that was being worked on, the drilling crew were advancing the tunnel, by the time we arrived they had stopped drilling and were charging all the holes up with dynamite, all was quiet except for the dripping of water and a gentle hiss from a small air leak in the pipes. I had never seen dynamite before, one of the miners threw a stick to the shift boss for us to look at, we were all nervous, watching too many cowboy movies I guess, without a detonator it's pretty harmless unless it's very old and unstable.

The miners were charging the holes up ready to blast, blasting time was always around 1.30 pm, all the holes except the centre one were charged up, the first to go in was the primer, that stick has the electric detonator inserted in to it, a hole about 2 to 3 inches long is made in the end of the stick of dynamite using a non ferrous pointed tool with a tee handle on it (a pricker) The detonator was then inserted and the wires wrapped round the stick and under themselves in a loop, and pulled firm, the primer would then be pushed into the hole to the back with a round wooden charging stick, once at the back it would be lightly tamped in, the rest of the dynamite followed and was firmly tamped in, some times wooden spacers were used in the cut in place of every other stick, it depended on what the ground was like.

The cut was usually drilled as a 9 hole or a 5 hole cut, the cut holes extend to the same depth as the other holes which was 8ft for a standard tunnel round with night shift mucking, with a 9 hole cut the holes were drilled in three horizontal rows of three to form a square pattern, the holes were close together on around 4 to 5 inch centres, the hole diameter was approx 1.5 inches, the cut holes were towards the centre of the face, accurate drilling was required, the centre hole of the cut was reamed out and wasn't charged, the next set of holes were “north, south, east, and west” of the centre hole, drilled in a diamond pattern, the next set were to “square up” the diamond, then it was diamond again then square and so on.

The detonators were time delay detonators numbered 0 to 9, the delays were more in parts of a second rather than seconds, the “diamond” holes in the cut were primed with a No: 0 det. the four outer holes of the cut were primed with a No: 1 det, the next diamond holes with No: 2 det. and so on, when fired the cut was blown first thus giving a free space for all the other holes to blow into in succession, the final holes were the back holes (top holes) and the lifters (bottom holes)

The detonators were connected in series, the blasting cable was connected to them via two single strand wires, the blasting cable ran back to a safe firing point, we were going to hear our first blast.
We made our way back to the firing point about a 100 yds away round a bend, the detonator lines were connected to the exploder then we waited until we heard shot reports coming up through the rock from the level below.
The shot reports started, crack, crack crack crack......It was time to fire this one off, the drive was checked to see if anyone else was lurking around, the exploder was wound up until the light lit up and with a piece of dry stick in his hand the miner shouted “fire” three times and pushed the button with the stick (he must have been a telly engineer!) Off the charges went, he counted them and said they had all gone off, the air blast hit us in a series of pressure waves, it was an experience never to be forgotten.

Time to go back to the shaft and wait for the cage to surface and a hot shower.”

To be continued.

Lawrence.
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Old 9th Jul 2019, 9:23 pm   #11
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I have been to the coal face once, which was a school trip to Armthorpe colliery Doncaster.
No, I did not go for a job there. Straight into TV/radio servicing.

My Grandad was a miner at Silverwood nr Rotherham and the dust killed him in the end.
No amount of money would have enticed me from mending tellies in customer's front rooms or on a bench, to working down a tin mine.

When it comes to mining, this song by the Dubliners says it all. The backdrop to the song is of a Movietone News film of a mining disaster, which to me looks to be at a north of England coal mine, maybe late 1940s-mid 50s. At 1min-57 secs into the film, then at 4mins-30secs, the look of utter despair, bewilderment and sadness on the face of one of the miners is evident:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvFqVgz1AGo

Of course, some 48,000 young men from 1943-1948 had no choice but to work down the mines.

1 - in 10 who were conscripted at age 18 to go into the armed service were instead randomly selected to work in the coal mines as 'Bevin Boys'. Initially volunteers had been sought but when few were forthcoming (conscientious objectors for example), a compulsory ballot was introduced.

