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Colliery electrification


Netherton Colliery was converted to electricity during the 1930s. I think this happened when Bedlington Coal Company took over the colliery in 1934 and undertook a programme of modernisation.

This is one of the motors installed, a 6 x 10 Tandem Main & Tail. Makers John Tinsley Ltd of Darlington. I don't know what this motor was actually used for. A Google search for the maker's name didn't reveal very much but listed them as making continuous rope haulage motors, for moving coal tubs, so perhaps that's what this was for.

If anyone can give me better information about this please get in touch.

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Netherton/Nedderton old photos

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This is a main and tail hauler,[not a motor!..],used for hauling sets of pit tubs and trams, loaded with coal,and materials respectively.They were usually installed at the pit shaft bottom area,as the main means of transporting the total of the coal seam's requirements for a day.At the end of the roadway there would be "Return wheels",[or "Sheaves"],upon which the hauler ropes would be slung,and these wheels and blocks would either be slung up high in the roadway,or mounted beneath the rolleyway,at the end of the line.

Not nitpicking ,mind,only for correctness,but this not an electrically-driven hauler...it is a magnificent example of a twin cylinder steam - driven hauler.

In a very small,shallow mine,it could have been used to wind the pit cages in a not-so-deep mineshaft,it is a smaller version of the big winding engines...except these only had a single drum,with both ropes on the same drum.

Hope I have been of some help with this information.



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I hope I was clear enough to help you understand about these haulers,cos upon me re-reading again,I was thinking that you might have thought that this particular engine would have been used underground,which is not entirely impossible,but highly improbable!

It would have involved having a steam boiler within a short distance away,but seeing as the earliest  pits depended upon a huge fireplace at the bottom of the upcast shaft,which heated the air,causing an updraught,which in turn,caused fresh air to  be drawn down the "Downcast" shaft, which travelled all around the roadways of the pit,then I don't see why a boiler couldn't be installed into the fireplace..like a larger version of a domestic back-boiler,to provide the steam pressure necessary to drive this engine.

Ashington colliery,in Northumberland UK,still had the fireplace,along with all the fireman's rakes,and other tools which hung up on a large rack,on the side of the shaft walled area...it wasn't in use,naturally,after Electricity was installed at the mine,but it was a museum piece frozen in time!!..I think it all went to a Museum..not sure.

So my main point was that it was electric hauling engines that were used underground.

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Just as a matter of further interest,the original post quotes the company as saying they make "Continuous rope haulage systems"...I would like to clarify the difference between a "Main and Tail " hauler,like this shown ,which had a "Main" rope,and a "Tail" rope...and a "Continuous" rope haulage system.

The two ropes swapped  titles when the hauler was in a reverse mode..such that,when pulling a set of tubs inbye,the MAIN rope would be attached to the front of the set,and the TAIL rope would be attached to the rear of the set,usually with a "D"-shaped shackle,[we called them "Sheckles"],and a Sheckle pin to secure the rope within the sheckle and fastened to the middle "Cock-hole" of the tub.[ not obscene...the proper pit terminology for the holes in the tub at each end which is forged into the banding around the tub!]

The hauler driver would keep gentle braking pressure on the tail rope to keep it as taught as possible without overloading the hauler motor...and also to prevent the set from going "Amain"..[running out of control],down any anticlines..["Swalleys"].

When the empty set was ready to haul back outbye,the "Tail" rope would now be the "MAIN" rope,and vice versa.

Now on a continuous hauler,it was as the name suggests, a continuous loop of rope,which ran the full length of the rolleyway,[roadway],driven by a single-drum hauler,where the drum was only about a foot wide,and which had three coils of rope wrapped around the drum.

From the hauler drum,the rope was laid between the rails,and ran over floor mounted rollers placed about thirty yards apart,to help prevent the rope from sawing through the sleepers,which it did any way!..and also to reduce frictional drag on the hauler.

