* The winder can be described as – A geared double drum steam winding engine with two 10” engines, both drums loose and fitted with band brakes on the inside of each drum ).
* Made by Walkers of Maryborough, the winding engine does not have a centre bearing between the drums.
* The winder is mounted on a cast iron sub frame, larger winders had the two engines mounted on concrete plinths with a deep well between the plinths to allow the drums to rotate.
* Each drum was fitted with steel wire rope, one drum underwound and the other overwound. This means that as the drums are rotated one rope is payed out off one drum and the cage lowered down the shaft, and the other is would onto the other drum and the cage is raised.
* Each rope would have been attached to cages, these cages could carry miners (typically four men to a cage ) or a steel box truck that was loaded with ore. A winder of this size would have had a payload of some five hundredweight.
* The shaft would have had three or possibly four compartments, two for cages, one for services and a ladder way and a fourth for ventilation.
* The shaft is lined with local sawn timber and uses box sets with wall plates and centres.
* The term “ Loose Drums “ relates to the arrangement of the drums on the drive shaft, and the drums are driven by the drive shaft through the bull gear by means of mechanical dog clutches.
* Dial indicators would have been fitted to each drum at the front of the winder so as to be visible to the driver. These are similar to a large clock face and showed the driver where each cage was in the shaft.
* The loose drums allowed the winder to access any of the levels when raising trucks of ore. If miners were working at the bottom level at 400’ depth they would be lowered to the level by the winder which would have been geared into the 400 level. This meant that when one cage was at the 400’ level plat the other cages would have been at the surface.
* If the cages were then to be used to raise trucks of ore from say the 200’ level the drum that was at the surface would have been taken out of gear and the lower cage raised in single gear to the 200’ level. This allowed the winder to raise each cage by winding in and paying out 200’ of rope during each cycle instead of 400’ or rope.
* When a drum was taken out of gear the band brake for that drum was engaged and a “ sprag “ automatically pushed into the drum between the spokes of the drum. This prevented any uncontrolled movement of the loose drum.
Looking at the photograph the controls are evident –
* The driver stood behind the winding engine and used the steam valve control lever to admit steam into each engine from the steam crosshead above the drums. This lever is evident on the main valve on the crosshead, directly over the centre of the winder and the steam valve allowed the drums to be driven in either direction.
* The brakes are applied by a ratcheted lever on a countershaft that traverses the winder in front of the driver and at the rear of the drums, both brakes are applied at the same time.
* There are two clutch levers in in front of the driver at the centre of the sub frame and at the rear of the drums, one for each drum.
The description was contributed by Howard Coombes who visited the Great Northern Mine site in 2023.
* The winder appears to have been made locally using components from several sources.
* Looking at the drums they appear to have been cast without a rope path which has been fabricated using timber lagging. This was a common arrangement in Bendigo and Ballarat winder drums, Roberts, Harkness, and others even for the larger drums.
* The band brakes are similar to the Walker drums at the Gully shaft and this was an occasional arrangement for the smaller winder drums. Note that these band brakes used a steel band operated by an over centre lever that was part of the engine driver’s controls. The brake shoes under the band are timber that was sometimes internally lined with leather.
* A timber sub frame supports the drums and brake mountings, this is highly unusual and suggests that this machine was made from manufactured components of different engines and assembled on site.
* Both drums are loose with dog clutches on the drive shaft, I cannot see enough detail to assess if there are sprags fitted, I would assume that they would be there. If not the winder would not have been allowed to operate.
* The local assembly theory is supported by the clutch controls which appear to be ex railway points levers.
* Similarly, the drive arrangement via a series of gears is unique and it would appear that a portable steam engine has been adapted to drive a bull wheel attached to the drum shaft.
The provenance of the winder is in several parts, –
* The two drums may be single drum winder components adapted to a larger winder drive shaft.
* The drums have been removed from the original cast iron sub frames and adapted to a timber frame.
* The drums may be Roberts or Harkness of Bendigo components. The makers name was rarely embossed on the castings of winder drums by any maker, although a closer inspection may revel this. Drums made in the late 1800s and early 1900s were usually cast from steel and machined.
This description was contributed by Howard Coombes who visited the Great Northern Mine site in 2023.
© Herberton Mining Museum History Association 2023