Tuesday, June 16, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

For much of the weekend we had what I refer to here as “widge weather” – cloudy, damp and still. Perfect conditions for the swarming nuisances to come out in force, and Sunday, while working outside at the mine we got duly swarmed. Yesterday afternoon the sun actually came out and we had a very nice evening here in the North Pennines. This morning, however, the overcast has returned and we are back to more of the same. If all goes as planned, we’ll spend much of the day underground today so should miss the little buggers.

Last Friday Dave decided that we needed to construct a support to reinforce the end of the track on the landing, so we could dump to the end of the tip without danger of the tub going overboard, as happened last year. So instead of giving the Eimco it’s first workout after surgery, we all became instant structural engineers for the day. After gathering together various bits of surplus steel from around the mine, we tried out various designs and finally settled on something that seemed likely to work. Dave drilled a few anchor holes in the limestone at the end of the landing, and started cutting some of the steel bits to the proper size with our oxy-acetylene torch. By mid-afternoon we had most of the bits shaped out, and he decided to take the assembly back to his workshop and drill the bolt-holes, rather than try to cut them with the torch. Dave was planning to be away over the weekend, picking up Joe from university in Exeter for the summer, so we arranged for him to leave the construction in the company van for us to assemble on Sunday.

Saturday was a day off from the mine for everyone. Cal and Kerith made a trip to what I understand is a very nice farmer’s market to the west of us in Cumbria, while I met up with visiting friend Peter Lyckberg for a tour of the recent workings at the nearby Greenlaws Mine. Everyone rendezvoused back at the pub early evening, and we went up to Blanchland for supper at newly reopened Lord Crewe Arms with a small group of local friends to celebrate Joy and Roger’s mutual birthdays. Got back in time to see England loose to Italy in the World Cup match, which was on at the pub. Being in Brazil, the games are played rather late in the evening by local time, and it is likely that the England fans in the pub had been drinking for some time before the game finally came on. They started out a very noisy bunch but somehow became increasingly subdued as England went down.

Despite everyone’s relatively late night on Saturday, we were back at the mine on Sunday. Meeting up with the Sussex Mineral and Lapidary group who were up for their seemingly annual visit to the North Pennines, Cal gave them a quick tour through the mine and then turned them loose for a ratch around the dump. Dave Lloyd, a friend from down south who had come up with the group decided that working on installing the rail support was more interesting than our dump, so we had the thing mostly assembled in short order, leaving only a couple final holes that needed to be altered by Dave and his torch on Monday.

Back with Dave on Monday, our gremlins continued to plague us in small ways. The plan was to quickly finish off the assembly of the rail support then get to mucking the face. Unfortunately, an empty oxygen tank sent Dave on a two-hour round trip to Bishop Auckland to get another, before we could complete the job. While he was away, I busied myself by cutting several lengths of threaded bar that we needed to bolt the final assembly together with by hand. A slow process, and not something I would really recommend unless you find yourself with nothing else to do for a while. Today’s photo is of the thing finally in place.

Once the cutting torch was back in operation, we finished the job fairly quickly, took lunch, and finally got to mucking the face. As it hadn’t been a full-face shot, the muck pile was relatively small, and we finished the task by quitting time. This despite the fact the Eimco, when loaded down with rock really doesn’t like the tight bend we made in the track and derailed itself several times during the process.

All finished, Dave went to shut down the compressor only to find it making a high-pitched whistling noise. Seems we now have a ruptured airline. Fortunately, the break is near the coupling to the compressor itself, so I am hoping it will be a quick fix when we’re back this morning. After that, plans are to install some timber supports at the face, then drill and shoot again. Given out luck lately, this sounds awfully ambitious to me, but one can hope our luck will turn around. We’ll find out soon enough.

Forward in all directions.

Jesse, Cal & Kerith

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