At the inbye end of the roadway,the rope went around a "Sheave",usually,but not always,mounted up on the girders in the roadway...sometimes the return Sheave was laid beneath the rolleyway..it depended which method of clipping the sets to the rope,was being employed...then the rope returned to the hauler slung up high in the roadway,and which ran over idler pulleys all the way back outbye,and being fed back into the hauler drum.[this was called the "Dead" rope. This system depended absoloutely on the correct tension of the rope between the hauler,and the return wheel..[the Sheave],to keep the three coils taut on the drum..in order for the hauler to drive the rope..without slipping on the drum.

Now I have given the scenario of a single -roadway system,where the driver had to switch over the hauler motor to reverse the rope direction,to bring sets outbye.

On shaft-bottom rolleyways,there were two rolleyways,a "Full " side,and a "Chum"..[short for Chumming..or empty ]..side.

The "DishLad",hung the sets onto the rope,from where the Chummings collected ,in a "Dish" [Swalley]...at the shaft-bottom area.

The Loader-end lad hung the full sets of coal tubs,onto the rope inbye,in order for the sets to be transported out to the shaft-bottom area.  So in this case,there were two sheaves inbye,spaced so as to take the incoming rope from outbye,feed it across the roadway,and down onto the rolleyway leading the sets outbye.The rope usually ran continuously all shift,unless a fault occurred.

There was "Top-rope"haulage,and "Bottom-rope " haulage,whereby in the former system,the rope went over the tops of all the tubs in a set,using clips called either "Jockies" ,or "Hambones".[there was another stupid system using clips called "Pigtails"..which were highly dangerous in inexperienced hands...!]

Bottom rope haulage used equally dangerous systems ,such as the "Victor Dog Grip",Lashing chains,which were the ultimate deadly method of attaching a set to a moving haulage rope!,and in some cases Hambones again.

All of these systems involved the person,[usually young trainees for their first underground job],standing in front of a set of tubs or trams...whatever,and clipping whatever type of clip,or lashing chain,to a moving steel wire rope,which instantly jerked the set away from standstill,with very little,if any at all,time to jump back out of the way.

There were some nasty accidents,with serious injuries sustained,using these systems in the old days ....OLD days!!!...we were still using these clips and chains up until the day that thatcher-the-hatcheter gave the word to "SWITCH OFF AND PULL OUT EVERYONE"

The other deadly thing about haulage ropes were,they used to wear in places,and single steel wires,from their construction,would stick out,only an inch sometimes,what we called "Strands",and they used to catch hold of your boots,clothes,or your bare skin,with no mercy whatsoever.

Many a time I have been ripped by a strand,or pulled off my feet by a strand catching hold of my boot..there was no stopping these haulers,they used to rip out the supporting arched girders ,if a set got off the way[derailed],and the front tub went into the girders.

So back to the endless hauler system,at the inbye end,someone had to unclip the sets,still with the rope moving,unless Jockey's were in use,these unclipped themselves.


I canna think of any other method of clips used in my time,I would be interested to hear of any others used at other pits.

In the old days,1950's-on,for me,haulage ropes ran at four miles an hour,and the big shaft main and tail at Choppington,used to run at about eight miles an hour at full speed...now that's fast...underground!! where you have nowhere to to go except refuge manholes set into the road side every twenty yards apart....if  you were in between those manholes,and a  set was coming toward you!

In latter years haulage speeds were regulated to two miles an hour,which was still fast if you were following the set,in charge of it,and you tripped on a loose sleeper...it was away from you in seconds!

Hope I have explained clearly so the uninitiated can understand at least a wee bit better than before!

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Heh heh!..so I was sort of right, in my supposition that it was a possibility that these steam haulers could be used underground. I have since learned by reading an article on "Disaster Glasses"..i.e.[Commemorative Glasses and other "Disaster Memorabilia.."], that these WERE the first haulage engines to be used underground,and did,in fact,have dedicated boilers,fired by coal,to generate the steam to operate them.

On the website article,regarding glass tumblers,which were engraved and sold in villages where disasters happened,it goes into lengthy detail on several Colliery Disasters,including all the local Collieries,  and on one incident,a boiler had blown up,and the fatalities ,and injuries,to men and ponies,was horrendous.

It is an article worthy of reading,to those who are really interested in our Mining Heritage,and was entitled.."Disaster Glasses".

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