Several years ago my Father started volunteering on a local restoration project. Unlike me he doesn't work restoring endangered species, his area of expertise is more engineering related so he works on restoring a Cornish Tin Mine.
These evocative symbols of a bygone age are scattered all along the Cornish coastline, many of them had shafts that reached for miles out under the ocean. As you can imagine, in the 1800's when they were at their peak of productivity, the safety standards were virtually non-existant. (One of the byproducts of the tin mines was arsenic and the sum total of protective clothing consisted of a wad of cotton to stuff up each nostril!!)
This is a photo of a photo (hence the poor quality - sorry) of how the mine looked when it was working at capacity.
And this is how it looks today. My Dad is part of the original 'Greasy Gang' that took to opening up the old passageways and exploring old tunnels! Of course he didn't regale my Mom with these tales until well after the fact! On my most recent visit he gleefully took me down a spiral staircase into the ground and showed me a tunnel that they had excavated to the main shaft. When they discovered it of course it involved going down the staircase and climbing over a mound of dirt that blocked the passageway and crawling along on their stomachs in the pitch black, not knowing what they would find! I guess tales like this help me to realise why I am who I am! The crazy gene definitely comes from my Dad :) My Fathers passion is all things mechanical and of course this is an engine on an ultimate scale.
This is an original coal boiler from another mine, that would have powered a beam engine. They found the boiler buried in a field and dug it up, restored it and put it into the engine house. In this modern age no one is likely to volunteer for the arduous task of stoking it to run the engine so it is actually 'mocked up' next to the beam engine which is powered by an oil powered boiler.
To see the beam engine operating is a pretty awe inspiring sight. The massive beam goes up two storeys inside the building and as it pushes down there is a huge 'Whumpf' as the single massive piston pushes down into the huge cylinder. This is the engine that my Dad has restored and worked on - he is one of the 'go - to' men whenever it goes wrong. If you look closely on the picture above you will see a brown paper bag, it contains a pasty which one of the volunteers was warming up on the engine! Some traditions never die!
This is the view from upstairs looking down on the beam. (The man in the green baseball cap is my Dad.)
And this is the stairway I climbed up to get that view.
Another tradition, along with warming you pasty on the beam engine, is that every engine house has a red geranium growing in the window. (My Mom is responsible for providing these each year!) It always strikes me as a little incongruous, in amongst all this industrial might to have this delicate splash of colour.
Here is another member of the 'Greasy Gang' checking the pressure on the engine. (You can see from his overalls how they earned their Greasy Gang name!) In amongst the work of keeping this huge machine working and exploring new tunnels and shafts, the Greasy Gang spends a lot of time drinking tea and chatting - I think this volunteer position was custom made for my Dad :)
Photo Credits - CJT
- ► 2011 (25)
- ► 2010 (32)
- ▼ July (9)