Sam and I braved the Friday evening traffic and drove the 200 miles to Manchester to be ready for action first thing on Saturday morning. By 8.30 we had arrived on the cobblestones outside the gates of what used to be Astley Green Colliery, now a mining museum. The pit head with its winding gear was still in place in front of us, and for a brief moment I imagined hundreds of miners swarming through the gates in the early 1900’s, ready for work.
By 9.30 I had organised my table, but one thing I’m going to purchase for next time is a proper display banner, as I seemed to be the only author without one, but hey ho, you live and learn…
The marquee was full, and it was nice to speak to people I had only previously known online; namely Sandra Robinson (who did a grand job organising the event) Christoph Fischer, and D.M Midgley among others. I managed to sell a couple of books, sign rather a lot of autograph books, get myself on a promotional video which I think is going to be on YouTube, talk to a few readers, and gain another 5 signatures for my fledgling mailing list, which is all good.
Also for me, the venue was quite atmospheric and really interesting. At lunch time we had a chance to walk around the museum and see the original winding machine in action. One of the workmen manning the machine told me he’d started at the mine as an apprentice in 1960, but then the mine had closed in 1970 when cheaper coal had been found in Columbia. How sad. Have a look at these wonderful photos:
The winding engine was installed when the colliery was opened, and was operational by 1912. It was designed to wind the total output of the colliery, which amounted to 9 tons of coal from a depth of 890 yards every two minutes. This required an engine of 3300 horse power, which was developed from the four steam cylinders. It was one of the largest steam winding engines used in Britain and is the largest surviving engine today.
As the sun set it was time for some great music in the marquee provided by various bands. In-between the sets Sam and I walked around disused rail tracks running around and behind the winding engine house. I could not help looking out for ghosts from the past!