|The pit headgear and engine house|
Not any more. King Coal has been deposed for nigh on thirty years now. The pithead which we gradually neared as we headed towards Leigh on the Bridgewater is the last in Lancashire and even it is now merely a static landmark that points the way to the Astley Green Colliery Museum.
The rather forlorn little one-street village of Astley Green used to be home to a sizeable colliery that employed nearly 2000 men - and women. These days it's a fascinating, ramshackle and at times poignant museum run by a dedicated team of volunteers.
|Now that's what you call a steam engine|
It's one of the largest in Britain and was manufactured by Yates and Thom of Blackburn in 1910, back in the days when British industry could build that sort of stuff.
It has four cylinders in a twin tandem compound arrangement. It developed an astounding 3300hp at just 58 rpm. I was lucky enough to visit at the same time as an old boy called Ken Eastham who, it transpired, worked on the engine and headgear here and elsewhere as an engineer until the mining industry finally died.
|Winding wheel with, on its right rim, the brake shoe|
The winding cable ran on a cone shaped wheel enabling the cable to be low geared at first, then building up to higher gearing as momentum increased The maximum rope speed was 26 metres per second – that's nearly 60mph – when winding coal.
|A big engine needs big spanners|
|Plenty of history to be found at the museum|
Outside exhibits are fairly random and ramshackle but perhaps the nicer for it. Sadly the collection of mining railway engines was all tucked away from the weather under canvas – that's a British summer for you.
The museum is free to visit but if you're as fascinated as I was you'll have to leave a donation.