The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Labor in the Mines (repairs)

Repairers Timbering the Roof in the Meiji Era (1868-1912): The Sakiyama (Chief Repairer) and the Atoyama (Helper)
May 1966

Meiji Shikurikata, Wakuire: Sakiyama, Atoyama
[Repairers Timbering the Roof in the Meiji Era (1868-1912): The Sakiyama (Chief Repairer) and the Atoyama (Helper)]
38.0 x 54.1 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

When the repairers called shikurikatas built support units in the level called a kataban or kanekata, they dug holes called wakugamas for inserting the legs of pillars into the foot of the wall on "the inclined side (kata)" of the level. It was because the pillars on the kata had to be tilted more than on the other side, and they were tilted at a rate of about 90 to 300 millimeters. The pillars on the dipped side (fuke) were not tilted so steeply in order not to prevent mine cars from going. All the tracks in the pit were single tracks, and were laid on the dipped side of the level.
Pits used many support units in newly driven workings (aratoko) or slopes, and needed huge expenses for mine timber. The owner (koshi in dialect: normally koshu) of the pit would be astounded at the cost. Pits with soft coal beds did not always have good conditions. The expenses for timbering and drainage were the cancer of the coal pit in the old days (and the expenses for explosives, electricity, machinery, and mine timber are the cancer of the coal pit today).
Shikurikatas made it a rule to put the thicker end of the beam of a support unit onto the top of the pillar on the inclined side of the slope. The normal length of the beam was 7 shaku (2.12 meters). However, most of the beams used in the kanekatas of small-scale pits were 6 shaku (1.80 meters) long. And mine timber with thinner ends (suekuchi) and small diameters was used in such pits.
There were also differences in skills between experienced shikurikatas. Expert shikurikatas did not produce much rock refuse and did their jobs quickly and completely. However, inexpert shikurikatas produced much rock refuse and did not finish their jobs quickly. The support units built by the latter were not good and the pairs of pillars on the inclined and dipped sides often twisted. These incomplete support units were called zentsuki-wakus. They easily fell from intense rock pressure. For pit workers, the fear of being hit by falling mine timber was greater than that of being hit by falling rocks.

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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