Friday, September 9, 2011

In the Mine Part 2

Yesterday I mentioned safety lamps. This is a safety lamp that was used prior to the electronic metering devices used today. The color of the flame determined whether there was methane present and if the mine was safe to work. (I can't remember what our guide said was the correct color, blue or yellow, so I won't try to tell you until I can find out.)

The "fire boss" was responsible for checking the methane levels--in early days, the fire boss would run through the mine with a candle! I don't think that job would be worth the extra pay.

Most people have also heard about the use of canaries in mines to test for methane. If the bird quit singing, the miners got out.




This is the teapot lamp I mentioned yesterday. A wick would be put into the spout, and the teapot filled with lard, cooking grease or kerosene to provide illumination. The hook by which I am holding it would hook into a metal holder on the front of the miner's cap. In those days, miners wore cloth caps which did not offer much protection in a roof fall.



I caught this shot as Sonny was showing us how a miner might work at the coal face. Here he's swinging a pick; there was also a breast auger there that you can't see in my photo. I will have to post some pics of one of those later.

I was standing up in the trolley car when I took this. You can see that the rock ceiling was lower where Sonny was--the mine was cut out higher to allow for the tourists to be more comfortable when the project was developed. Even so, I'm only 5'2" and my head was bumping the ceiling when I stood up in the car.

The ceiling is almost always wet, and water drips regularly. You can see the dampness in this photo. In some places in this mine moss was growing; I don't know if that's typical. Rats also inhabit deep mines, and many miners consider them friends because the rats will know of danger from a roof fall and vamoose. If miners see the rats leaving, they leave too!


 I took this photo as we were traveling deeper into the mine. What is odd about this photo and the next one is that Sonny was driving the car ahead of me and he should have been in the photos. But he's not there; I got quite an eerie feeling when I uploaded these on my computer!


 I tried to take a photo of the kettle bottoms in this area, but could not get a good shot. That is a miner's lunch pail sitting on the kettle bottom. The lunch bucket has several parts: the lid can be used as a plate, there is usually a flat plat called a pie plate, then a deeper section where the miner might have his sandwiches or beans or whatever, and in the bottom was water to keep his lunch cool.

 Light shines through cribbing, the stacked wood blocks that help support the mine's roof. In some mines, called pillar mines, pillars of coal were left to support the roof. When the mine was mined out, miners would go in and "rob" the pillars, meaning that would take out the pillars and let the roof fall behind them--hopefully getting out of the way in time! My husband remembers pillar-robbing as a boy in abandoned mines to get house coal. It was dangerous occupation for a young boy, I'd think, but it provided the coal they needed for cooking and heating.



This is just one of many side tunnels that branched off the main tour. We did not go down these but I was intrigued at the way they curved off into the darkness. How far did they go? Are there more tunnels branching off? How many tunnels are under the town of Beckley anyway?

I didn't notice this sign as we entered the mine, but saw it on the way out. Underground mines are always cool, so we all wore jackets.

If you should ever have the opportunity, this tour is fascinating. It's not claustrophobic, oddly; perhaps because it's well-lit and the tunnels are wide. I'd like to go again--there is so much to see and think about.

Still to come: the buildings we toured after returning from the mine.

9 comments:

Mama-Bug said...

Thanks for sharing this fascinating tour of the mine!

Granny Sue said...

You're welcome! I hope you might see it for yourself one day :)

hart said...

That sounds like it was really neat. We are going to Rocky Gap this comeing week and I'll have to see how far Beckley is from there.--Jane

annie said...

Might just head over thataway one of these days, thanks so much for the tour!

Granny Sue said...

Jane, it's not too far. You'd get a lot of story material, I think :)

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Thanks for another interesting post, Sue. What amazes me is how people just accepted these conditions as "normal life". When the mines were operating in England the miners were proud of their sons going underground. Now they're all thankful that no one has to endure such hardship any longer.

sweetheartville said...

That looks amazing. I'd love to take the tour one day. I'll bet Sonny could tell some stories! Thank you for sharing.

Nance said...

In Afton, Ia in 1961, from the Afton Star Enterprise newspaper: "The construction of the new Afton sewer system claimed its second life last Wendesday when . . . . "He started down the manhole, then climbed back out, telling fellow workmen tht he wasn't sure that the air was right in there. However, they decided it was and he re-entered, going down several steps when he started back up the steps. He lost consciousness and fell to the bottom.

Why, in 1961, didn't the sewer guys have such things to check the gas levels? maybe just taking short cuts? Pretty sad.

bayouwoman said...

Oh, I love that teapot lamp!

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