Friday, May 24, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather here continues to be, with only a brief respite, remarkably un-spring-like. For a couple hours on Wednesday afternoon the cloud cover broke up and we had a bit of sunshine, and I suspect the temperature got up to 15C (60F). A strong breeze came up, which, though keeping the temperature down did go a long way to evaporating some of the water in the quarry. As a result, we were able to drive in to the mine for the first time yesterday.

Yesterday morning the temperature had dropped to somewhere around 4 C (39F) and I was greeted to the sight of hailstones bouncing around as I gazed out the window over the first coffee. The hail continued in an off-and-on fashion most of the morning and at one point we had accumulations of it on the ground around the mine entrance that looked like small snow drifts. The sun put in a fleeting appearance during the afternoon driving the temperature to a daily high of around 8C (45 F). This morning, it appears that the wind and rain have returned, though I see no hailstones. Iíll take that as a good sign.

Our first chore Wednesday morning was to get the tub and chassis pulled back up to the mine landing and reassembled. With a cable winch getting the pieces back up was relatively easy, but getting a heavy iron plate tub flipped and onto the chassis took a little more work. We eventually managed to muscle the upside down tub into a position next to the chassis with one edge resting on top of the wheels and then flip it up and over using the winch cable to pull on the opposite edge. All told, this exercise took about an hour, and we were back in business. Todayís photo is of the reassembly process.

In the process of going over the edge, the ore car had also rearranged (i.e.: seriously bent) the rail at the end of the landing. After dealing with the tub and chassis, Dave managed to pull the rail inward onto the landing so that the end was no longer hanging in space over the tip, and we blocked it up with some bits of timber. Using our rail bender, Dave managed to get it somewhat straightened, but one but was still bent downward. Despite rolling the rather massive loco over it several times the bend remained, and Dave decided that heating the rail with our acetylene torch might soften it enough to bend back. Problem was that Dave had been using the torch on his bike over winter and it was at his workshop back in St. Johnís Chapel.

With the rail project in temporary abeyance, we took our bait break and then got to mucking. We managed to get much of the face cleared but by around quarter to five it became obvious to me as the designated trammer that the loco batteries were in need of a serious recharge as I almost didnít make it out with a full load. Back up dale for a couple beers at the Blue Bell and some supper.

Yesterday morning Dave arrived back at the mine with the torch and acetylene tank, and after muscling the tank up the stairs to the landing, we started in on the bent rail once again. As hoped, the heating softened the iron enough that we were able to bend it back into proper shape (more or less) by driving the loco over it. Next project will be to anchor the rail to the rock at the end of our landing so we can once again safely dump loads over the side. This will require locating some large bolts or threaded rod that can be mortared into holes drilled in the rock at the end of the landing. Fortunately, there was still a bit of room to dump further back on the tip, so by mid-afternoon, with loco recharged, we were able to finish mucking the face.

Dave then resumed the task of engineering the rail on the landing, and Ian and I had a look at the newly exposed face. A quick washing down revealed our fluorite seam was still present, but very high up in the face near the roof of the tunnel. This means, essentially, that to collect one is standing on a ladder with mud, rock, and water raining back down at you. But never mind. By the end of the day we had exposed another sizeable mound of fluorite crystals, which gratifyingly came loose into Ianís waiting arms as I barred it out from below. The weight almost sent Ian toppling off our rather flimsy ladder, so I think a new and more stable one is now on the top of our shopping list.

Though thoroughly cold and wet, with much of the feeling gone from oneís extremities, it was nice to march the thing out of the mine and wash the mud off it. As Ian said, you know the mining season has begun when you come out with soaking wet sleeves.

Stay tuned for moreÖ


Jesse & Ian

glad these things are indestructible!

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