On my list of places to visit was the National Coal Mining Museum because their website says that wheelchairs can go underground. We phoned in advance to book a wheelchair tour and make sure that they could take me. After the hour long drive from our holiday cottage we arrived in the rain and checked in at reception who were expecting me and gave us our ‘Checks’. A Check is a pair of metal tokens used to determine who is down the mine shaft.
As our tour was at one o’clock we had a drink and a cake in the café before looking around the exhibition of mining life. At our allotted time we made our way to the pithead and was greeted by two enthusiastic miners dressed in full orange jumpsuits.
For safety reasons batteries are not allowed down the mine as a spark can cause an explosion. Therefore we had to leave our cameras, phones, and watches in some lockers. We were then fitted with hardhats and given some special lamps.After handing over once half of the check we were allowed into the lift cage and took the two minute decent into the mine.We were then shown around the mine and given a very personal tour on which they told us about mining history. Of course when explaining that the miners used to work in the dark we all had to turn off our lamps. It was very dark.
Air is pumped around the mine to remove the poisonous and explosive gasses. The flow of the air is controlled by doors or ‘traps’. In the old days the traps were opened and closed by small children. If a miner could hear the children talking and laughing it would mean that their trap door was open and not controlling the airflow. This is where the term "Shut your trap", meaning to be quite comes from.
On returning to the surface we were able to explore the outbuildings which included the old steam powered winching gear, control room, an exhibition of mining equipment, and the miner’s lockers and shower room.www.ncm.org.uk