Boston: Pinned

by kfrego

In 1970 I went to work on a tunnel job in the Dorchester area of Boston,MA. The job consisted of a shaft 160 feet deep with tunnels being driven in two directions from the shaft. One tunnel was using conventional drill and blast mining methods. The other was using a tunnel boring machine manufactured by a joint venture of Ingersoll-Rand and Robbins. The tunnel boring machine was a forerunner of the machines used for tunnel excavation today. The tunnel boring machine was removed before completion of the tunnel due to changing rock conditions.

My normal job was working as a lead miner on the drill and blast tunnel. The drilling was accomplished with a five drill rail mounted jumbo. The jumbo had a single deck about six feet high. Hydraulic wings were used to provide wider work space on the deck. Removal of the blasted rock (muck) was done by a Conway Mucker which picked up the muck and sent it into the rail cars on a short conveyor belt. The drills were operated by air and hydraulics. The mucker was powered by 440 volt electric.

When the drill jumbo was brought to the face for drilling it was attached to a six inch air hose with 120 PSI  air. The wings were raised for the sides of the deck. Each drill had a bank of long handled hydraulic valves for moving and aligning when drilling. The jumbo was brought in one day and hooked up to drill. The driller on the lower right drill was standing beside his drill. One of the control levers on his drill had been broken and the valve was jammed in the open position. When the air and hydraulics came on the drill swung to the right. The miner ended up getting pinned to the side of the tunnel by the drill. He was in a small depression in the rock and the drill had him pinned at his knees. When the drill pinned him he started screaming the most horrific sounds you could imagine. He literally went berserk. He was pinned and panicked.

Myself and Elmer Finch were working at the controls trying to dislodge the broken valve. The only way to get the screaming miner loose was to move the drill. The miners behind the jumbo heard the terrifying screams, ran five hundred feet down the tunnel, and turned off the air supply. Without any air to power the hydraulics we couldn’t move the drill to free the screaming miner. Total chaos everywhere except for myself and Elmer working on the valve. We were hoping the miner would pass out to stop the screaming. If we decked him the whole crew would go nuts. Finally,we convinced the crew to turn the air back on and swung the drill off the screamer. When he stopped screaming it was an eerie silence. His legs were a little bruised and he was exhausted from screaming. We put him in a wire stretcher on top of a locomotive and sent him outside.

The poor miner could have avoided all the screaming…………………one short hop and he would have been over the swinging drill.