Hull Engineers and Naval Architects – Visit to Denaby and Cadeby Collieries

September 1895

Mexborough and Swinton Times September 13, 1895

Hull Engineers and Naval Architects.
Visit to Denaby and Cadeby Collieries.

It is very dirty and dusty, plays havoc with the linen, and make your appearance like onto that of a fully developed and enthusiastic coal dealer, but a visit to a colliery is particularly interesting, and the Hull and District Institution of Engineers and Naval architects could not have selected a more acceptable excursion then that to the Denaby and Cadeby Main Colliery Companies pits at Denaby and Cadeby.

The visit was made on Thursday. The outward journey was interesting. At parts the scenery is pretty. On our way to the destination could be seen the new South Yorkshire Junction Railway with the bridge over the river Don, and the Cadeby tunnel and Hampole viaduct. Upon arriving at Conisborough one could not help wondering how coal could be produced from such a charming country. The castle, with its historical associations, the woods of Sprotborough, surrounding hills and valleys, intersected by a peaceful river, made one’s mind revert to the picnic rather than the pit.

But such picturesque surroundings had to be ignored, for this party proceeded direct to the offices of the company, when Mr. H. S. Witty, the certified manager, was ready to play the part of host. And he enacted the part to perfection.

First the Denaby Colliery was thoroughly inspected, under the guidance of Mr. Witty, who took infinite pains to explain the veriest trifle. It is practically impossible to describe the working of the colliery – the technicalities would be so confusing to those who have not visited one. To make the description as general as possible, and following the routine of work, we first noted the appliances for ventilating the pit, then the winding engine house, where the automatic brake is in operation for preventing over winding. Then to the pit bank, where there are hydraulic arrangements for loading and unloading; the winding of the rope with the carriages of coal only taking 45 seconds, and the changing from the full 20 tubs only five seconds. Here we were informed that each winding brings up 3 tonnes of coal, and there are from 60 to 70 windings (i.e., bringing the coal from the pit to the surface) in the hour. It can, therefore, be easily computed the amount of coal brought up during one day.

The coal having arrived at the surface, it is run an airline, weighed, separated (hard from soft), and then placed in revolving tipplers. A lad touches an automatic lever and then the tubs revolve. Then the sorting and screening process follows. Several men are employed separating the hard from soft, and new screens with circular reciprocal motion screen 800 tonnes in eight hours. Revolving screens of different sizes select the coal as required.

The subsequent washing process of the smaller coal is the most remarkable undertaking. The washing is done by a system of gravitation. It is most complex, but, plainly stated, the coal is taking to the top of the building in elevators, separated by revolving screens to suit the different shafts. The dirt remains in the sieves, and the coal is carried forward. The residue is afterwards sent to the boiler fires, not a particle of the product being wasted.

Having seen the last of the coal, for it has been placed in trucks, we visited the coke furnaces, which were in working order, and witness the removal of the coke by a mechanical drawer.

The waterworks, boiler house, funhouse, which produces, with 48 revolutions, 130,000 ft.³ of air per minute, were inspected, and lastly the lamp apartment. Here there were some hundreds of lamps, the construction of which makes it impossible to have ignition with air – that is when any portion is detached. They are even lighted by electricity by a simple process, from the bottom of the lamp. The colliery has been visited. Is an extraordinary complexity, but clockwork regularity is observed everywhere. Even the men seem like machines. From the bowels of the earth the coal is holed up, weight, sorted, screened, washed, and trucked before one has time to chase its movements.

The men work underground eight hours. The weekly output averages between 13,000 and 14,000 tonnes. At the invitation of the company, the visitors partook of an excellent luncheon at the Denaby Main Hotel. Then followed the event of the day.

The Cadeby colliery was visited, but not “inspected,” as stated in the program, but all were anxious to descend the pit. At this colliery the Barnsley bed, 10 feet thick, has recently been won, at a depth of 751 yards from the surface. Muffled and capped, deprived of matches and smoking appliances, and armed with lamps, the party made the descent. Let each one of the little band describe his own sensations; it would be interesting, and we could hear less “fish stories” of seasickness. What a sight is presented at the bottom. It is weird. With the faint glimmer of light one can see men almost stripped, “picking” away in a reclining position. Ponies take the loads to the pit mouth. The galleries are propped up until night, when the coal is blasted. Here, 800 yards below the surface, the same regularity exists; the men are quiet, utterly indifferent to all save their work.

People complain if the price of coal advances sixpence per ton; let them visit a pit, and they would cease to complain.