Object StatementGlass plate negative, full plate, 'The incline, Kembla Coal Co', Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, c. 1884-1917
Physical DescriptionGlass negative Full plate glass photographic negative titled 'The incline, Kembla Coal Co.', produced by Kerry and Co, Sydney, portrait format.
Independant researcher John Stafford writes:
"The centre of the image depicts the incline at the Mount Kembla colliery. At the time of the image, the colliery was owned by the Mount Kembla Coal and Oil Company. The incline features a rail track system for the movement of coal out of the mine which is at the top of the incline. Steam can be seen coming from buildings, probably the winding house, at the top of the incline, in the background of the image. An empty coal skip can be seen in the background, returning to the mine.
A laden coal skip can be seen mid-way down the incline. Two men are depicted in the foreground of the image at the bottom of the incline. Evidence of mining activity can be seen in the background on the right side of the image. The land on the left side of the image has been cleared and fenced. The land on the right side of the image is uncleared, but fenced.
The incline is used to transport empty wagons up the incline, while at the same time sending full wagons down the incline on a standard gauge railway.
The wagons were moved by a 'gravity system' whereby the full wagon, being heavier and moving down, pulled the empty waggon up the incline. The rate of speed for the movement of these wagons, and to slow them down eventually to stop at the required position on the line (top and bottom), was controlled by a 'brakeman' located in his cabin at the top of the incline. This brakeman had controls which were attached to the twin rope winding drums that wound and unwound the two cables, so he was able to determine if the progress of the rolling stock could be stopped at any time during the descent and ascent of the two wagons attached to the twin cables. This winding mechanisim was not driven by steam.
When the empty wagon arrived at the top of the incline it was detached from the incline cable and (at that time) was coupled to chain which was part of the harness gear of a draft horse. The draft horse pulled the empty wagon up a slight slope reaching a changeover point where the empty wagon ran back down the slope in a controlled fashion until it reached the desired area beneath a large wooden coal storage bin at which time a mechanical door was opened that allowed coal to empty from the large bin until the wagon was full. When the wagon was full of coal, it was allowed to roll back down the slope until it reached a predetermined position just past the top of the incline where the incline cable would be attached to the full wagon. Immediatly after, another empty wagon had reached the top of the incline, where the cable would be removed from the empty wagon, then placed onto the full wagon. At this time, the brake were engaging the steel cable winding drums. Then, when the full wagon was attached to the cable at the top of the incline and the empty waggon was attached to the other (twin) cable and the bottom of the incline, the mineworkers would signal by semaphore that the empty wagon was attached to the cable. The brakeman would then release the brake and the full wagon would unwind its drum and the other drum would at the same time wind up the cable attached to the empty wagon. The procedure was repeated with rolling stock moving up and down the incline with the steel cable attached to a hook between the buffers that was on every wagon.
The removal of coal from within the mine was done by coal miners filling smaller skips that were on a small gauge rail which ran in different directions as the main endless steel cable terminated toward the general area of the coalface. At this point, small gauge rail lines were laid and added to, as the distance the mining tunnel, increased. There were many mining tunnels, each having a small gauge rail line. The coal skips were manually moved from the terminous of the endless cable away from where the skips were disconnected from the endless cable , this was done by a 'pit pony' and a 'wheeler'. The wheeler had the responsibility of bringing empty coal skips to the coal miner for him to fill, and then to take the full skips from the coal miner's working area with the aid of the pit pony, back to where the endless cable was situated. The full skips were attached to the endless cable in rakes of four of five with the leading skip having a device attaching the hook between the buffers on the skip and a 'clamping block' which, when tightened, grips the moving endless cable, thus pulling the skip along as the cable moves out of the mine. The leading skip in the group was attached to the other four skips, with a three linked chain between each skip thus holding them in a group.
The coal miner in those days was paid on a rate which was determined by the tonnage of coal he dug from the mine face and placed into the skips. To ensure each miner was paid the correct amount of wages, they were supplied with a leather token with a numeral stamped into each token. Each coal miner would have his own token number which he attached to his full skip. When the full skips reached the surface tunnel exit of the mine they would be disconnected by the 'Clippers' from the moving endless cable, each skip would be weighed, and the man in the small office near the scales noted the weight of each skip. Another person would remove the token and call out the number on the token. Thus the weight for each different token number would be added up to determine the amount of wages that were to be paid to each miner These people in the area of the scales were the 'tally men'.
The endless cable that moved the empty skips in, while at the same time moving full skips out of the tunnel, was powered by a stationary steam engine. It is the steam from the steam engine driving the cable movement that can be seen in this image.
After the weighing of the skip of coal, it was sitting on an area of the small gauge rail, which was on a slight downhill slope away from the scales. The skip would slowly run down this slope until it reached the area of the tippler which was a device that tipped the skip over, allowing the coal to fall into the large storage bin. It was under this storage bin, that the larger coal wagons were run on a standard gauge rail line. The wagons were filled from the bin before going to the bottom of the incline, from where they would be eventually taken to the company's jetty at Red Point (Port Kembla).
The mining activity which is shown on the right side of the image, is the area where stone from within the colliery and the ash from the steam engine, and the 'slack' (minute pieces of coal, deemed at that time to be of no use) were dumped away from the mine. The heaps of ash etc seem to have been eroded by falling rain. (John Stafford, email correspondence 14/7/2017)
The caption, studio mark and studio number are inscribed on the reverse of the negative.
39/44 Tyrrell Inventory Number, 5 Kerry Studio Number
MarksStudio number, caption and studio mark on plate emulsion verso lower left corner, inscribed by hand in reverse print in ink '5. THE INCLINE, KEMBLA COAL CO. / KERRY. PHOTO. SYDNEY.'
Inscription in plate emulsion verso upper centre edge, scratched by hand '5'.