In 1943 Britain was becoming desperate for a continued supply of coal. Hence, Gwilym Lloyd-George, Minister of Fuel and Power, announced that some conscripts would be directed to the mines and had no choice in the matter. The colloquial name "Bevin Boys" came into being.

This caused a deal of upset as many had wanted to join the fighting forces and felt that as miners they wouldn't be valued, as indeed they tended not to be. Many suffered taunts as they wore no uniform, and there were accusations by some members of the public that they were deliberately avoiding military conscription.

Bevin Boys were just issued with boots and hard hats and didn’t wear uniforms or badges - just the oldest clothes they could find. Being of military age and without a uniform caused many to be stopped by the police, questioned and hounded about avoiding the call-up.

Nearly 48,000 Bevin Boys performed that vital and dangerous, but largely unrecognised service in coal mines. Unlike serving soldiers who were ‘demobbed’ at the end of the war and provided with a set of civilian clothing, many Bevin Boys weren’t not released from service until well over two years after the war ended.

The Bevin Boy programme was wound up in 1948.

Unlike armed forces personnel, Bevin Boys received neither medals nor the right to return to the jobs they'd held previously. They weren’t recognised as contributors to the war effort until 1995, 50 years after VE Day, in a speech by the Queen. Rather belatedly, in 2008 – 60 years after the scheme ended - those former Bevin Boys who were still alive were awarded ‘veterans badges’ similar to those awarded to the armed services.

As to mining in Cornwall, we were down there for a few days a couple of weeks ago staying in a small village called St Day, near Redruth. I got the impression that it had seen better times and that a lot of residents were down on their luck. (I've never seen so many old and dilapidated cars in one place). But everywhere was decked out with flags and bunting in preparation for the annual 'feast day' and there seemed to be a strong community spirit.

Only when I looked into its history did I discover that from the 16th century to the 1830s, St Day was a centre not for tin mining, but for the richest and perhaps most famous copper mining district in the world. The population, wealth and activity declined steadily from about 1870 onwards, miners sought their fortunes elsewhere far afield from the UK and today the population is smaller than it was in 1841.

The changing fortunes of time.

I hope this is of interest and not too far off topic.
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Old 9th Jul 2019, 10:25 pm   #12
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I've heard that Eric Morcombe's health problems later in life were partially caused by his time as a Bevin Boy.
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 11:22 am   #13
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As to mining in Cornwall, we were down there for a few days a couple of weeks ago staying in a small village called St Day, near Redruth. I got the impression that it had seen better times and that a lot of residents were down on their luck. (I've never seen so many old and dilapidated cars in one place). But everywhere was decked out with flags and bunting in preparation for the annual 'feast day' and there seemed to be a strong community spirit.
Nothings changed in St Day then .....For many years I used to live just outside the village, the Star Inn at Vogue just down from Vogue Shute was my local back then, at one time Vogue Shute was our only supply of water until we got connected to the water main, our kids used to attend St Day school, Mrs Pooley was teaching there in those days, our kids were regulars at St Day Feast.

Back then Ronnie Williams and his Mrs used to run the grocers just up from and on the opposite side from the Post Office which was on Fore Street, Mrs Nankevil worked there then, there was Nan's fish and chip shop on Scorrier Street and the surgery where Dr. Badve used to work as was the house of "Lovely Rita Meter Maid" a blonde woman from up North who was a traffic warden....no prisoners with Rita Nice lass though, we used to have a right laugh with her at the local parties, the local milkman was Des Jory who lived down at Pink Moors, I used to know all those old mines around there well, been in a few of them on my underground exploration antics and the old tracks and spoil heaps around them were used a lot as Land Rover off roading fun territory by many including myself, I used to strip some of the timbers from the old mine sites and exposed adits around United Downs just outside of St Day for burning on the fire at home.....pretty colours it was all I could get hold of for nowt back then.

The St day area was the scrap yard centre (and the centre for anything else to be dumped) of Cornwall, the famous three were Triplets, Johnny Orchard's and Malcom Drew's yard, Johnny and Malcom were always in competition with each other I think Malcom was the first to make Rolls Royce status, I kept my old motors going using bits from their scrap yards for years as did just about everyone else in the area. Telegraph Hill was always on the move....Downwards, it was like filling a never ending hole, all old stopes and adits etc, definitely wonky lintel territory.

