The mine manager controlled all aspects of a mining
operation, and in most of the larger operations a Mine Foreman
assisted him. Thereafter, the organization of most mines
followed the division between the above ground and the
underground work. In the above ground operation the Master
Mechanic reported to the Foreman or the Mine Manager, and was
responsible for the proper functioning of all equipment.
Some of the mine structures on the surface housed the
machinery that was used to produce power, to repair damaged
equipment and to process coal. Coal-fired boilers fed steam to
the engine that produced either electricity or compressed air to
power the mine's machinery.
The miners, to prepare for their daily work, used other
surface structures. Each underground miner began his workday
with a stop at the wash-house where he changed from his 'home'
clothes into his 'pit' clothes. From there, he went to the lamp
house for a lamp, his single most important piece of equipment.
Carrying his lunch box, pick, blasting powder and any other
supplies that he had brought from home, he then proceeded into
At one point the miners had the option of using either the
old-style open flame lamp or available versions of the
experimental safety lamps. The open flame lamp was simply an oil
lamp with an unprotected flame. Safety lamps were modified open
flame lamps in which the flame was surrounded by wire gauze.
Many miners in the Pass used a variation of the safety lamp that
had been developed by Sir Humphrey Davy early in the nineteenth
century. Davy had discovered that an open flame would not pass
through a perforated screen if the depth of the holes were
greater than their diameter. He was then able to demonstrate
that the same was true for Fine wire gauze, which could be used
in a lantern while still providing a good light source. A number
of other modifications were made in the safety lamp throughout
the 1800s, with each new lamp being given the name of its
creator: but the Davy Safety Lamp seemed to be a favorite among
the miners in the Crowsnest.
The mine company was responsible for keeping the lamps in
safe working order. After every shift, attendants cleaned each
lamp, refilled it with oil, and made any necessary repairs.
While safety lamps provided the miner with a safer working
environment, they also offered less light than the open flame
Deep in the mine, of course, the dim light from the safety
lamp was also a hazard and many miners protested its
introduction. By 1918, however, many mines had adopted the new
Edison electric lamp. Despite the problems associated with early
battery technology, these new lamps provided increased
illumination and greatly reduced the possibility of gas explosions.
At the end of each shift, the miner returned his lamp to the
lamp house. As each miner was issued the same lamp each day, it
was easy to tell if all the miners had returned from a shift-a
missing lamp triggered an immediate search for its user.
See Also: Miner's Roles