The Night the Engineer Personally Called Me Out
It was 1973, ten o’clock at night when there came a knock at the door, it was the Whitfield Colliery van driver, this was very unusual because he used to shout from his van window especially in the middle of the night, “thayt wonted at werk, at gooin”, and woke all the street up. The van driver told me that the Engineer wanted to speak to me at his home which was not far from Whitfield, I agreed and travelled in my own car.
I arrived at the Engineers and knocked at the front door, he came out and pulled the door shut behind him as he wanted to do some swearing. He told me that the large MC3 gathering arm loader, had been bogged down all afternoon with two fitters from the fitting shop in attendance.
To explain what bogged down means. It is when the belly of the machine is down on the ground and the tracks are not biting. it would take a tank to pull it out. He asked me to go down the pit with the night shift and get the machine going again and if I met the two men from the fitting shop to give them a good telling off for him, but I didn’t agree with that.
After going through the baths and collecting my lamp, I met up with the men who used the MC3 machine, and explained the situation to them. They told me not to worry as they knew how to deal with the problem and swore me to secrecy.
The men told me to go outby and stand by the electrical switch gear and to put the power in reverse when they waved their lamps. Soon they waved their lamps and five minutes later they waved their lamps to change the power over to forward again.
Having changed over I went back in to where they were working and found that the machine was already out of the hole and ready for work. They had got the machine out by a very devious and dangerous method; they fixed a chain to the machine's own conveyor then to one of the arches. Put the tracks into forward gear which meant that with the power in reverse the machine would pull itself out.
All this took about 30 minutes, so I was able to go home, claim a shift and a half pay, get a medal as big as a dust bin lid, and do my normal shift the following day! Thirty years have now passed, so I am able to tell the story.
A Close Shave
It was about 1974, by now as had responsibility for any machines on tracks; RH20, Dosco, Dintheaders, Eimco and Gathering Arm Loaders. Unless there was a cut back I worked seven days a week, and all the holidays, which meant I could have my time off when I wanted it.
I remember going to work one Sunday morning and being deployed to a machine in the main level of the South Banbury seam. This machine had a total of five motors. One for each track, one for each gathering arm, and one for the hydraulic motor.
I was sitting with my back to the arches doing what fitters do, tightening nuts and bolts etc, reaching for a spanner I accidently knocked a piece of coal off the machine which fell on one of the control handles. This made the loader move in a forward direction, right traverse. It then proceeded to slowly push me against the arches. As there was no one around and I couldn’t reach the handles, a bit of quick thinking saved the day. I managed to throw a piece of coal at another control which made the machine back off.
This happened because I broke all the rules in the book by not isolating the machine first.