Mining in that area goes back a long ways, primarily copper and tin with some arsenic thrown in, not far down the valley Mount Wellington was producing tin in more recent times as was Wheal Jane a bit further on near Baldhu, the latter also producing some zinc and silver, Jane was a very wet mine, when they switched the pumps off they had to move PDQ so the rumour went.

When I worked down South Crofty I lived for a while in an old cottage near Twelveheads, just down the valley from St Day, it was built on bedrock and sometimes we could hear the reports through the rock from the shot holes being fired down Wheal Jane.

J.C Burrows was the most noted underground mine photographer in Cornwall in the old days, the underground mines of the Camborne/Redruth are well represented by photo's done by him, sadly there is almost no old underground photographic record of the St Day area mines.

For those old underground mining scenes check out a book called Historic Cornish Mining Scenes Underground.

J.C. Burrows was well known for his photo's from back then and were amazing considering the conditions underground that he would have encountered, there is a book by him showing the photo's called 'Mongst Mines and Miners, a freebie can be found here:

https://archive.org/details/ldpd_11647298_000/page/9

Lawrence.
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 1:01 pm   #14
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Part 6.

Back at the shaft waiting for the cage were all the miners and other folk from that level, the machine men were sitting on their upturned wooden detonator boxes, every one else was just milling around, everyone was have a natter and a laugh, all were wearing coats and jackets by now it was chilly back shaft compared to inside the workings having your clothes soaked with sweat and water.

After a short while a cage descended past our level, a voice shouted “310 after this one” A few minutes later the miners gathered at the shaft gate, they were all pushing and shoving for position, the reason why was to become clear, the cage arrived, the top deck was the first to be filled up, there was a mad scramble and a lot of effing and blinding was going on, once the top deck was full the cage was hoisted up a bit so we could get in the bottom deck, I made it in, the others would have to wait for the second lift, sometimes there was a final lift in case there were any stragglers.

The cage started it's ascent, a miner smiled and shouted “send it down” a few seconds later tea, water, orange juice and anything else liquid started flowing down through some holes in the top deck floor, we were packed in like sardines, nowhere to move, we got soaked in this stuff “more, more, send it down” was the cry, what a mess, all the guys were laughing, I asked them if this was especially for us newcomers, they said no, we do this every day!

Daylight finally broke, the sky seemed very bright, I handed in my cap lamp and after a quick report to one of the shift bosses I walked through to the miners dry and showers clocking off on the way, the showers were pretty basic all concrete and blocks, bodies everywhere, the dry had the smell of steam and sweaty socks and sweat laden underground clothing and cheap soap, the shower was good though, after that I was off back home feeling good that I had survived my first day's ordeal.

To be continued.

Lawrence.
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 1:51 pm   #15
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What a fascinating narrative!

Some of my distant relatives were involved in the Nottinghamshire coalfield around Clipstone in the 40s through to the 60s. [Radio-relevant: the area had 200V DC mains provided by generators at the pits. Free to NCB employees and ex-employees in pit-tied houses - there was an uprage and an outroar when the National Grid with its 240VAC came along - and people then had to *pay* for their electricity!].

From what I recall of the conversations when visiting my rellies, deep mining was always a high-risk occupation: collapses, flooding, gas - and if they didn't get you there was always noise-induced tinnitus/deafness, Miner's Lung and Vibration White Finger on offer.
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 2:20 pm   #16
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

I can remember looking up what on earth a coal outburst was. You don't get them in tin mines.
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 2:23 pm   #17
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What a fascinating narrative!
There's more, it shouldn't be too long before I've posted them all.

Lawrence.
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 2:31 pm   #18
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I can remember looking up what on earth a coal outburst was. You don't get them in tin mines.
No nasty gas down the tin mines except for carbon monoxide, lack of oxygen or what was hovering over the Elsan We had rock bursts in places.

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Old 10th Jul 2019, 4:08 pm   #19
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Part 7.

