Important Experiments with New Explosive at a Yorkshire Colliery

October 1887

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Wednesday 12 October 1887

Important Experiments with New Explosive at a Yorkshire Colliery

On Monday a considerable gathering of distinguished English engineers took place at the Monk Bretton Colliery, near Barnsley, to witness a series of experiments with a new explosive (roburite), invented by Dr. Roth, of Berlin, and intended to take the place of gunpowder, dynamite, and other explosives for use in collieries.

Roburite was invented about twelve months ago by Dr. Carl Roth, a distinguished German Chemist; and, after an exhaustive series of experiments, a company was formed in Germany for manufacturing the new powerful compound. In that country it has met with great success, and during the past six months has practically replaced all other explosives in the coal mines of Westphalia. It is claimed for roburite that it is absolutely safe. For mining purposes. When exploded in the open it creates a flame, the constitution of which is such that it will not ignite the gases found in coal mines. It is moreover of such a character that no flame whatever is made if the roburite be covered with the slightest covering of coal dust and sand, so that in practical use not the slightest flame is to be seen, and there is not, the remotest possibility of the ignition of any gas which may be in the vicinity of the blasting operations. The explosion of roburite develops no dangerous gases, and not the slightest fume of any kind is noticeable after the firing of a shot, be the place of explosion ever so confined. In regard to the question of safety, the advantages claimed for roburite are equally remarkable. It cannot he exploded by percussion, and a blow with a hammer has no effect on it; if thrown on the fire it will burn harmlessly away; a red-hot bar thrust into a barrel of it will not cause an explosion. It is, in fact, entirely inert except when fired by an exceptionally strong detonator. Its cost is about 50 per cent less than dynamite, than which its effects are greater. In action its force is diffused and spread over a greater area, a very important point to consider in getting coal. Its cost is’ one-fourth that of gunpowder, whilst its force is four times as great.

All these advantages being claimed for it, great interest was taken in the experiments of yesterday, and amongst the gentlemen present were Mr. W. Pepper and Mr. W. I F. Pepper, Monk Bretton Colliery; General Sir John Stokes, K.C.B. Chairman; H. A. Krohn, Secretary; Mr. G. Seymour, Admiral Colomb, Major-General Wardell, and Colonel Wray, Directors of the English Roburite Company; Messrs. E. Bainbridge, Sheffield; C. F. Mosley; C. Orde Browne, Royal Artillery; Colonel L Gerard Smith, Hull and Barnsley Railway Company; W. Geisler, Berlin; Mr. G. Senior, Barnsley; Mr. F. G. Rhodes, Rotherham; Mr. G. A. Lomas, Manchester; Mr:. C. J. Usher, Birmingham; Mr. L. F. Gowing, . Mr. F. W. Hardwicke, Shefifeld; Mr. Joseph Mitchell, Mr. T. W. H. Mitchell, Mitchell Main; Mr.. N. Wardell, Inspector of Mines, Mr. Q.B. Rhodes, Aldwarke and Car House; Mr. A. B. Southall, Monckton Main; Mr. A. Barnes, Grassmoor Collieries; Dr. Blackburn, Barnsley;- Mr. J. E. Chambers, Darfield Main; Mr. A. M. Chambers, Thorncliffe; Mr. W. H. Chambers Denaby Main; Mr. J. W. White, Leeds; Mr. W. Wood, Foxholes; M Mr. G., Bohn, C.E. ; Mr. M. Samuelson, C.E.; Mr. I. l Homer (Hull and Barnsley Railway Company), Mr. A. C. I Hartzig, do.; Mr. A. Tyas, Mr. R. B.7Gregory (Swaithe Main), Mr. R. H. Heeman (Manchester), Mr. J. B. I Mamnmatt (Leeds), Mr. G. B. Walker (Wharncliffe Silkstone), &c.

Experiments were first tried on the surface, the most important and the only ones of practical value above ground being the fourth and subsequent ones. The roburite, 60 grammes, was exploded in an explosive mixture of air and gas, previously tested by means of a safety lamp, to the, satisfaction of these present as to the character of the mixture, and it did not fire the gas. Again, gunpowder was tried with the same mixture and the flames shot out a dozen yards. Again the roburite was tried in  the mixture, this time suspended in the midst of the current, with coal  dust below, and again there was no flame, and the gas was not ignited, whilst the powerful character of the explosion was shown by the ends of the boiler-wooden-being blown out. Experiments were also made in the pit. A hole two inches in diameter was drilled 4ft. 6in. deep into the coal, the face seven yards long, fast at both ends, holed under eight feet. Thickness of the coal to be brought down, 2ft. 10in., with 9in. of dirt.

The result was most satisfactory; not the slightest flame was visible or distinguishable, and all the coal was so cracked and loosed that half an hour’s work of one man was sufficient to bring the whole down in pieces of a good size. Mr. J. L. Marshall, manager of the pit-who conducted the experiments, expressed himself in the highest degree satisfied with it. A subsequent trial in stone in another part of the pit was equally satisfactory. The spectators seemed much gratified, by what they had seen, and many inquiries were made respecting the new company, which is about to establish Works near Wigan for the manufacture of roburite.