Mining Equipment and Inventions

Deenside witnessed Ireland's first steam engine at Doonane Collieries in 1740s. It is mentioned in Tighe's Statistical Survey where he remarks on the efficiancy of Fenlon's Steam Engine.

Bill Hoyne pioneered in steam traction with a train of wagons each carrying approximately 10 ton of coal.

The world's first coal cutter was developed by Richard Sutcliffe, who worked as a miner and manager at Modubeagh and Clogh between 1857 and 1885. He also invented a conveyor belt that was developed in Castlecomer. Mr. Sutcliffe brought his conveyor belt to Wakefield, England where he establiahed a factory to manufacture it. A Sutcliffe belt is still produced in that factory today.

The first mapping of the proposed Dublin - Athy railway was drawn by David Aher, civil mining engineer. His family lived at La Rive at the Big Bridge in Castlecomer. In 1830s he produced plans for the first Dublin-Kilkenny Railway. He also organised link roads to travel around the hills in that area. In 1918, the British Army subsidised the building of the Castlecomer Railway to Deerpark.

An extract from the Kilkenny People newspaper dated 26th of February 1921 stated;

"Passenger working will operate for the first seven miles of this railway, which is continued thereafter as a mineral line to Castlecomer Colliery. There are many public road level crossings and for the staff controlling, some neat cottages are provided. However, the national importance of the new railway arises from the fact that it will provide proper transport for the coal which has previously been drawn to Kilkenny by cart, to be railed by all over Ireland. Now from the pit mouth the coal may reach every hearth in the land by the most rapid and economical system of transit."

It was ten miles from the Deerpark Mine to the Kilkenny Depot. The train track was laid by hand mostly on level ground which was very difficult because of the terrain. Iron tracks were bolted on to wooden sleepers made of oak. Bridges were built when they crossed streams and rivers. The land where the train track ran had to be fenced for safety. The iron gates were also constructed and can still be seen today. The train burned coal, which was not in short supply, and the coal generated steam to propel it forward. In the 1950s the train carried 300 tons a day.

Steam Train, Castlecomer

Coal was ferried from local mines "The Rock, The Vera, and The Skehana Pits" by an aerial steel ropeway that was constructed by the British Ropeway Engineering Company in London. The total length was 4.5 miles and was in three sections; Vera Colliery to Rock Colliery was one mile; Rock Colliery to Deerpark Sidings was two and a half miles; Skehana Colliery to Deerpark Sidings was one mile.

The system adapted was that of a monocable or endless rope , in which one rope supported and hauled the loads, and large steel buckets automatically clipped on to the rope and were held in place. The buckets carried loads of about 8cwt, there were about 200 buckets in total. The buckets emptied their loads into vast screens to be sorted, and then into wagons. The ropeway ran at a speed of 140 yards per minute. The power for running the ropeway was generated from the Rock Colliery, and power for the Skehana line was generated from the Skehana Colliery.

A caterpillar track was introduced by the Wandesforde familly in the 1940s. This was invented by a John Walker in 1896. The caterpillar was manufactured in William Carrolls forge in Barrack Street.

The Railway Supplies Journal of 1896 mentions;

"Mr. J. Walker's invention for road vehicles as a remarkable novelty. The model is only a rough one yet it works nicely and easily. The moment the car moves all the wheels are instantly in motion and the pulleys lay down and take up the rails without the least friction. Mr Walker has evidently succeeded in introducing an excellent improvement and we shall be interested in hearing more concerning it , as no doubt we shall ere long".

The plans were rejected by the British War Office. They were given to John's brother, William, in New York and the plans were copied when the Walker patent had lasped.

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