Friday June 27, 2008

Greetings from Weardale.

This morning the weather looks much as it has for a while here in the North Pennines, chilly and overcast. The breeze is up so if the rain holds off, maybe the quarry mud will dry up a bit. Yesterday remained cold and cloudy for most of the day, but we only had a bit of drizzle at the mine. As is often the case, the clouds broke just about the time we were heading back up dale and gave a clear evening.

Yesterday at the mine was spent in manual labor. The previous afternoon’s shot at the face went off pretty much as planned, with little damage to the timbering at the face. Dave’s getting pretty good at this. I recall at least one incident earlier in out history here where several sets were reduced to a jumble of lumber during this process. No rebuilding this time, just twelve tubs full of rock and mud that had to be pushed out of the mine. Often, Dave has a helper for the summer, but this year it is just Byron and me, so guess who did the pushing. Actually, the way it works is that after Dave has the tub loaded, he uses the Eimco to push it up the slight grade in the main tunnel until it reached a point where it is mostly flat going out onto the landing. Though flat, there are a few relatively tight turns in the track, and the heavy filled tub doesn’t negotiate these very smoothly. This is where the pushing comes in, and after twelve tubs worth of pushing, one is feeling a little worse for ware. On top of this, the mine dump has crept up the quarry face below the landing over the years and is now level with it. This means that after tipping each load of muck, some of it piles up around the base of the tub and must be pushed over by hand. Dave says we will need to redirect the track on the landing soon to deal with this.

In a “real” mine the issue of hauling out tubs of muck or ore is usually handled by a small electric locomotive, or “loco” as they’re called here. A couple of years back we purchased an old one from a lot of salvage that had come from the old Groverake Mine, with the intention of reconditioning it and pressing it into service. Such things take time and money, and then more time and more money, but over last winter Dave got it to someone locally who knows what to do, and we’re hoping to have it back some time this summer. Today’s photo is of Dave posing with our newly acquired old loco a couple years back. Hopefully, we will be able to provide you with an “after” photo if/when we get it into service again.

After mucking out the face, Dave made short work of putting in another timber set up to the face. We seem to be following a fracture zone along the tunnel right now, which means that we are tunneling not in fresh rock but a jumble of rock and mud. This fracturing is likely responsible for the broken up nature of the flats we’ve been collecting from, and also means that the roof over our heads is made up of some large rocks held together by mud. As a result, we must timber constantly to keep the area safe. It looks now as if we’ve driven the main tunnel far enough along the current collecting area that we can now start a narrow cross-cut heading east away from the tunnel into the flats. If we can keep it narrow enough we should be able to get access to more collecting ground without having to timber very much. However, as we have seen in the West Cross-Cut, one digs where the specimens are, and if there is a broad flat in the offing then large areas can eventually be excavated, requiring a rather haphazard approach to timbering. With any luck, we might have such a problem once again.

Today is the end of month accounting for Joan and my business back home. Through the magic of a broadband internet connection, I now have all the requisite spreadsheets and other information to get on with generating the monthly invoices so will be spending much of my day at the computer. Byron has, as expected, already left for the mine, anxious to see what the last round has exposed. Cal and Kerith are likely experiencing the joy of customs at Heathrow as I write this, and are expected here sometime within the next few days.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron

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