"The following day there were only about 4 or 5 of us original recruits that turned up, we were put back down on the 310 fathom level and taken back into the Eastern section of No: 9 Hot Lode, the remit was to dig and clean the drains out, we were given a banjo each, a pick and a spare ore wagon to shovel all the muck into, once full, the one ton wagon was pushed back to and across the main crosscut into No:9 West to an old stope raise, this is where the contents of the wagon were to be dumped, pushing an ore waggon with a high water content in it was a dodgy routine due to the shifting centre of gravity on its travels, tipping out those contents down a hole even more so, the heat in No:9 as described earlier was bad along with the air, with sweat pouring we were soon stripped down to our pants, this was to be a fortnights job and clearly was supposed to be a test to sort the men from the boys, I never was a quitter so I stuck it out.

After two weeks in No:9 and some weight loss there was just two of the original newbie crew left, myself and a bloke called John, we were referred to as OC men, OC meaning Off Contract as in drilling and blasting contract, the OC men's wage in 1972 was £20 a week plus any bonus money, the £20 a week was a guaranteed wage, bonuses varied depending on what job you were doing, a particular value assigned to a particular job, digging/clearing drains attracted the lowest bonus, after two weeks on the drains I had earned £50 so that was £5 bonus for each week, the £25 a week was a bit more than my previous Radio and TV servicing job in Cornwall, the shift bosses confidence grew in our abilities, he started to give us other jobs which attracted a better bonus which included timbering, repairing and installing rail track, replacing and extending the main air and water pipes, ventilation baggings and so on, it wasn't long before I got my break, the machine man's mate who was working the stope in No:9 Hot Lode mentioned earlier on had an accident up in the stope and was going to be off work for at least a fortnight, I was to be a temporary replacement, a machine man's mate got a good chunk of a drilling and blasting contract, it was the next best money to being a machine man.

The machine man's name was Joe, he was a Geordie and ex army, he had drilled and blasted in a lot of the tunnels on the Rock of Gibralter, we got on fine, though working up in that stope was a killer, the day would start off by making our way to the croust seat, after a butty, a swig o'tea and a roll up it was my job as drillers mate to climb up into the stope after the previous blast to try and get some air flow going and to hose down the dust from the roof, the foot wall and hanging wall etc, it used to stink in there first thing, the air still being laiden with dynamite fumes, once the hosing down was done it was time to bar down (scaling down) any loose rock or slabs, Joe would join me for that, it was a two man watch in the interests of safety, barring down was done with a longish steel pinch bar, the walls and roof would be sounded out with the bar, listening for any hollows, the crack was found and the bar inserted and the rock and slabs levered off, the slabs could vary in size from fist size to those weighing a couple of hundred weight or more, it was a hazardous job, sometimes there was no telling how large a slab of rock would break away, could be a square foot or sometimes several square feet in area, only when the walls and roof rang true enough was it safe to start drilling but that wasn't a guarantee that more slabs wouldn't break away, constant vigilance was need at all times, it was the mates job to haul and set everything up, most times the drilling machine was left up in the stope at a safe distance from the blasting to save hauling it up and down the ladder way each time, other times the machine had to go back up to the engineering shop for repairs.

Hauling the drilling machine up the ladder way was hard work, some times it was hauled up by rope, other times it was carried up, depending on how fit and nimble I was at the time, also to be hauled up were all the drilling steels, oil and any other bits and pieces including iron staging pegs, staging boards etc and later on in the shift the dynamite, with the work place ready it was time to start drilling, all the holes had to be collard by the mate, Joe showed me how to do this without damaging fingers or hand, the drill steels were 2 ft (the starter) 4 ft, 6ft and 8ft in length, some machine men would start off drilling with a long 8 ft steel to save drill swapping time, it put the machine man's mate in a vulnerable position when he was collaring the hole, the stress on a long steel that has hardly entered the hole is considerable, they start whipping and a sort of standing wave sets up on them as they vibrate, this makes for a lot of stress towards the end of the steel where it fits into the drill chuck and sometimes they will snap near that point, if the machine is on the jack leg then the pressure in the jack leg will lunge the machine complete with the sharp snapped off drill shank towards the mate, if it catches you in the back then serious injury can result, a snap like that happened to me once with another machine man, I had a lucky escape, I've still got the snapped off drill shank somewhere...

