Fires of Prometheus


Behind Leeds industrial Museum, on the southern side of the mill goit, is an overgrown area that includes a series of steel arch mine roof supports. In the midst of a tangle of vegetation, on a short length of 3'6" track, stand a battery mine locomotive and two coal hopper wagons (RM42 and RM43). Nearby is a manrider wagon (R44) and a dissembled Hudson turntable. These and a mysterious length of 18" track set in concrete and ending against the back wall of the museum building, are the remains of an ambitious exhibition, Face to Cage, mounted in 1990 by the museum’s then curator, Dr R. Fitzgerald. The exhibition took over almost the whole ground floor of the museum, and the rolling stock outside the rear of the museum are what is left of a mine tunnel simulation. Originally the dual gauge track divided and continued into a mine locomotive "garage" ("Gallery B") that also included the 18" track, which extended from "Gallery A." Some of this building has since been demolished. Another room ("Gallery A") featured displays illustrating the earliest kinds of mine transport.

As well as than the coal hoppers, a number of the surviving wagons probably originated in this exhibition. The silhouettes in Gallery A shown on the plan suggests that the display included a human-propelled wagon (RM50?) and a horse. Is the horse standing on a dandy wagon? I do not know what happened to the human figure or the horse, but interestingly the Ffestiniog Railway, with which the museum had a relationship in the 1980s and 90s, has a replica dandy wagon built in 1988! The wooden wagons RM 46 and RM54 may also have been displayed in this gallery (RM46 is still in that space). The gallery is now in a ruinous condition, and still contains debris from the 2015 flood.

Sadly the surviving documentation on the exhibition does not provide enough information to provide further detail, and there appears to be no photagraphic record.

Diagranm of Face to Cage exhibition
Plan of Face to Cage exhibition. The locomotive and two coal hopper wagons (RM42 and RM43) to the right of "Gallery C" are still in that position. Several of the locomotives in "Gallery B" are also still in that location. It is likely that the wooden-bodied wagon (RM46) the replica corf (RM50) and the small wooden wagon RM54 were displayed in "Gallery A." Note the horse (standing in a "dandy wagon?") in "Gallery A," and what may be a man hauling a wagon (perhaps the replica corf).


Last updated 9th November 2019

Remains of Face to Cage replica mine tunmnel
The eastern end of the Face to Cage exhibition ("Gallery D") showing steel arch mine roof supports above two coal hopper wagons and a battery locomotive, still in position. Note the surrounding vegetation!

Annotated diagram of Face to Cage Exhibition
Plan of Face to Cage exhibition annotated to show present situation of display area. So successful was this exhibition that it is still spoken of in local industrial heritage circles, though it was dismantled in 1996. Sadly, there appears to be very little photographic evidence of the displays. While much of the material has been moved, several of the locomotives and the hopper wagons were left where they were.

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