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Underground Haulage in 1899

Soon after William Ollerenshaw became the Manager of Denton Colliery in 1899 he identified that the most inefficient system in operation was the method of underground haulage on a brow. At this time a steam-driven winch (aka a whim or whimsey) was being used to move coal tubs up and down a brow.

Mr Ollerenshaw recommended the adoption of endless rope haulage and to this end he provided operating costs for the existing system and his proposed system.

Existing System

                                                                  £   s   d
Two youths attending to empty coal tubs at the pit bottom/top
of the brow for a shift of 10 hours:                                  7   6
One Engineman and one Jigger for a shift of 12 hours:                11   8
Two Hookers-on for a shift of 8 hours:                               11   0
                                                        TOTAL     1  10   2
                                         Cost for BOTH SHIFTS     2  16   0

There are anomalies in the above data. Three different shift lengths are given but only the cost for 'both shifts' (i.e. meaning two shifts) is given.

The Engineman was in charge of a stationary steam engine that powered the winch. A Jigger was a man who attended the brake on a brow, also known as a jig. A Hooker-on was a man who worked on a landing and attached and detached coal tubs from a haulage rope or put full tubs into and took empty tubs out of the cage in the shaft.

Proposed System with continuous rope

                                                                  £   s   d
One youth attending to empty tubs at the pit bottom/top
of the brow for a shift of 10 hours:                                  4   0
One Engineman for a shift of 12 hours:                                6   0
Two youths attending to the  brow and getting coal tubs
on and off the rope for a shift of 8 hours:                           9   0
                                                        TOTAL        19   0
                                         Cost for BOTH SHIFTS     1  18   0

There are similar anomalies in the above data.

One youth was now expected to do the work of two youths at the pit bottom/top of the brow for a small increase in pay. The Jigger was no longer be required. The two Hookers-on were replaced by two youths doing the same work for less pay.

Mr Ollerenshaw claimed that his proposed system had the advantage of a continuous supply of full coal tubs at the pit bottom. The engine could be run at less speed. By running the rope a 3 miles per hour with tubs 40 yards apart there could be 300 more tubs per shift 'than the present'. The life of the rope would be longer because of a constant slow speed.

In theory, a rope moving at 3 miles per hour with coal tubs spaced at intervals of 40 yards could move 132 full tubs up the brow and the same number of empty tubs down it, per hour. Whether the number of miners engaged in hewing coal were capable of providing this amount of coal is another matter. At this time, conveyer belts for moving coal were not used.