Mexborough and Swinton Times June 24, 1905
Denaby Main Colliery
Changing of the shifts
New Power House
Fan Engine House
Pump and Winding House
Changing of the shifts
On Friday, when accompanied by Mr George Farmer, M.Inst C.E., to whom I am indebted for the opportunity of inspecting the colliery, I visited the premises again, it was at the hour of changing from the morning to the afternoon shift. The colliery was being invaded by a pale faced crowd of gaunt, stooping men and boys, mis-shapen by the stress of their terrible toil, and simultaneously was being evacuated by an army of coal grimed, weary labourers so used to daily alteration of daylight and gloom even the sunshine of the Earth above moved them to no display of emotion.
Use will accustom men to anything, and he who toils below the surface can go to the daily hardship of his lot without any sign of regret. On Friday not only men but boys
“Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one long and lingering look behind,”
while those who came up from the gloom of the world below only blinked their eyes a time of two and then surged towards the lamp cabin without a sign of joy or relief upon their impassive countanance. That men moulded by the ingrained habit of years should display this indifference, is perhaps not wholly surprising, that boys in whom use is still living and spirit surely is not yet dead, can greet the daylight after eight hours., without in some way showing their delight, is a fact that is pregnant with the elements of tragedy.
New Power House
Our tour of inspection began with the New Power House which was erected during the Strike. This contains three Turbine Generators, with a capacity of 250 kW each, and a speed of 2400 revolutions per minute. These, with the engine corresponding, have been installed by Messrs C.A.Parson and Co., of Newcastle on Tyne, the inventors of the Turbine which was first introduced to a wondering world at the Diamond Jubilee naval Review at Spithead in 1897, Mr Charles Parsons astonished the British Fleet by rushing between its lines in a turbo launch at the rate of 25 knots per hour.
In the new Power House is generated the power by means of which all the haulage on the main road below is now accomplished, save in districts where the gradient permits of automatically bringing the call to the pit bottom. The Turbines make a brain whirling humming noise and either they or some other part of the machinery create a tremendous heat in the Power House which may be grateful and comforting in wintertime, but is slightly oppressive in June.
There is an elaborate switchboard erected here which was installed by the British Westinghouse Electric Company, who fitted up all the haulage machinery below ground. The current is taking down the shaft by cables, replacing the steam pipe, which in the old-fashioned days, conveyed the motive power to the haulage engine, and had a painful habit of leaking in the shaft and treating those who had to travel to and for all they daily toil for an occasional Turkish bath.
The powerhouse is built immediately above the range of 22 boilers – each 30 feet long with an 8 foot diameter – a contiguity which is convenient for the reason that it enables the Turbines to consume dry steam, enabling them to work with greater economy and better results. Near the boilers are the usual range of fitting shops, comprising a joinery shop, blacksmith shop, and fitters shop, with a sawmill and tub repairing shop. At the sawmill all old timber, broken by the weighting below is cut up into shorter lengths or sawn into wedges . Very little timber is wasted at Denaby, because the company pay the fillers a penny for every broken prop returned to the surface, and the fillers are very diligent in preventing waste.
Fan Engine House
The fan engine house next claimed our attention. Here there are probably the finest pair of engines put down to drive the fan of any colliery in the world. They were never, in fact, built for the purpose for which they are now employed, but were designed as marine engines for a ‘liner.’ They proved too big for the ship they were intended to drive, and five or six years ago they were bought by the Denaby Colliery Company and installed to drive the ventilating apparatus of the colliery. They were built by Messrs Furneval and Co of Haslingden, have 4 feet cylinders with a 8 feet/, driving a flywheel with a 30 feet diameter at the rate of 30 revolutions per minute, which is geared to a Guibal fan, having a diameter of 30 feet, making 120 revolutions per minute.
Then to the winding engines of number two shaft, which are not employed in drawing coal. Those who know Denaby Colliery will be aware that the winding wheels are erected askew, and that the engine house is so situated that the man at the levers cannot see the headgear. Among the improvements contemplated at Denaby Main is the erection of a new engine house and headgear, which will be in a straight line, accompanied by the sinking from the bottom of the up cast shaft to a lower seem of coal, and coal will then be drawn from number two shaft.
The winding engines in the cupola shaft, now only use for drawing men at the change of shift, and in the meantime retained as managements special train between the surface and below, were laid down in 1888 by the Worsley Mesnes Iron Works Company of Wigan. They have 38, cylinders with a 5 foot stroke, driving a 15 foot drop. The engine man, as already stated, cannot see the headgear, and in winding is guided entirely by a clock face indicator by a mark upon the drum, the running of which is visible to him.
Pump and Winding House
Adjacent to the engine house at number two shaft is a pump house, where a turbine pump, erected by Messrs John Cameron and Co. of Manchester works to feed the boilers. From here a few steps brings us to the main winding engine house, where the engines that have earned the livelihood of the company for many, many years are installed. They were originally erected by Messrs Bradley and co-of Wakefield in 1868, when the colliery was opened, but in 1888, when the headgear and engine house were burned down, they were partially destroyed and otherwise badly damaged, and were then almost entirely rebuilt by their manufacturers.
The engines have 3 feet cylinders with a 6 feet stroke and drive a winding drum with 18 feet diameter. The shaft is 453 yards deep, and the drum makes 23 ½ revolutions in the course of a wind. This information was volunteered by the veteran on duty at the levers, I counted the strokes made by the engine during a wind, by way of checking him, and found that he knew what he was talking about.
We went now to the pit bank of number one shaft, where they had just run the last load of workmen and were preparing to commence winding coal. There was a rapid exchange of signal between the bottom and top of the pit, and between the pit top and the engine room, to indicate the change, and then the first run was made, a single empty corf was sent down and a solitary full one hauled up.
The object of this precaution was not explained to us, and the proceeding rather appears to bear a relationship to the trial ball allowed to the bowler at cricket. The cages have three decks, and are connected to the winding rope with Kings Protection Lock to prevent over winding. On either side of the pit top are hydraulic cages corresponding to the cages in the shaft. While the run is being made the hydraulic cage on one side is loaded with empty corves, and as the chair alights on the fallers, the six full corves run out onto the empty hydraulic, while the six empty corves run into the cage, the process of unloading and reloading the chair occupying only a fraction of a minute.
When the colliery is in full swing, and the men are not suffering from the after-effects of an holiday – as they were on Friday – as many as 70 runs are sometimes made in an hour, and Jeffcock, of Conisborough, the champion winder of Denaby, has made as many as 74 ½ runs in an hour.
The hydraulics discharge the load received from the cage, while the next wind is taking place, and then stand ready for the next consignment from below. The full corves travel by their own gravity to the weighbridge, where the number of the stall from which it was filled is called out, and the weight registers entered against the number. This is the work of a moment, and then the corves gravitate towards the screens. One at a time they are emptied by the Rotary tipplers, hard at one side, softs at the other.
The jigging screens and picking belts are not new, and mini salts from years ago, but they are now driven by electric power instead of steam. An electric motor, running at 500 V, by the British Thomson Houston company of Rugby, supplying the power. From the lower range of the screen the slack which had been riddled from the round cause is carried by hoppers to the slack wash, some distance away, when it is cleaned of the dirt and impurities by jigging screens working under a flow of water, and is then conveyed to the coke ovens.