– Hi, and welcome to another episode of UnderSugarloaf TV. Today, we’re going to be talking to John O’Donnell again, about the West Wallsend Number One mine, and the location for the interview is actually at the site where the Heritage Mining Park proposal is going to be. So if you want to be involved, just go to the Facebook group for the Heritage Mining site, and you can look at further information there. So let’s interview John now.
– The site of West Wallsend Number One Colliery, hopefully this will be the area that we can get the mining museum and park going. This is the down tail shaft, where the head frame that now resides at Cockle Creek Mines Rescue Station was set up. And as I remember as a kid, there was about three meters high brickwork around this, and the head frame sat above it. Being the down tail shaft means this is where the fresh air goes down. There’s another shaft 50 plus meters away from here, it’ll be capped off. That’s where the fan would’ve been to extract all the dust and gasses out of the mine. So your fresh air went down here, and your bad air came out the fan. The coal would’ve come up, I assume, in those days, in skips, in two different sections. You’ve got a left and a right. Two wheels on the head frame, and it’d work as such as one set came down, a set went up, and they worked as a counterweight. The set that came up here would have full skips in, and as they came out, an empty one would go in. And the same process would be going downstairs. An empty one would come out downstairs, and a full skip would go in. And it’d all work on rappers from the pit bottom, would rap signals to the winch driver, and it was all correlated and coordinated so when the sets up top were unloaded and the empty ones were put back in, vice-versa was taking place downstairs. And they’d move again, there’d be several levels for the skips. But on top of that would be the man riding section, and if there’s any men to be riding out at the same time, a different rap would be sent up to the driver so he’d know men were riding. But it was state-of-the-art in those days, and as the coal came up, a full skip would come out, an empty one would go in, and there’d be some sort of endless rope that would take it up to the area where the bunkers are. That’s where the train used to come in underneath. There’d be bins up there, and the coal would be put in the bins. And it’d be an ongoing process, downstairs, upstairs. Train would come in underneath and he’d fill up, and he’d drive through, disconnect, have a shunt or turn and go back to the other end of the wagon line, and take it off to Cockle Creek. But the whole area’s changed dramatically since the ’60s and ’70s when we had people here with cattle that kept everything clean and tidy, and now it’s all overgrown. But hopefully it’ll come back to its former glory.
– [Jon] So John, in the loading area over to your right there–
– [John] Yeah?
– [Jon] Could you just explain how the loading system worked?
– [John] Well, this is only me thinking back in time. Very primitive, but it was state-of-the-art at the time. The skips would go up on a higher level and on an endless rope of some sort, and then when they were up there, they’d be run across underneath different bins, and fill the bins up. So you had, you might have as many as, I don’t know, maybe a dozen or more bins that you were filling all the time, so when the train came in, you could actually fill, say you had 10 bins on one side and 10 bins on the other. When a train come in, he’d set it up so he’d be underneath 10 bins at once, and they’d fill 10 wagons up. And then they’d move the train again and fill that up. And ’til they got the train full, maybe 50 wagons or whatever. And then the train would do the turn, and come back and get on the other end, so he was facing the way the train would travel and away he’d go, down to Cockle Creek.
– Well, we hope you enjoyed today’s episode of Under Sugarloaf TV. Remember, if you want to be involved in the Heritage Park cause, just go to the Facebook page via the link that’s on this page here. So signing off today for UnderSugarloaf TV, this is Jon Byrne.