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Altofts Rescue Training Gallery, Normanton, Yorkshire

Philip Wyles

Philip Wyles
1 May 2013
Altofts Rescue Training Gallery

Hello Fionn

The attached text and image are of a visit to the Altofts Gallery. This was underground at the colliery so conditions were the real thing.

I think this should prove of interest to those interested in mining history.

Regards Phil




HELD at Messrs. Pope & Pearson’s West Riding Collieries, Altofts,
March 23rd, 1907.

The members visited the West Riding collieries at the invitation of Messrs. Pope & Pearson, Limited, and Mr. W. E. Garforth, to witness a demonstration of rescue-work in the experimental gallery at Altofts collieries.


Since the description of the experimental gallery at Altofts collieries for testing life-saving apparatus was described in 1901 considerable alterations have been made. A short description of the gallery as it now exists may, therefore, be of interest to those who may contemplate the erection of a rescue-station.

The external framework of the gallery is the same as originally designed by Mr. W. E. Garforth in 1901; but the internal parts have been altered from time to time, and further obstacles added for the purpose of increasing the difficulties of exploration- work and of obtaining additional efficiency from the men wearing life-saving apparatus.

The gallery, as now arranged, is 100 feet long, with a capacity of 5,600 cubic feet (fig. 1, see below.); and it is divided into two parts. The first section, AB, 30 feet long, 6 feet wide and 7 feet 6 inches high, is used as a training-ground; it is termed the “nursery,” and no obstructions are placed in it. The second section, BCD, 70 feet long, forms the actual testing-ground, and is made to resemble, as far as possible, the damaged roadways of a mine after an explosion (fig. 2, see below.). The obstacles placed in this road consist of overturned tubs, rocks and stones, with, broken timber placed irregularly, confined spaces, etc. The general arrangement of this section consists of a clear space, D, representing the downcast shaft, and from this an upper roadway extends to the nursery-section over the debris and other obstacles (fig. 3, see below.). For the sake of reporting the work done by explorers,, the various parts of this roadway have been given distinctive names, namely, west road, south road and east road. The longitudinal section (fig. 4, see below.) shows the various obstructions, etc.

At E (fig. 1, see below.), a lower roadway, formed under timber-frames on which the debris rests, communicates, say, from Ludgate through Kirkgate, Holgate, Briggate and Mousehole- gate to B, where the two roadways emerge into the nursery-sec- tion. Four slits, a, b, c and d (figs. 1 and 2, plate viii.) connect the upper and lower roadways with each other and with the coal­faces, represented by Kirkgate and Briggate. The sections (figs. 5 and 6, see below.) show the relative positions and areas of the two roadways.

The exterior is fitted with seven exit-doors, each 5 feet 9 inches high and 2 feet % inches wide, together with twelve inspection-windows. The nursery, AB, has two exit-doors, e and f, and three inspection-windows, l, m and n; and the section, BCD, or the actual testing ground, five exit-doors, g, h, i, j and k, and nine inspection- windows, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v and w. The windows, varying from 4 feet by 3 feet to 3 feet by 1 foot 6 inches, are so arranged that the attendant is able to watch the explorer and render assistance if required.

In the nursery-section, an appliance is placed for ascertaining the weight that an explorer can lift, when equipped with a life- saving apparatus. It consists of a framework and pulley, over which is passed a rope attached to a weight of 56 pounds. A stretcher weighing 40 pounds, with a dummy-man weighing 160 pounds, is also used for exercise-purposes. The explorers carry a pneumatic horn, similar to that carried by cyclists: it is frequently sounded, once to indicate safety and twice for danger.

An arrangement for conveying a man from the mine up the shaft to the surface has also been provided. It consists of a cradle formed like a saddle, the occupier being placed in a pair of trousers, as in the rocket-apparatus; and it is so arranged that a man can be upset without being thrown out of it. If a man were put in this apparatus at a depth of 2,000 feet, it would be safe to send him to the surface; and men could descend in it wearing the life-saving apparatus.

