After a week I was sent onto the Main Haulage with Roy Sterland and his nephew Carl Sterland who were to give me twenty days induction on the transport of different types of loads and vehicles. The haulage system was a bi-directional endless rope haulage driven by a two hundred horse power engine and the haulage ropes travelled the whole length of the Main Intake Roadway, this roadway dipped towards the inbye end dropping one foot in six for the first two hundred yards and then an average of one foot in every eight and it served every district in the mine. The haulage engine was situated at the outbye end of the roadway with one rope running in the middle of the rail track; this was for the vehicles to be attached to and at the inbye end of the roadway this rope went around a "return wheel" and travelled back Outbye. (Towards the pit bottom, away from the workings) at the side of the rail track to the haulage engine)
I remember one time when we had a "Runner" (Vehicles running away out of control) at the very outbye end of the roadway on the brow of the hill, two sets of four tubs had been attached to the rope and taken inbye of a junction with another roadway where the third set of vehicles were required to go. The rail points had been changed for the third set to be directed into this roadway and the clips removed from the third set, we pushed the third set forwards and the leading vehicle "jumped the points" and careered down the incline knocking the first two sets off the haulage rope.
Safety device known as a
Twelve full vehicles; weighing well over twelve ton’s hurtling down a 1 in 6 roadway can do a awful lot of damage and be extremely lethal; fortunately safety device’s known as “Warwick Girders” were in position and arrested the vehicles, the warwick girders had been badly damaged and some vehicles derailed and turned over. Warwick girders are single acting girders that can work in pairs, attached to the roof of the roadway by an hinged bracket such that one end lays at an angle into the floor in the middle of the track; these girders are coupled together by a steel rope that passes over small pulleys in the roof, each girder acts as a balance weight to the other such that if one girder is in the raised position the other is down. Thankfully no one had been injured, though one man working inbye of the “runner” had managed to reach the safety of a “man hole” (A refuge hole situated at intervals in the side of the roadway for such events) and witnessed the vehicles harmlessly rush by him. This man was Polish and had spent his early mining life in the North East so I could say that he was half “Polish” and half “Geordie” and I can honestly say that when we got to him we couldn’t tell a word he was saying, he was as white as a ghost and excitedly jabbering on, I don’t know if he was shouting the praises for the “man hole” or cussing us for what had happened. I can say that both Roy and Carl were excellent workers who were diligent in what they did; this unfortunate incident was due to a fault in the set of points. I have to say maintenance was crap at Teversal as was the culture on safety.
My next twenty days induction was to work alongside a man named John Rhodes who would teach me how to work with a pit pony; I was to meet John (More commonly known as "Poach") in the pit bottom stables. The stables were kept clean and a man called an "Ostler" looked after all of the ponies; he made sure that all ponies were kept clean, fed and groomed and checked to make sure that none had any injuries, each pony stood in its own stall with its' name painted on a board. The pony that we were to work with was named Danny, he was the smallest pony at the mine and Poach was a large chap, the relevance of this will be made later. First thing that we had to do was to examine the pony to ensure that there were no problems with him or his "gear" after which we attached the gear to Danny putting on his collar followed by his head gear (A type of leather hat, padded for head and face protection), back pad, belly band, crupper pad, brich band and associated leather straps and chains. We had the furthest to travel; so Poach signed a statutory register to say that he was taking charge of the pony and off we set to walk to some two kilometres to 10s supply gate in the Dunsil seam via the Main Intake Roadway, Poach walked in front of the pony and I followed behind.
A gate is a roadway that serves a coalface. Return and Intake meaning the direction of the ventilation.
- Intake = air in (Inbye)
- Return = air out (Outbye)
All of the roadways and districts in the mine are given names and sometimes numbers, these are just to identify them as you would name streets and number the houses, though not always in numerical order. Manholes are also numbered and from time to time measure marks are painted on the roadway supports, these were often used to identify the location in a roadway.
Our first job was to transport a tub of “cap-wood” (pieces of wood six inch by four inch by one inch, these are placed between the steel props and roof bars on the coal face) to the coal face, Poach fastened a set of “limmers” to Danny, these are best described as a set of steel portable “shafts” that were used for pulling the tub with and are attached to tub with a “crank” (A steel bar) and off we set. 10s S/G was low probably only five feet high for most of its length, it only got higher as you got inbye; I could see Poach in front walking in a stooped manner and could see that he was throwing one hand after the other behind him, I couldn’t understand this at all. We eventually got to the inbye end of the gate almost up to the coal face, it was hot and dusty; It was here that I saw a coal face for the first time and was amazed to see a tall slim man crawl off a coal face that was only about two feet six inches high.
