Winding Engine for Downcast Shaft
THE sinking of Thorne Colliery shafts at the beginning of this century has been described as 'one of the most arduous in the annals of the Yorkshire Coalfield'. The operation took 17 years to complete.(1909-1926) due to the enormous difficulties of water seepage and the disruption of the First world war.
The Barnsley coal seam had been reached at 923 yards in No. 1 shaft, in August 1924. No. 2 shaft reached the seam at 964 yards due to a geological fault in January 1926. The company, Pease and Partners, decided however to lay out their shaft bottom in the High Hazel seam, also called the Kent Thick seam, situated 62ft above the Barnsley seam. High Hazel coal proved to be of superior quality and no less than 5ft in thickness. The coal production initially planned to be secured from this seam was 1700 tons per day. The expected capacity of the colliery was 1,500,000 tons per annum.
Running-off Side No. 1 Pit Top
Having regard to the depth of the shafts and the output desired the lifting gear was of a rather heavy order. The headgears which straddled the 22ft diameter shaft stood at 113ft high to the centre of the pulleys on the wheels. Each one would bear a load of no less than 241 tons - two pulleys - 20 tons; 10 rope guides and weights - 153 tons; two winding ropes - 35 tons; two cages and accessories - 20 tons; eight empty tubs - three tons; eight full tubs - nine tons. The cages were doing 28-34 draws per hour.
The steam winding engine at No. 1 shaft (downcast) had a pair of high pressure cylinders, 36" in diameter with a 72" stroke fitted with Corliss valve gear. The winding drum had a, maximum and minimum diameter of 26ft and 17ft.
All power at the mine was produced at the colliery boiler plant. It also supplied electricity to the houses in Moorends at one time and gave assistance to the Yorkshire Electric Power Co. network.
A 17ft diameter Waddel fan was responsible for the colliery's ventilation system.
By 1928 Thorne Colliery was ready for full production. Apart from some water in the sumps the shafts were relatively dry.
In 1936 weepers of water appeared in No. 2 shaft and pumps had to be installed to deal with up to 200 gallons per minute and by 1943 the capacity of these pumps had increased to 900 gal. per minute to deal with increased seepage.
In 1944 water began to invade No. 1 shaft at the depth of 380 yards - well below the water bearing station - The Cementation Company was brought in to locate the source of the water. It was deducted that the water was being conducted via the old freezing tubes and just `maybe' it could be a `sleeping giant' which had been left unsealed at the time of the, sinking.
The probing of the Concrete shaft wall at this point later known as the 'bad patch' revealed a cavity and, five freezing holes, two of them unlined: The holes were grouted with cement and the cavity filled with bricks and concrete and by the end of 1944 the seepage had been reduced by 800 galls per minute.
During that year cracks had appeared in No. 2 shaft lining at about 400 yards. It was decided therefore to strengthen the wall at this point and consequently 14 metal 'buildings' with timber backing were placed in the shaft supporting the whole circumference from 393 to 402 yards depth.
By April 1953, the 'bad patch' in No. 2 shaft was leaking 250 gal. per minute. The Cementation Co. were again consulted and it was agreed by all that the shaft wall could not be repaired until the flow of water was stemmed. For three years the battle to stop the water seepage was fought - the old freezing tubes were located and most were successfully stopped up. However the very mire of the operations had greatly increased the amount of water to be pumped and by 'November 1955 it had reached 1,600 galls per minute. Despite the tons of cement that had been pumped in and 'new walls' built the water flow -had not been stopped.
In June 1956 it was decided by the National Coal Board that permanent repairs could only be undertaken if the colliery was to cease production for a limited period.
After much discussion a decision was reached to install welded steel - concrete bonded linings to Thorne Colliery shafts, plus new headgear etc - but all too late?
Bigger events have now overtaken the, 'smaller' matter of water seepage at Thorne which was estimated to have cost £l.3m to correct.
However the final chapter has still to be written on this most easterly of Yorkshire Coalfield's pits which at its peak provided employment for 2,800 men.
The German freezing method of drilling holes 7inch in diameter and filling
with brine to
maintain a ring of frozen ground around the shaft had been used to no avail in 1912.
Acknowledgements - Cementation Co., Pease & Partners Ltd, Messrs Stones,
Hunter and Maskey, Inst. of Mining Engineers.
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