46 x 26cm signed print
"Going down a mine shaft in a metal box for the first time is a daunting experience and is nothing like an elevator in a hotel or office block. The cage usually has three or four open ended decks with metal gates on either side and carries eight men to a deck, only the top deck high enough to stand upright so the men in the lower decks would adopt a crouching position. The cages are guided by greased, vertical, wooden rails called 'skeets'. The cages rattle past eachother half way up the shaft. Both are suspended on a single wire rope about 2 inches thick, attached to four chains on the top of each cage, and there are also four safety chains asa back up. Both cages can travel at around 30 feet per second. However there are two speeds, one: the faster - for coal drawing, the other - for men riding. If an override occurs there is a safety device at the top of the shaft, which is designed to shear through the coupling separating the ropes from the cage leaving it suspended in the shaft.
By law every colliery must have two shafts. Powerful fans draw air into the mine via the down shaft. The air circulates around the mine workings, then is drawn out of the pit by the extraction fans and the up shaft.
After the disaster on 16th January 1862 at Hartley Colliery, Northumberland, when the 42 ton beam of the pumping engine suddenly snapped in two, half of it crashed down the single shaft, entombing 204 men and boys, Parliament compelled all coal owners to have two shafts for every pit.
In time much more powerful winding engines would be capable of handling much more heavy loads at faster speeds. Westoe Colliery for example, had three decks capable of carrying 50 mento a cage."