The third week of training at Lofthouse Colliery we were taken on a tour of the working Black Bed seam. This working seam was very modern by the standards of the day.
At Lofthouse the coal that was initially loaded on the face conveyers was carried by a further series of conveyers, gate, main, heading, and main heading. Eventually they cascaded their loads into mine cars which were hauled to the pit bottom by large Diesel engines. Each mine car could hold over three tons of coal. The shaft at Lofthouse was wide enough for mine cars to be hauled to the surface. The raised coal then began a somewhat similar process to that of our pit at Middleton.
A more detailed explanation is later given of the layout and working of a typical mine of the period.
Basic first aid is taught to all miners in training, and they are encouraged to take a more detailed course of study to obtain the St John’s First Aid Certificate.
Part of our underground training dealt with ponies and their handling. Pit ponies we were informed had almost as much regulations pertaining to them as humans. Part three of the general regulations of the Coal Mines Act of 1945, dealt with the care and treatment of horses and similar animals. It specified the hours and places in which they could be worked. The ill treatment of them was subject to a fine or even discharge. We were shown how to harness the ponies, the usual orders of command, their feeding and welfare.
Signalling underground can be made in a number of ways, from switching your cap lamp on or off, to making a telephone call. All mines of that time had a telephone system. Some more sophisticated than others. The most basic involved revolving a small handle a number of times with short intervals between. The number of complete rings indicated who you wanted to contact; Middleton had this basic system. At the Lofthouse colliery they had a modern dialling system and even the pit manager could be contacted directly from almost anywhere in the pit.
Another method of underground signalling consisted of a pair of wires, six inches apart. These separated wires were strung overhead, the whole length of a conveyor belt or an endless rope haulage. A small electrical charge (by mining regulations not more than 25 Volts) ran through the wires. By connecting the two wires at any place along the whole length, a circuit was created. This caused a warning bell to ring at the machine operator’s station. One ring instructs the operator to stop the machine, two rings tells him to restart.