- The Colliery -
The colliery was situated about seven miles north east of Glasgow and was in the No.3 Central West Area of the National Coal Board.
The manager was Mr. J.F. Smellie
Mr. A. Pettigrew as undermanager.
The Group Manager was
Mr. C.M. Inglis, the deputy Area Production Manager (Operations) Mr. J. Lawrie and the Area Production manager
Mr. J. R. Cowan.
The Area Manager was
Mr. D. Lang.
The mine was known to be gassy and had two shafts which went to the No.2 Pit workings where the accident occurred, at a depth of 360 yards.
The downcast shaft had two hinged gratings known as Needles fitted at 150 yards where there was an inset for the No.1 Pit workings in the Meiklehill Wee Seam. The cages were not normally wound below this point.
The disaster occurred in the No.2 Pit and the resulting fire cost the lives of forty seven men.
At the time of the accident 830 men were working in the mine which produced about 730 tons of coal per day. In the No. 2 Pit workings there were 340 men with about 140 on each of the day and back shifts and 60 on the night shift.
The daily output was about 380 tons from the Meiklehill Main Coal and the Kilsyth Coking Coal Seams. The night shift men ascended between 6 and 6.30 a.m. and the day shift men were lowered between 6.30 and 7 a.m.
In the No.2 Pit workings where the accident occurred, there were two main roads running south and parallel to each other to the workings of the Main Coal and the Coking Coal Seams. The intake airway was used for the haulage of coal by endless rope and the first 925 yards of the return airway for a man-riding haulage system.
There were connections at the pit bottom and there was also a crosscut with air separation doors which was commonly known as Johnstone's Crosscut about 1,125 yards inbye near the No.6 bench which was the back of the haulage road leading to the Coking Coal Sections. The return airway from the Coking Coal Sections crossed the main intake airway by an overcast and then joined the main return airway between these connecting crosscuts. The booster fan at which the fire occurred was in the return airway, a little further outbye. The intake and the main haulage road were supported by steel arched girders which were twelve feet wide by nine feet high from the bottom of the pit to Johnstone's Crosscut and twelve feet by eight feet from there to the No.6 Bench. The return and the man-riding road was steel arched with timber lagging which had not been fire proofed. The arches in the return where thirteen feet high for the first 350 yards from the pit bottom and ten feet by eight feet for the next 200 yards, eleven feet by nine feet for the next 500 yards to a bend of the road just beyond the inbye terminus and the man-riding haulage and finally an average of twelve feet by eight feet beyond that point.
The system of ventilation consisted of the intake air to the No.2 Pit workings being split at the No.6 Bench to provide separate intakes for the Main Coal workings and the Coking Coal sections. The return air from these sections came together at No.5 Bench and then passed through the booster fan which was about 40 yards outbye at a point 570 yards from Johnstone Crosscut and about a mile from the pit bottom. The exhausting fan at the surface was electrically driven and produced about 160,000 cubic feet of air per minute at 5.4 to 5.5 inches water gauge. A standby fan had a similar capacity.
The booster fan was of a double inlet, forward bladed, centrifugal type with a 45-inch diameter rotor driven by a flat belt. The rotor shaft was carried on two white metal bearings, oil ring lubricated and each with an oil capacity of six pints. The cambered or 'crowned' fan pulley was 22 inches in diameter, 12 inches wide and overhung the bearing. The fan was driven at about 540 revolutions per minute by a 100 horsepower motor, flameproof, slip-ring induction motor running at 730 revolutions per minute. The power supply was three phase, 50-cycle, alternating current at 440 volts. The motor pulley was also 'crowned' and was 16 inches in diameter and 15 inches wide. The pulley centres were 15 feet apart. The fan drive as fenced on the near side with a one inch steel aperture mesh supported from an angle iron frame secured to the side wall of the fanhouse. A timber covering or 'catwalk' was made from nine inch by two inch battens which were placed over the belt to make access easier to the nearest fan bearing.
The transmission belt was seven-ply and twelve inches wide of a type known as balata belting which was made of folded high tensile cotton duck and balata gum, neither of which was fire resistant. The belt travelled at about 3,200 feet per minute if there was no slip. The fan was in the fan house in the main return airway and the outlet casing was mounted in a brick wall built across the roadway and with brick wall fairings to smooth the air flow into the inlets of the fan. The motor was mounted on three slide rails and could move about seven inches so that the belt could be tensioned. The circuit breaker and the rotor starter for the motor were in the crosscut next to the motor.
A water gauge and an automatic indicator of the water gauge was placed near the haulage engine at the intake end of the crosscut to indicate and record the ventilation pressure between the intake and the return airways. Three wooded doors in the bypass road were designed to open automatically by the change in the ventilation pressure in the event of a fan stoppage.
The sides of the roads inbye of the fan to the junction with the by-pass road were brickwork and the roof was supported by steel girders. Outbye from the fan the left hand wall was brick and on the right hand side there was a brick wall on which some wooden props were set to support the roof which were set to roof girders. The girders on the sides were lagged with wood but the wood had not been fire-proofed.
The man rider was an endless rope system with each car or bogie attached to the rope by an integral screw clip. The train was made up of four bogies, each seating twelve men in three compartments with seats of four, two facing each way. The electrically driven engine was housed in the return airway and provided with protection against over running each end of the haulage and against excessive speed. The position of the bogies was shown on an indicator and by a warning stop light.
The main telephone switchboard was in the lamp room at the surface with lines to the colliery office, the engineers surface workshop, the winding engine rooms, the pit head and down the shaft. The line from the surface to the upcast pit bottom ended in a small switchboard in the pumphouse connected to instruments in Johnstone's Crosscut, No.6 Bench and other points inbye. Conversations between any two points could be overheard on other hand sets. There was not telephone communication with the man-riding haulage system.