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The explosion was caused by a build up of methane being ignited by electric arcing in a ‘shuttle car’ rechargeable battery.

The Shuttle Car was a machine of USA manufacture, one of a number of types of mining machine that were introduced into UK mines during the years immediately after the end of World War II.  It was powered by two rechargeable lead-acid type batteries which were carried in containers on opposite sides of the machine.  Shuttle cars were a special form of trackless battery driven locomotive used to transfer coal from a loading machine in a coal heading or pillar extraction (often loaded by a 'Joy Loader') to be discharged into mine cars or on to a belt conveyor.

The machine was approximately 22 feet long and was mounted on four rubber tyred wheels.  There were three electric motors, two for the traction, one on each side, and the third for the scraper chain conveyor which ran the full length of the machine.  A shuttle car required a wide road and adequate turns so roof conditions had to be good so as to be clear of supports.

There is a description and sketch in Coal Mining - Electricity, by H F Banks, published by Virtue and Company Limited.

Rechargeable batteries must be able to breathe in order to work and therefore they cannot be housed in a flameproof enclosure.  One cause of arcing was as a result of a fractured connecting strap between cells of the battery.

In Memory Of Those Who Died
(ignition caused by fusion on the shuttle car battery)

  • Thomas Whitney aged 56 years, a deputy, of Lansdowne Road, Forest Hall
  • Thomas Patterson aged 54 years, timberman or salvage man, of Balliol Avenue, West Moor
  • Matthew Charlton aged 30 years, loader operator or salvage man, of Office Row, Burradon
  • John Fisher aged 33 years, driller or salvage man, of Glebe Road, Forest Hall
  • John Davison aged 58 years, pumpman, of Ferguson Crescent, Hazlerigg

To Read The Report On The Durham Mining Museum website (Click Here)

Related Newspaper Articles - The Durham Mining Museum website (Click Here)


Pit Terminology - Glossary