Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 8, October 1967


By Les Morgan

All the shafts at the Waihi mines were similar to the pit-head model on display in the Museum, except that this one was fitted with automatic tipping skips. The other shafts had cages for lifting of trucks or men as required.

While the skips at No. 6 shaft tipped themselves on arrival at the surface, when the cages at the other shafts arrived at the surface, the men (bracemen) had to push the full truck off and put an empty one on. The full truck was then pushed out to the hoppers and emptied while the cage containing the empty truck was returned below to be reloaded. The worker underground who changed the trucks was known as the chamberman.

All the shafts, except No. 5 had double cages so that while one was at the surface the other was below at the level from which the quartz was being sent.

In each shaft there were levels at about 150 ft. intervals, and at each of these was a large excavation called a chamber. The drives to the various workings radiated from this chamber so that all quartz mined had to be brought here before being sent to the surface. Fitted into the shaft at each chamber were "Clips". These were steel platforms which were attached to an arm and fitted under the edge of the frame of the shaft. When it was desired to wind quartz from any particular level, these clips were released so that when they jutted out into the shaft the cage could rest on them. When work at that particular level was finished the chamber-man would withdraw the clips and proceed to the next level at which he was required to work.

In order to move the cage from one level to another but still have them working, (one was at the surface and the other at the required level) the drums on the winding engines were divided to enable one to be thrown out of gear while the other moved to required level.

It will be noticed that the ropes on the drums on the winding engine are wound in opposite directions i.e. one over the top and the other underneath. In this way one cage was going up while the other was going down.

When it was necessary to alter levels one of the cages was allowedtorest on the clips at the surface while the free wheeling device on the winding drum was brought into action and the free cage was wound down to the required level. The chamberman then let in the clips at that level so that the free wheeling device was disengaged with the result that when the winding was resumed both cages reached the surface at the same time.

For example, if the chamberman was sending trucks of quartz from No. 4 level and he wished to go to No. 6 level, he would ring the required signal to the engine driver who would bring the changing gear into action, andonreceiving the number of the required level would lower the cage and then await the signal to recommence winding.

In the engine room beside the engine driver was a dial which indicated the position of the cage in the shaft so that the driver knew exactly where it was at all times.

The code of signals used was universal and approved by the Mines Department. The method of communication was by means of a bell which was hung in the engine room and was rung by the chamberman by means of a wire which connected every chamber right down the shaft. Although underground telephones were installed these were not used as much as the bell which proved much quicker.

Incidentally we had a visit recently from Mr. Arthur Scott who was in Waihi when the Martha Mine's No. 6 Shaft was first operated. This was his only visit since he left the electrical department at the mine and wenttoU.S.A. 55 years ago. He came here from Cambridge as a five year old school boy in 1895, and is still at 77, practising as an electrical engineer in Berkley, California.

Spending a few days in Waihi, quietly going over old scenes and sites, he considered the Museum of great interest, effectively preserving much of the town's history. He found the house where his family had lived in Union Street but noted many changes in the town, remarking specially on the trees.

Just prior to leaving New Zealand in 1912 Mr. Scott helped to instal the first street lights in Frankton Junction and subsequently spent 6 years in Chile and 4 years on the installation of elevated subways in New York. More recently he has been associated with the electrical work on the famed Stanford Linear Reactor, the great two-mile tunnel down which atoms are pelted and top nuclear research is carried out on the University grounds at Palo Alto, California. Certainly a far cry from Waihi - and yet "Akrad" is surely a link.