Here’s a real find. I recently acquired a couple of railway plans from my favourite map dealer, and bought them blind. I actually thought one was of Walsall Wood, and the other was Brownhills West, due to the drawing titles. When I received them, they were far better than that. These are gems. I’ll post the other one in a couple of days.
These sit well with previous drawings featured of the conduit colliery and Gerald Reece’s wonderful land plans of the Norton Branch.
One of the problems with old drawings is getting them scanned. These were particularly challenging, as they were drawn on cotton vellum paper – a fabric like, thin material that’s incredibly soft and difficult to machine feed. Imagine a drawing printed on a cheesecloth shirt. Thankfully, I found a wonderful, very competent scanning company who did an excellent job.
Today’s drawing is a 1960 British Railways Board plan of mining activity in the Yard Seam under the Norton Branch Railway at Brownhills Common, and shows the railway path above them. This was necessary for the structural and geological engineers to assess the strength of the land beneath the trackbed. If the specialists were unhappy with ground conditions, the British Railways Board could insist on the installation of girders and props in the shafts to provide additional support. This was a serious business, and was enabled under an act of parliament.
You’ll note the plan shows several shafts, progress markers, ‘protection boundaries’ – buffers of non-working to ensure overland stability – and a building near the level crossing, on Engine Lane. I’d really, really like to know what that is. Both myself and [Howmuch?] have been looking for any trace of that on several occasions, but there’s no remnants extant that we can locate.
This is, of corse, all tied in with the ongoing speculation and discussion about mining on the common in general and the origins of Engine Lane itself.
Bear in mind that this is only workings in the Yard Seem, and there were other workings in other seams that aren’t detailed, which would be on other plans. I can’t imagine how hard surveying was in these conditions – a positive warren of old and current workings from multiple pits. Lost shafts, bell pits and infills. Imagine trying to visualise the interactions of all these voids in a time without three-dimensional simulation. An incredible, and somewhat onerous task.
As usual, I’ve created a Google Earth Overlay for you to download, which will also work in current Garmin graphical GPS units. The original seems very accurate, but don’t place too much faith in the geolocation, which I guess would be to about three to four metres. Please don’t use this as a basis for anything technical. Paper stretch, optical distortions and other errors may well make this rather inaccurate in places.
If you want to have a play with this overlay, it can be downloaded at the link below. Instructions on how to use it with Google Earth are in this post – you must have installed the Google Earth application. If you haven’t, go here to get a copy. As usual, the overlay is hosted at box.
My thanks to the boy [Howmuch?] who did no small amount of running around for me on this one. I really must buy him more beer…