This man’s name was Malcolm Buckley and although black with coal dust he was absolutely wet through with sweat, it just looked as though someone had thrown a bucket of black water over him. (I will mention this man later). We unloaded the tub and moved the pony to the back of the tub ready for travelling outbye, Poach instructed me to lead the pony outbye and that he would watch me from the rear. Off we set, I feeling great, I was in charge, little did I know that things were soon to change; I hadn’t travelled far when Danny bit me on the rear and it did hurt, now I understood why Poach was throwing his hands behind him. I decided to walk a little faster, Danny decided likewise and bit me again and sound of the empty tub grew loader the faster we went; I threw my hands behind me hoping to stop Danny biting, it didn’t and in panic I started to run and so did Danny. I could see some lights in the distance coming towards us, still running I saw a man-hole and threw myself into it, Danny followed by the tub followed by Poach screaming for Danny to stop quickly passed by me. Danny did eventually stop and when I reached them Poach was talking to two men who were on their way inbye; one was the Colliery Undermanager (Willis Bacon) and the other a Colliery Overman, both of us got a stiff talking to, (I am unable to put down what was said due to the swearing content) Poach was fined ten shillings (50P about half a day’s pay) for the offence of letting a pony run away as he was the man in charge. After the Undermanager and the Overman had left, I suffered a “thick ear” for my trouble.
Towards the end of the shift it was time to return the pony to the stables and I expected our outbye journey to be arduous as it was uphill all the way back to the pit bottom and we were to lead the pony out, how wrong I was. Remember Danny being the smallest pony at the pit and Poach being on the large side; well when we had reached the Main Intake roadway Poach mounted the pony and rode him all the way back up the Main Intake despite it being illegal to ride horses. I was to ride the conveyor belts out; I had done this before when I was on the Main Intake Haulage and I knew where to get on and off the conveyors, despite it being wrong to do this I had no hesitation in doing so. Most of the workmen would illegally ride conveyors; it was common practice to do so and you would often hear the comment “A third class ride is better than a first class walk.” I had now completed my underground induction training and was to be deployed as an underground workman.
I progressed to my next job and that was to work with another man whose name was Jeffry Roe; I was going to be a "ganger" a ganger was a person who transports vehicles using a pit pony and my new place of work was to be 1s supply gate (often called the Tail or Return Gate) in the first Waterloo Seam. Jeff was to be the main man; he had been on this job for a couple of years and knew the job inside out, I was to be his mate, another man who was called Percy was our haulage driver. 1s S/G contained one endless bidirectional rope haulage system that terminated anything up to 200 metres from the face (The haulage rope would be extended at intervals) and our job was to transport full tubs of materials along the rope haulage system and from there transport them inbye with the pony and when we had emptied them we were to transport all of them to the outbye end of the gate. This roadway was wet in places, one section of the roadway about 100metres long had fungus that looked like cotton-wool growing all over the roof and sides; it was also very dusty due to it being a return gate, it carried all the dust that the coal face machine produced.
To get to this location we travelled a main return airway, this was called the North Manrider it contained an endless rope haulage system that had carriages connected to the haulage rope for the transport of men, there was not a conveyor belt in this roadway. (Remember Arthur Parkes at Sutton Colliery, his father Jimmy drove this manriding haulage) This roadway had a bend in the middle, so that the manriding carriages were attached to the rope such that if one set of cars were travelling inbye, the other set was travelling outbye. They would stop in the middle section and the men travelling on the manrider would change carriages to either continue their journey inbye or outbye. However, when we were to walk inbye or outbye with the pony we had to inform the Manrider Driver and wait for his permission to do so; when his permission was granted we could then safely proceed as he would not let the manrider run until we had informed him that we were clear of the roadway. The pony that we had was called Don; he was a brilliant hard working horse very easy to handle, calm, followed instructions and a clever clogs to boot. When travelling outbye on the North Manrider (It was uphill all the way just like the Main Intake) we had to squeeze by the manriding carriages, Don would push you out of the way and keep well in front so as to prevent you riding him outbye. He was not always successful.
I remember both of the Deputies (A deputy is in charge of and has the statutory responsibility for his district) on this district, George Stains and Dick Wood; I was reminded by my brother how George would wait at the bottom of the manrider to give Don a daily treat of four slices of bread and jam. Both of these Deputies were very friendly chaps and would have a joke with you, Dick was a bit of a lad, he would often give you a playful punch in the ribs, even though you expected and tried to avoid it he always managed to sneak one in. The "Overman" (an official superior to a Deputy but inferior to the Undermanager) on the district was Albert Woodfield; he was a likeable chap and it was he who would get us plenty of overtime and weekend work.