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Mining Review 4/7: The Magnet (1951)


Main image of Mining Review 4/7: The Magnet (1951)
Mining Review 4th Year No. 7: Yorkshire - The Magnet
March 1951
35mm, black and white, 2 mins
DirectorGrahame Tharp
Production CompanyData Film Productions
SponsorNational Coal Board
PhotographyCyril Arapoff

The design of a new type of magnetic safety lamp lock, and its testing at Thorne Colliery in Yorkshire.

Show full synopsis

Suggested by a visit to the National Coal Board's research laboratory at Stoke Orchard, this Mining Review item (filmed from 5th-8th December 1950) examines the technology behind a new type of safety lamp lock. As the makers of Mining Review would have been only too aware from their own experience of filming down mines, there were stringent safety precautions in place regarding lighting systems underground.

The first safety lamp was invented by Sir Humphry Davy and introduced in 1815. Although he had little choice but to make it oil-powered, since electricity was not an option available to him, he devised a then-revolutionary system that surrounded the flame with a metal gauze to disperse its heat, making it far less susceptible to igniting underground gases. Although electric lamps were all but universally used by 1950, when this Mining Review item was filmed, they were also potentially hazardous, especially if the battery connections were inadvertently opened underground.

As a result, the lamps shown in this film are impossible for the miner to open, accidentally or deliberately. They are kept locked shut by a strong spring that can only be opened by an exceptionally powerful magnet, operated by a trained lampman in a specially designated lamproom. As the film demonstrates, these new locks are considerably more powerful than their predecessors - a trial of the old lock on one of the new lamps proves reassuringly fruitless.

Michael Brooke

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