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Mining Review 1/9: Coal Cooker (1948)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

The commentary also doubles as a synopsis, and is therefore reproduced in full:

Consett Coke Ovens in County Durham have been using coal for 24 years. Bill Middlemass takes the lids off an empty oven, while the coal car moves up to charge some of the eight thousand tons used every week. The coal is, so to speak, baked for sixteen hours. This released gases from which by-products are obtained, but the bulk goes to Consett Steelworks, which use the coke in their blast furnaces.

An oven is ready for the coke to be pushed out. On each side of the oven, the doors will be taken off. On the ram side, Bill Dent prepares the oven door for lifting. Peter Rafferty gets ready to work the ram. On the opposite site, Joe Pledger waits for the coal to be pushed. These men have worked on the ovens since they were started 24 years ago. They remember the first time they were pushed up.

As the ram enters the oven, a wall of coke is pushed right through into the waiting coke car on the other side. Joe Pledger drives the coke to the quenching tower, where it's cooled by water. Day and night, men and machines have worked these ovens for nearly a quarter of a century. But now, Consett has started up a new battery. With the old ovens, they will use 15,000 tons of coal every week, making coke.

The men who work here are the vital link between mining and steel, Britain's key industries.