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Ganger, Paul Winnals, on haulage work at Annesley-Bentinck colliery, 1993. Picture Source: David Amos.

Stage 11

Underground Transport

Underground transport at a colliery had three main purposes;

  • Take equipment and supplies into the colliery
  • Bring coal out of the colliery
  • Take miners in and out of the colliery.

For this section of the trail, we are concerned with taking equipment and supplies into the colliery.

Initially, the yard gang would get various equipment and supplies ready on the colliery surface. These would then travel down the shaft and once off the cage at the pit bottom, travelled along the main roadways and gates to the various underground workings using several haulage systems. These were like miniature railways and could travel anything from 2 to 5 miles underground.

Sketch from the 1842 Coal Mines Commission report on women and children working in coal mines.

The passing of The 1842 Coal Mines Act, made it illegal for women, and children under the age of ten, to work underground in a colliery. Prior to this, women and children were used in haulage roles. Following the ruling, pit ponies began to play a more important role in underground transport, until they in turn, were replaced by mechanical steel rope haulage systems.

Some early haulage systems were gravity operated but from the 1940’s motor driven haulages, employing direct or endless rope systems, became more commonplace.

Pickrose direct haulage engine.

Endless rope haulage engine at Annesley Colliery in 1993.

By the 1960’s, endless rope haulages were the most common type at British collieries. The steel endless rope was driven by the haulage engine and at its return end it would run around a return wheel, which could be one mile or more away.

Mining trainees being shown how to clip onto the haulage rope. Picture Source: The Coal Authority.

The set of tubs / trams were lashed or clipped onto the rope at the front and back. The haulage system would work at around 4 miles per hour. The system was capable of hauling equipment and supplies considerable distances, communication was by means of a set of bell wires or pull wires and latches, which ran the entire length of the haulage line.


In ‘pit-talk’ (the language and terminology used by mineworkers), taking equipment into the workings was known as ‘travelling inbye’ whilst coming out of the workings was known as ‘travelling outbye’.

Miners who specialised in haulage transport were known as ‘gangers’, and the process of taking supplies to the coalface and other underground developments was known as ‘ganging’.