I've just finished reading Malcolm Roebucks story of Teversal Colliery. Damn, I can taste the dust! Thoroughly enjoyed the read and a couple of items he mentions brought memories back for me as well.
The fluid coupling which drives the panzer conveyor was always a worry when shortening the panzer chain which had to be done periodically as it would stretch and too much slack underneath was a hazard. There was a proper way of doing it but I'm damned if I can remember. I would sprag the chain against the roof with a dobby prop and a collier would signal into the gate to run the chain. As it was spragged, slack chain would be thrown over and removed quickly, bolts and flights removed first of course, and reconnected. Collier signalling to turn drive off. Had to be sharp because the fluid coupling fusible plug could blow. Repeat on other side. Then the colliers would decide if a few more links should be removed, repeat if so then put flights back and bolt up. I was only an apprentice fitter when I did this and was only fitter on the face. The guy signalling was my next door neighbour and had seen me grow up and was clearly worried that I could lose a finger or two if I fumbled the job and the fusible plug blew because I was taking too long hooking the chain back in. Big grin from him after.
The Tepanners were fantastic machines and generally reliable. The one I'm remembering was the coalside type, Forgotten the proper name but not CMT's. The common problem was 'slow-hauling' and easily fixed with a top up of hydraulic oil. Sometimes the poppet valves needed clearing which was easily done and the colliers knew all about it and would often have the cover plate loosened off with the blunt end of a pick before I got there and I'd just finish the job with an Allen Key. On occasion the water suppression would have to be removed and the whole hydraulic cover plate. Once, we got the plate off and the 2 inch coal ceiling chose that moment to fall into the hydraulics. Had to spend time fishing out what lumps we could. They must have had extremely good filter systems because as I was to learn in future years cleanliness is next to godliness with hydraulics.
On one occasion a fault developed that meant access to the rear of the machine. As it was halfway down the coalface a collier took a pick and hacked a 'cave' into the coalface and round the back of the machine. It was a really tight squeeze but I managed to get in there and remove the cover plate. And out came the warm oil, into my kneepads and soaking my overalls down to and into my boots. Ahh the joys of working down a mine!
Another time a similar problem happened but the weight was on and they couldn't hack out the hole so decided to blow it. When we got back to the machine after firing we found that the tepanning head was lying on the panzer conveyor. Too much charge. By the time we crawled out to the gateway and phone one of the colliers had composed a poem telling the whole story of the breakdown and incident and had us all in stitches.
I met some really sharp guys and its funny but in all the years since, its colliers and underground fitters that I remember the most, and usually with a smile.