An underground pipe connects the two ends, A and D, of the gallery; and, by means of slides, a continuous circulation of gases can be maintained, when it is required to make the atmosphere very deleterious; or fresh air can be admitted to dilute the atmosphere; or the fumes can be entirely replaced by pure air: the whole arrangement being under the complete control of the outside attendant (fig. 1, see below.).

When the gallery was constructed, an iron boiler, 30 feet, long and 7 feet in diameter, was attached for the purpose of holding a fire fed with compressed air. This fire represented a gob-fire, and afforded a means of testing whether the apparatus- would stand a temperature varying from 140° to 150° Fahr.

The results of every trial and any remarks connected with the same are recorded by the attendant in a book at the end of each trial.


The following programme had been arranged to be carried out before the members of the Midland Institute of Mining, Civil and Mechanical Engineers by two teams: one consisting of four men from Messrs. Pope & Pearson, Limited’s collieries, wearing the Weg apparatus; the other of four men equipped with the Draeger apparatus from the Tankersley rescue-station, belonging to the Barrow Hematite Steel Company, Limited, Messrs. Newton, Chambers & Company, Limited, the Strafford Collieries Company, Limited, and the Wharncliffe Silkstone Colliery Company, Limited: —

  1. Four men to enter the gallery, walk 100 yards, and creep on hands and knees, 50 yards.
  2. The same four men to pick np a stretcher, weighing 40 pounds, carry it through narrow roadways, over falls, at the same time removing stones, varying from 40 pounds to 80 pounds in weight; then crawl through an air-pipe, 2 feet in diameter and 6 feet long. Pick up dummy man, 160 pounds in weight, place him on the stretcher, and carry the loaded stretcher back to the entrance of the gallery.
  3. Two of the rescue-team to return to the farthest point of the gallery, carrying fire-extincteurs, and discharge the contents of the same on the windows, in imitation of extinguishing a supposed underground fire. When this work is completed, they will occupy the rest of the time in fixing brattice-cloth, setting props and bars, and other work useful for exploration.
  4. The remaining two men of the team will repeatedly lift a weight of 56 pounds to a height of 6 feet.
The Council of the Midland Institute of Mining, Civil and Mechanical Engineers arrived at the colliery about 10,30 a.m.; and a committee was formed, consisting of the following members:—Prof. G. R. Thompson, Messrs. W. Walker, J. R. R. Wilson, H. B. Nash, J. E. Chambers, J. J. Eley and J. Gill, who supervised the work done by the two teams wearing respectively the Weg and the Draeger apparatus. It was agreed that a coin should be tossed, to show which team should enter the gallery first; and the choice indicated the Weg apparatus.

I - The following is a detailed record of the work done by the team of four men wearing the Weg apparatus:—

