The Stanford Main No.2 Workings

(c. 1947-1958)
by Fred Caban

The coal mine was Stanford Main No.2 colliery at Paxton. It was owned by J&A Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Ltd. It employed about 400 men and produced 1000 tons of coal a day. It had a main haulage shaft 18’ in diameter and 400’ deep. There were 2 cages in the shaft, one going up and one going down. Each cage hauled 2 tons of coal or 12 men.

The coal seam was usually about 6’ to 7’ thick but could be from less than 5’ to 11’. Headings 18’ wide were driven to the boundary and sections were worked from either side off that. The forward driven headings in the sections were called boards and they were 20 yards apart. These were linked up to each other every 40 yards by cut-throughs. The blocks of coal that were left were called pillars which resembled blocks in a town, with the boards and cut-throughs resembling streets. When the board and cut-through work reached the boundary of the section, pillar extraction began from the boundary back out. The pillars supported all the weight of the strata all the way up to the surface. When the pillars are taken out there is no support and the roof would fall. This area was called the goaf.

Formation and age of coal

Coal was formed from vegetation, much of which was moss formed in the ice ages. The age of our local coal which is bituminous is about 100 million years. The age of lignite which is the brown coal produced in Victoria is 50 million years and the age of Anthracite which is a very high quality coal found in England is 200 million years. The amount of vegetation required to form the coal was enormous. I have forgotten the figures now but I think that for bituminous coal it was about 100’ of vegetation to make 1 foot of coal.

Underground haulage

Coal was hauled out to the pit bottom (bottom of the shaft) in skips. Skips were little wagons which held a ton of coal when level full. These were coupled together in sets of 24 and hauled by 100 HP electric winches with about 1” diameter steel ropes for distances of up to a mile. They also had a tail rope to pull the empty skips back in. The main rope dragged along the ground and the tail rope was on rollers suspended from the roof by inch square steel bars.

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