Friday, June 13, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

So far, weíve had three days of sun and little or no rain, which is a record so far this summer. Yesterday afternoon the quarry was drying out nicely and there were only a couple muddy patches left along the road in. This morning started sunny but clouds are now moving in. I donít know whether this means things will get back to what has so far been the normal state of affairs this summer, or whether the sun has the fortitude to break through once again. As we will be working underground today, I suspect the rain may hold off, at least until we come out for lunch.

With the Eimco put back together we were finally able to get back to the task at hand and do some mine work on Wednesday. Itís not that the equipment gremlins have vanished, however, just relocated. On Tuesday we had trouble getting the compressor started, but finally managed with some jumper cables. We let it run long enough to Ė in theory Ė charge up the battery. Wednesday morning it failed to start again, and rather than go through the jumper cable routine again, we called the hire company for a service visit. Renting a compressor is far from the cheapest thing we do here each summer, but at least when it misbehaves we can ask someone else to fix it. The service van showed up around noon, and after some fiddling about the technician told us that he wasnít sure exactly what the problem was, but that he had replaced the battery with a new one. This sort of thing does not leave one feeling overly reassured. So far the new battery seems to have done the trick, however, as it has started up without problem since.

While compressor was being serviced, Dave and I set about bending some rail for the next section to go in at the face. The plan is to jog the main drift to the east until we are in line with the flats we worked from last summerís crosscut, then turn northward again. This plan is predicated on the flats still continuing as they have, but we (of course) wonít know for sure until we drive some tunnel to get there. Hoping to get there in as few blasts as possible, Dave created a very tight bend in the track, which will send us quickly eastward. Tight bends in the track often lead to troublesome derailments of heavy equipment, but after running the newly revitalized Eimco over the new section of track several times, he feels confident that it wonít be a problem. I sure hope so as I really hate it when a full muck tub jumps the track.

The first order of business yesterday was to rearrange all our various bits of gear on the track system and get the Eimco to the face. Everything needs to go in to the mine in a particular order and this got all messed up while we were repairing the beast. First in is the Eimco, followed by the muck tub, then followed by the loco, and finally the hydraulic engine for the chain saw and the flatbed car with the electrical generators. Todayís photo is of Dave with the Eimco back at the face. That accomplished, Dave called an early lunch break before starting in with the next round of drilling.

While I helped Dave with the drilling, Cal took it upon himself to try and fix an old and worn section of track that has caused a nice derailment of the loco the day before. The particular problem was a loose and wobbly set of points at the junction between our newer tunnel and the old bit that Lindsay and Mick did. The set of points were the first ones we put in back around 2001 and it seems that we used some rather small bolts, which were no longer up to the job. Hopefully, we now wonít be spending our time on derailments, at least at that spot.

The afternoonís drilling went as it should, and by around 1600 Dave had the holes charged and ready to fire. This is unusual as we almost invariably have some problem, such as a collapsed drill hole or two, which results in a long firing day. Our problem this day didnít show up until Dave tried to fire the round. We use electrical detonators, and before firing one usually checks the circuit with an ohm-meter to make sure there isnít a short anywhere. Evidently the battery in the meter had crapped out, and Dave couldnít get a proper reading. Hoping that things were properly wired, he tried to fire the shot anyway. Nothing happened. Without the meter we couldnít check the various sections of the line for a break. Fortunately it was still early enough for me to run in to Stanhope and get a new battery for the thing. That done, we quickly hunted down the bad connection and got it fired by 1730.

Assuming the shot went as hoped and we didnít rearrange too many of the timbers at the face, today will be a day of mucking. This will give the newly recharged Eimco its first workout, so we will all get to find out if we have passed our fitters exam.

Forward in all directions.

Jesse, Cal & Kerith

Good Morning,

Itís Friday and I have had a chance to collect my thoughts. We are a little overcast this morning and I've not had a chance to see the weather report for the north yet but I've hopes for a good day.

Wednesday was spent putting the finishing touches on the Eimco, getting the few bits of fluorite collected so far in the Bluebird's pocket by Ian and Jesse down and soaking.

First Jesse and I hauled up the Honda generator, which was very heavy and awkward. Up all the stairs one at a time first Jesse then myself hoisting this beasty my bending way forward and yanking it up to the next step. Exhausting.

Then Jesse and Dave spent the rest of the day putting in about 6' of rail at the heading, turning it about 45 degrees. Certainly the sharpest curve in the mine. This sort of bending of the rail is down with an U-shaped heavy chunk of metal with hooks on the end to hold the rail and a large screw with a slot to seat on the rails and holes at the top of the screw to insert a long metal pole to turn and thus bend the rail but first comes the cutting of the rail to size, torching holes for the fish plates (they secure one section of rail to another) and putting in the sleepers (metal plates which attach to the bottom of the rail to make the whole thing rigid).

Laying about 6' of track took nearly all day. When finished we moved all the equipment back into its proper place, no mean feat since everything was jumbled from the proper order. Since the Eimco was out on the landing the last thing Dave did before pushing it to the face with the loco was to install a pin that is used to put the Eimco in neutral so it can be pushed or towed. It looked simple but nothing with the Eimco every goes easily. It seems the machine was really enjoying its sunny setting on the Rogerley landing and did not want to go back to dark, cool, damp hole in the ground. Some few hours in Dave's machine shop and then putting the pin and neutral lever in and it was ready to be pushed to the front. I cannot begin to describe how much tooing and froing this required of equipment. But finally at the face Dave tested the Eimco on the newly put in rails and curve and it seemed to perform admirably.

At this point we were all in high spirits as drilling and blasting could begin on the morrow. Dave, while taking the loco back to its spot by the battery charger took a corner too fast on a set of wobbly points and ran it off the rails. I don't know what the loco weighs exactly but I would guesstimate it at 4000 pounds or better. The three of us spent the better part of an hour before finally setting things to right and closing shop after a long day. It was not beer for me at the Blue Bell but gin and tonic to assuage my aching back.

Thursday found Jesse going to Heights to pick up explosives. Delayed by the inexplicable problem of the lock on the magazine being unwilling to open. He showed up about noon. I had left before nine to go see Neil Fairless and ask if he knew anyone who could shorten our wire ropes and mill and swage a new end. Neil called an outfit in Newcastle who called an outfit in London who have him a name in Manchester. He called Neil back and Neil gave me the name. I took pictures and measurements of our wire rope and sent them off to Total Rope Solutions. There are four wire ropes on the Eimco, two to help and hold the bucket place and two on the bottom. We have ropes that can be modified for the top but none in backup for the bottom, if we break one now we are down again for another couple of weeks. Something we can ill afford. After bait Jesse and Dave began drilling and I washed and put to dry what little fluorite we have, then went to tighten up the points where Dave had run the loco off. I was superfluous to the drilling.

Watched Dave drill the pattern, the holes seemed to drill easily enough, Dave loaded them up and put in the lovingly handmade stemming that Jesse and I had rolled and informed us gentlemen that is was shite. We will be ordering stemming with the next explosives order. Everything was ready to go by 4:00p.m. and we were all looking forward to a short day. But when Dave turned the crank on the detonator.... nothing. We needed to test the line and find the break. But, our ohm tester had a dead battery. If only I had known I would have got one days earlier. Now, Jesse had to rush into Stanhope, found the hardware store open and bought a 9 volt. Battery in, line testing began. The error was two older bits of copper wire used to connect the explosive charges and dets to the main detonator wire. Problem solved and the blast seemed to go off well.

We have been plagued this year by gremlins it seems, hopefully this will change and we will get into fluorite soon.

Cheers, from the North.

Cal & Kerith & Jesse

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