12.17 p.m. Entered the gallery.
12.20 p.m. Walking 80 yards.
12.23 p.m. Creeping 80 yards.
12.27 p. m. Went over the falls, clearing a way for the stretcher, and brought out the dummy man at 12.46 p.m.
12.49 p.m. Nos. 1 and 4 men went over the falls with fire - extincteurs, through the air-pipe, discharged one fire-extincteur, and returned over the falls carrying fire-extincteurs to the nursery or entrance of the gallery.
12.53 p.m. Nos. 2 and 3 men commenced pulling the weight.
1 .0 p.m. Nos. 1 and 4 men went over the falls, through the air-pipe, with three rolls of brattice-cloth, a hammer and nails. They fastened up the brattice, cloth in a form representing a mid-feather, to improve or alter the ventilation, and returned over the falls to the nursery at 1.15 p.m.
1.15 p.m. Nos. 1 and 4 men went over the falls carrying two fire-extincteurs, through the air-pipe, and returned over the falls to the nursery.
1.25 p.m. Nos. 1 and 4 men travelled under the falls, and returned over the falls to the nursery.
1.41 p.m. No. 1 man walked 96 yards, and came out of the gallery owing to a break-down in the apparatus ; and, the defect being adjusted, he re-entered the gallery at 1.55 p.m.
1.45 p.m. No. 4 man travelled over the falls and under the falls, back to the nursery, with a fire-extincteur.
1.58 p. m. No. 1 man travelled over the falls, through the air-pipe, and under the falls, back to the nursery.
2.5 p.m. Nos. 1 and 4 men travelled over the falls with fire-extincteurs, through the air-pipe, and returned through the air-pipe, and over the falls to the nursery.
2.27 p.m. No. 1 man travelled over the falls with a fire-extincteur, and back.
During this time, No. 2 man had lifted the weight 337 times and No. 3 man had lifted it 251 times, or a total of 588 times, equal to 197,568 foot-pounds of work.
After the team had been in the gallery for 2 hours and 15 minutes, they were requested to come out, as this time had been agreed upon by the Committee as the limit of the trial. The men had understood that they were to stay in as long as they possibly could, and were surprised at the request; and the leader wrote a note saying that No. 3 man could stop in about 20 minutes, No. 2 man about 15 minutes, and No. 1 man about 10 minutes, and that No. 4 man had nearly exhausted his supply of oxygen. After this, each man walked 336 yards.
2.42 p.m. No. 4 man came out of the gallery, having finished his supply of oxygen, and he had been 2 hours and 25 minutes in the gallery.
2.45 p.m. No. 1 man came out of the gallery, oxygen finished.
2.46 p.m. Nos. 2 and 3 men were told to come out of the gallery. Their oxygen-supply was not finished; No. 8 man had a pressure of 40 atmospheres left in one cylinder. Their time in the gallery was 2 hours and 29 minutes.


II—Men wearing the Draeger apparatus entered the gallery at 3 o p.m. Nos. 1 and 2 men were wearing the new Draeger mouthpiece, and Nos. 3 and 4 men the Draeger helmet:—

3.5 p.m. Walking 96 yards.
Creeping 96 yards.
Went over the falls, clearing a way for the stretcher, and brought out the dummy man at 3.32 p.m.
3.34 p.m. Nos. 1 and 2 men went over the falls and through the air-pipe, and returned over the falls to the nursery; but only one man went through the air-pipe.
4.0 p.m. Nos. 1 and 2 men went over the falls with brattice-cloth; No. 1 man came back over the falls for the hammer, fastened up the brattice-cloth similarly to No. I. team, and returned at 4.20 p.m. to the nursery.
4.25 p.m. Nos. 1 and 2 men went over the falls, and back to the nursery at 4.34 p.m.
4.39 p.m. No. 1 man went over the falls to the sixth door, j, and No. 2 man as far as the fourth door, k, and returned to the nursery (fig. 1, see below.).
4.44 p.m. No. 2 man came out, having been in the gallery 1 hour and 39 minutes.
During this time, Nos. 3 and 4 men had lifted the weight 762 times, equal to 256,032 foot-pounds of work.
5.6 p.m. No. 3 man came out, oxygen finished, having been in the gallery 2 hours and 1 minute.
5*22 p.m. Nos. 1 and 4 men were told to come out of the gallery. They had been in for 2 hours and 17 minutes, and they still had enough oxygen to last for a few minutes longer.

III.—The following is a summary of the work done in a noxious atmosphere, by the men equipped with the following forms of apparatus:—

Apparatus used: Weg Draeger.
Occupation of Men
Walking 1,760 yards. 384 yards.
Creeping 320 „ 384 „
Travelling over falls 600 ,, 570 „
Creeping through contracted passages 80 „ —
Creeping through air-pipe 23 times. 14 times.
Carrying fire-extincteurs 8 „ 2 ,,
Fixed brattice to alter ventilation Once. Once.
Lifting 56 pounds weight
to a height of 6 feet ... 588 times. 762 times.
Foot-pounds of work 197,568. 256,032