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The Cornish Beam Engine. - D.B.Barton - (1965)

Page 102. - The re-working of the notably wet Mellanear Mine, near Hayle, in the early 1870s also occasioned some remarkable working speeds for large engines. The re-working commenced with a far from new 76-inch engine * which during February 1872 averaged 13.4 s.p.m raising 1,315 gallons per minute from 117 fathoms with 19- inch pit work. For some days she worked at the extreme speed of 14.5, in a struggle that aroused the comment in the ‘West Briton’ - ‘it will be no fault of the 76-inch cylinder engine at Mellanear, or of the engineers G.Eustice and Son, if the water gains a temporary victory there. Recently the piston rod was travelling at the rate of 280 feet a minute! At 14 strokes a minute steam beats water; at 13 strokes to the minute the strife is equally waged; if the engine stops for a short time – to pack the cylinder for instance – water has the advantage. The progress of the struggle will be watched with interest’. Even in mid summer 1872 the engine was still averaging 10 s.p.m, although in March 1873 a new 80-inch (10 feet by 9 feet) was installed **. It was, however, put up on a new part of the sett and the 76-inch had still the lion’s share of the pumping to do. The breaking of the capstan rope and the consequent loss of a lift of pumps in the old (76-inch) engine shaft in September 1874 drowned out the mine and ended the working. A new company was formed in 1876 and in January 1877 the 76-inch was again being worked at over 13 s.p.m and was barely holding the water in check. Eighteen months later, in June 1878, a writer in the ‘Mining Journal’ commented on this engine ‘…the vacuum is not good, the air pump being too small, the cylinder is not steam jacketed, nor are the steam pipes all clothed, the piston is packed’ but going on to say that she was nevertheless doing 60m reported duty and this, moreover, although ‘common mining coal is burnt’. Later again a cross cut was completed to connect the two engine shafts and pumping was shared between this fine old engine and the new 80-inch. ***

* This was the old Wheal Vor (Trelawny’s) 80-inch, built in 1824, which had been sold to Wheal Ann (later West Wheal Alfred) in 1852 and where she worked to about 1865. At Mellanear the original cylinder was linered down to 76-inches.

** Formally christened the Ellen Engine in honour of the daughter of Gundry, the chief London shareholder in the mine, but usually referred to as Gundry’s Engine.

*** The working of Mellanear, last of the big copper mines of west Cornwall, ended in September 1889 when the two engines were for sale. It is interesting to note that during a previous working in 1815, Mellanear was equally troubled by water. A 58-inch engine (7 feet 6 inches by 6 feet) in the care of Wm. Sims was working at 13 s.p.m in February and at 13.6 s.p.m in April of that year, a few months before this working ceased.

Page 196. - The size of the shafts in Cornwall increased steadily in keeping with the growing scale of mining operations ….. later shafts were increased to 12 feet by 8 feet or more, as for example, at Mellanear in the 1870s where a new shaft was put down 16 feet by 7 feet within timbers. Such dimensions were necessary to take the four or five requisite compartments for all the pit work; a ladder road for pitmen and others; a capstan compartment for lowering pit work replacements, plus either a kibble-way or skip-roads boarded off from the rest of the shaft.