Under construction for over 30 years, the Club winch had become famous for being nearly ready.
It under-went many design changes, over the years. At one time the main engine was based on a washing machine motor, but Members were concerned in case it should enter a fast spin cycle at the wrong moment - so it had to be replaced!!
Despite years of cynical abuse, Alan Taylor (a past President of the Club, who built the winch single-handed), finally completed it in early November 1995 - along with a custom designed headframe and cage (for safety).
On November 25th 1995, the first test runs of the winch, headframe and cage were made at Chapel Shaft on Lords Hill, Snailbeach (South Shropshire).
Considering that Alan had only tested it in his garden by raising the cage about 1 metre, the outfit coped really well with the 130+ metre deep shaft (it is actually deeper, but is blocked at 134m down).
True to his word Alan was the first person to be wound down in the cage (yes it has a real miniture mine cage!). The only snag was when he reached the bottom we lost radio contact with him. At that moment the winch engine decided to cut-out. We then realised that the only person who knew how the engine worked was standing in a cage under a waterfall, frantically blowing a whistle over 130 metres down an inaccessible mine shaft!!
Luckily the massed (?) brains of the Club clustered round and found the HT lead had dropped off the coil, it was replaced and the engine started up straight away.
On the second run, going down the driver managed to get the winch into 4th gear - an impressive speed for the on-lookers, and quite smooth for the person in the cage (if a little hairy).
The cable on the winch is 400m of 9mm wire rope, counter-wound to prevent spinning (the smallest non-rotating size we could get).
On the engineering side, the whole outfit is most amazing, although quite bulky compared to other club winches (even more so now that it has had a wooden shed/cover built on it). It can only really be towed by a heavy 4x4, even then the driver needs to take care. The headframe is designed in kit form, so that it can be assembled over the hole. At the end of the day it is dis-assembled and packed onto the winch trailer.
The Club winch setting up for it's first run in 1995
Erecting the winch headframe over Chapel shaft, 1995
The Club winch had a number of 'outings' in several deep Shropshire shafts, however, it's bulk and the towing issues meant that it was eventually moth-balled in favour of a smaller and lighter winch built by another Club member. This winch has been successfully used by Club members to descend 120m in Ramsdens Shaft (at the Bog Mine) and explore the flooded workings around the upper end of Boat level.
The smaller, lighter winch at Ramsdens shaft, The Bog
Radio & Telephone comms are used to keep in touch
Paul Thorne (winch builder) with the headframe for his winch at Ramsdens shaft