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Sir Francis Level, Engine Room (16/03/08)

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After having a look at Bunton Level, we made our way back down the valley to the Sir Francis Level. Access to the level is via a surface air shaft as the there is a blockage in the first 100m or so. Locating the air shaft, a length of electron ladder was lowered and one by one we disappeared down the shaft. Apart from the debris at the base of the shaft the level looked in good condition, an air pipe on the left hand side could be seen and this would keep us company almost all the way to the engine room.

The water pretty much immediately reached waist height and you got the usual curses and exclamations of how cold it was. We made our way along the level chatting amongst ourselves. The waist deep water gave way to knee deep water and this was much harder going. Eventually we came to some shale falls that we went over the top of and then was the clincher - straight into chest deep water (for me that is, others had to tip toe to stay below neck). This only lasted for a short distance and then it was back to waist depth, and shortly afterwards it disappeared. We passed a junction on the right, Tony told us is was a fall, various digging equipment could be seen from attempts to get through. Just past this we reached our goal.

The level split into two forks. The left took you to the top of a flooded shaft. From here you could see a lift cage partially submerged in the water and you could also look up into the engine room. The sight was very impressive. Taking the right fork you passed a little side chamber on the left that also gave access to the shaft, pipe work could be seen here. Looking down onto the floor I noticed hundreds, probably thousands of mine pearls. Further in, on the right hand side a series of steps took you into the engine room.

Music from 2001 (scene when they see the black monolith) played back in my head as I saw the contents. The engine room was truly impressive, with pretty much all the major features intact. Pipe work, the hydraulic engine, winch pulleys in the roof and the cable winch drum could all be seen. We took a group shot in the engine room and then came back down to the left fork. I had lunch here, not having been able to bring myself to have it up top like the others. After this and a lonely lunch pic we packed our gear up, we made our way back out, stopping a few times to get some shots of the level.