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Mines Inspector Report, 1908

At the Barracks Pit, Donnington Colliery, (Shropshire), on 8th July, a foreman sinker was killed under somewhat peculiar circumstances. The shaft in question, which is 285 yards in depth, is only used at intervals of from four to six weeks for access to a water level for purposes of inspection and repair; and on each of these occasions an engineman is sent on the previous day to get up the steam, examine the engine, and get it into working order. The engine has a single horizontal cylinder, 18 inches in diameter, with a stroke of 3 feet, the slide valve being worked by a single eccentric. The winding drum is cylindrical, 10 feet in diameter, working on the second motion, the ratio of gearing being 3 to 1. A strap brake, fitted with wood blocks, grips the lower half of a brake rim bolted to the flywheel, and is worked by a tramp passing down through the floor. A similar brake grips a rim on the cheek of the winding drum, and is worked by a lever placed 4 feet to the left of the reversing lever.

On the date named deceased was ascending in the cage, after having examined the shaft and started another man to make some repairs in the water level. The cage was raised at the usual speed, and when it reached a point about 50 yards from bank, the engineman raised the eccentric rod out of the catch and shut off steam, thereafter shifting the slide valve with the hand lever. When the cage was about 25 yards from bank, he applied the flywheel brake, by pressing down the tramp, which, however, he alleged, stuck about 5 inches above its usual position.

Finding that the speed of the engine was not being sufficiently reduced, he applied the drum brake, but as the cage was then at or near the mouth of the shaft, he turned back to the engine, slightly opened the throttle valve, and tried to stop the engine by throwing the steam against the piston. Unfortunately, in the excitement of the moment, he appears to have lost his head, and so shifted the hand lever that the steam accelerated, instead of retarding, the engine. The cage went up rapidly on the pulley, tilted over and fell on one side. Deceased, who was on the lower deck, was jerked out, fell to the ground and rebounded into the shaft, falling to the bottom.

The engineman had never previously known the brake to stick, or appear to be in any way defective.

The engineer examined it immediately after the accident, and found it in perfect order. “I examined it carefully on the following day and failed to find any evidence that it had stuck, or reason why it should have failed to act.”

The engineman, who was 71 years of age, had been employed in this capacity at the colliery for 50 years, during 30 of which he had worked over sinkers, and he had never had an accident before. The manager, engineer, and sinkers all expressed their perfect confidence in him.

The accident would probably have been prevented if a detaching-hook had been in use.

Submitted by Ivor Brown

Note: The foreman sinker killed in this incident was T.Jones (aged 33).

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