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Pleasley Pit South Winding Engine. Picture Source: Paul Fillingham.

Stage 6

South Winding Engine

The man in charge of the winding engine was the colliery winding engineman, In the past, the winding engineman enjoyed special status as an artisan, an aristocrat of the working class, who had the agency to ‘rule with a rod of iron’. They were represented their own winding enginemen trade, and craftsmen unions that existed independently from the miners’ trade unions. Colliery winding engines were kept in immaculate condition and many young NCB apprentices were reprimanded for stepping off the carpet onto the polished floor of the winding house.

Heritage Centre Volunteer at the Silverhill Colliery Electric Winding Console, located in the South Winding House.

After NCB nationalisation in 1947, many British collieries converted to electric winding. The control panel of an electric winding engine from nearby Silverhill Colliery (which closed in 1993) can be seen in the south engine house. Pleasley operated a steam winder right up to the time of the  pit closure in December 1983.

In the East Midlands coalfield, the last steam winders to be replaced by electric were at Linby, and Sherwood collieries, Nottinghamshire, in 1983. A steam winding engine survived at Donisthorpe Colliery, South Derbyshire, until its closure in 1990.


The winding engineman used a set of backlit alpha-numeric panels,  electromagnetic bells, and a dial, similar to a clock face which enabled  communication with the banksman on the pit top, and the onsetter in the pit bottom. Instructions were sent using lights and ringing bells in a set pattern:

  1. Raise
  2. Lower
  3. Manriding
  4. Raise slowly
  5. Lower slowly

The displays also indicated where the cage was at any time, including the various coal seams, which was indicated by their names on the backlit panels.

Lights, bells and dials are used to communicate to workers on the pit top and bottom where the cage is at any given time.

Donisthorpe Colliery steam winding engine, 1990.