Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather for the past few days here has been what the BBC forecasters call “unsettled,” which is a catch-all term meaning that practically anything can happen. For the most part, it has been breezy and cool with a fair cloud cover. This has occasionally gotten up to a light drizzle of rain, or to the opposite, a full outbreak of sunshine. Neither has lasted for long, however. This morning we seem to be at the light drizzle end of the “unsettled” spectrum.

Monday, despite being a bank holiday in these parts, found us back at the mine. The take-off for our compressed air line (which powers the Eimco and drills) has slowly been receding from the face with each blast, and we have about reached the limit of our portable hose. Dave recently ordered a new length of the heavy plastic pipe we use for the permanent air line, and decided that it was time to install a new section, bringing it close to the current working face. After unrolling the pipe and stretching it out on the quarry floor, we measured and cut the length needed and had it spliced into place fairly quickly. Today’s photo is of Dave uncoiling the pipe.

After that, we got to mucking out the face. Friday’s shot had gone pretty much as hoped, and no broken timbers needed to be replaced. By mid-afternoon much of the job was done, but Dave noticed that the Eimco, which is supposed to have drive to both sets of wheels in both forward and reverse, was only getting power to one or the other. As a result, it wasn’t getting sufficient power to ram the bucket into the muck pile before scooping. After finishing for the day, Dave went home and called one of the fitters he used to work with in the mines for some advice on the problem. It seems that a possible cause could be some collapsed bearings in the drive mechanism. Dealing with this, unfortunately, requires the equivalent of major surgery on the beast.

Yesterday morning back at the mine, we hauled the Eimco out onto the mine landing, got it levered up onto some blocks, and started the disassembly. The wheels on the right side needed to come off first, allowing access to a plate bolted onto the side of the drive carriage. The large nuts holding the wheels to the axils came off without too much trouble, but one of the wheels was fairly well stuck onto the axle, and remained so despite repeated application of a 14-pound hammer. There is, as always, the proper tool for any job, and the proper tool for this one is called a “puller.” Most auto mechanics will have one of these, but not one large enough to deal with getting a 14-inch wheel off of an old Eimco. After a few phone calls, Dave found someone up in Hexham who had one, and was away to get it. Being mid-afternoon by that point, we closed up the mine and Ian and I headed back to the cottage, where I spent the remaining time dealing with some customs paperwork that needed attending to.

We are still without an internet connection in the cottage, so as soon as the pub was open I headed over with my laptop and spent some time looking for any service manuals or schematic diagrams of our old Eimco that may be out there. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate anything sufficiently detailed enough to really show the drive mechanism in the thing. Assuming that we can get it opened up today, I hope Dave can figure out what the problem is. Without the old beast, driving tunnel will be a serious pain in the arse!

Back at the cottage, I consoled myself with some grilled salmon and a glass of Côte du Rhône. Today we will don our surgeon’s gloves, got out the scalpels, hammers and spanners, and see what we can bring about a resurrection. The clouds are darkening outside – I just hope we don’t have to do this in the rain!

Stay tuned for more.


Jesse & Ian

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