Explosion of Fire-Damp at Blantyre Colliery

The following is an extract [Page A and A1] from the Blantyre Colliery Explosion Inquiry Report, dated 21st December 1877. In particular a sub report by Messrs Ralph Moore, TE Wales, and James Willis, Inspectors of Mines. 

Transcribed word for word by P. Veverka it provides insight into status of Dixon’s Pits in 1877 including commentary about workings and ventilation. Illustrated by images never been seen before, created exclusively for Blantyre Project by AI. Continued from yesterday:

“The Ell coal has been worked both by the “Stoop and room” and “long wall” methods. The main coal workings are entirely by the “long wall” method. The splint coal, except where an experimental long wall working has been commenced which, however, does not affect this question, has altogether been worked by the “stoop and room” or Newcastle method. In the latter the pillars of coal are general 20 yards square and the openings 12 feet wide, by which about 30 percent of the whole is extracted, leaving 70 percent in pillars to be afterwards worked away. The Ell Coal workings cover an area of 50 acres; the main coal 60 acres, and the splint coal 140 acres. The workings in the Ell coal are entirely within the compass of the main coal workings; and the latter partly overlie the splint-coal workings. The explosion occurred in the splint coal workings of either No.2 or No.3 pit.”

“The Ventilation of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 pits was produced by a large furnace placed at the bottom of No. 5 shaft. This furnace has three fire grates, each 7 feet by 4 feet, but only two were at work regularly; the total quantity of air passing through the workings being about 100,000 cubic feet per minute, with a consumption of five tons of coal per day. It was kept burning night and day. The air was distributed in the following manner: – About 50,000 cubic feet per minute descended No. 1 pit and ventilated the Ell and Main coal workings, passing down a “blind” pit to the splint coal and on to the upcast shaft. About 50,000 cubic feet per minute was sent into the splint coal workings as follows: – About 25,000 to 30,000 cubic feet per minute descended No. 3 pit to the splint coal and was divided at the bottom; one portion from 15,000 to 20,000 cubic feet went northwards and ventilated the workings on that side, and returned by the rise workings to the upcast; the other portion, about 10,000 cubic feet per minute, was taken southwards along the main level road to a point near the extremity of the workings, and then to the rise, through the faces and back to the upcast.”

“About 26,000 cubic feet per minute descended No. 3 pit and was equally divided at the bottom. One portion went to the north and ventilated the whole of all the places there. The two currents met on the rise side of No. 3 pit, and passed in one current into the workings of No. 2 pit, where it was again divided. About 10,000 ascended the upcast. The remainder, about 16,000 cubic feet per minute ventilated the south west workings as far as the face of the south level, near to which it joined the current coming from the south to No. 2 pit and the two currents travelled together along the rise workings to the upcast.”

This rather complex description in short can be summarised that the ventilation was provided by large furnaces within the pit, the heat drawing clean air in and pushing it along the excavations and out special upcast shafts. The air divided into the different areas of the pits, with half of it feeding Pit 1, the other half shared between Pits 2 and 3 (where the explosion happened). This immediately suggests there was inadequate airflow in Pits 2 and 3. The inquiry explored statistics further around the subject of ventilation. For those interested, there is further information available as follows:

“The lengths of the air currents in the splint-coal workings of Nos. 2 and 3 pits, following the windings of the brattice were:-

No 3. Pit
South current, 13,000 cubic feet per minute for 50 men – 2,266 yards
North current, 13,000 cubic feet per minute for 50 men – 2,535 yards
Average length of No 3 pit, currents : 2,400 yards.

No 2 Pit
Current of 16,000 cubic feet, for 50 men , passing into Martin’s level and stoops, including average length of No. 3 pit, currents – 8,096 yards
Current passing up More’s look, 10,000 cubic feet, 20 men – 3,500 yards
Current of 10,000 cubic feet passing down No. 2 shaft and along south level, 25 men – 2,901 yards
Current of 20,000 cubic feet passing down No. 2 and into the north workings, 25 men – 3,674 yards.
The principal lines of stoppings were built of brick and lime, the temporary stoppings of deal and the whole of the working places were bratticed, so as to lead the currents of air as near the faces as was necessary. The waste of back pillars were only ventilated by the air which leaked at the stoppings and doors. The following appear to have been the quantities of bratticing in the splint-coal:-

No 3 Pit: – South side – 522 yards, North Side 748 yards
No 2 Pit: – From Junction of No. 3 to south level 726 yards, From south level to furnace 286 yards. The working is about 6 feet thick and there would be an average area behind the bratticing of 25 square feet.”

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