The shift would continue, non stop drilling for several hours except for a breather and croust, after a few days of me getting used to things we got another machine up into the stope, we then collard all the holes in one go and got two machines running side by side to drill the benches off, Joe on one and myself on the other, I've mentioned this before, the noise and physical vibration was painful although after a few weeks it seemed to be less and less so, and as previously mentioned, the heat was extreme, funk everywhere and drenched in sweat, our boots would fill up with stuff which would squelch and slosh around when moving about, every so often we had to climb down from the stope down to the level below to get some better air and turn the water on to ourselves to get some relief from the heat, the exhaust air from the machines was full of oil from the oil feed bottles which was in series with the air line feed to the machines, we were always coughing stuff up, anyways all holes drilled it was time to charge up, it was the mates job (me) to go and fetch the dynamite, the dynamite was kept in a magazine at the shaft station which was some considerable distance away, once there the shift boss would open up the magazine and dish out the dynamite, it was a pain carrying it all the way back in, if there was lots in the box it was hard work, the only option was to find the bottom half of an ore wagon and use that as a trolley and push it all the way back to the stope with the dynamite on it, even that was hard work as it was uphill all the way and some considerable distance, once back and hauled up the ladder way the charging would begin, the first thing Joe said to me was whatever you do don't wipe the sweat off your brow with your hand if you have been handling dynamite, how right he was, I did make that mistake later on, the resulting headaches were very severe to say the least, like someone banging your head with a hammer, the worst I had ever experienced, charging up was relatively simple.

After blasting in a shrinkage stope, the resulting volume in the form of a rock pile obviously takes up more room than it did in situ before being blasted, this reduces the head and working height, the distance is increased by pulling dirt from the chutes below, that's the trammers job, the machine man would tell the trammer 10 waggons from number 1 chute, 20 wagons from number 2 chute etc etc until the pile or piles goes down sufficiently, the chutes were placed at regular intervals along the lode, this means that when pulled the level of the rocks in the stope would end up having several troughs and peaks, these had to roughly evened out, the peaks were dumped into the troughs using a banjo, pick and a steel bar, the distance between the peaks and the roof could be very short, sometimes 2 ft or less, so it was a climb up and get on your side job, blasted granite does not make a comfortable bed to lie on, it was hard, hot, back breaking work, sometimes it would take half a shift or longer to sort it out, sometimes when the trammer was pulling dirt from the chutes a chute would hang up, the quick fire solution was to blast the hang up, this was the trammers job using what's called a “pop” of explosive, it was similar to a plastic explosive in a small square pad, it was detonated by a cut safety fuse, which was lit using a "cheesa" a length or lengths of rough 2” x 2” timber strapped together called blasting staffs would be stuffed up the gob of the chute with the charge on the end, no one was to be in the stope during the blast, one of us would be watchman on the level past the far ladder way while the trammer lit the fuse and retired, nine times out of ten this would bring the pile down with a mighty roar, once the smoke had cleared it was back to the grind, occasionally doing a pop would not work, the only alternative was to climb up into the stope and turn the water hose onto the pile and wait for gravity to do it's stuff, which could take up a lot of valuable time, sometimes an hour or two or sometimes days, hung up chutes were very dangerous if working up in the stope, the rocks above the void created can collapse at any time, burying everything they take with them, the weight of the collapsing pile amounting to many tons, "no road" barriers consisting of two crossed timbers jambed across the stope either side of the hung up area were erected for safety until it was all sorted out."

To be continued.

Lawrence.

Last edited by ms660; 10th Jul 2019 at 4:30 pm. Reason: better explanation
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Old 10th Jul 2019, 7:19 pm   #20
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Default Re: From 60/40 to Radon. A Radio & TV Engineer's recollection.

What a fascinating account and what a wonderful memory you have Lawrence for detail, that you for sharing your memories.
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