The National Coal Museum
The National Coal Museum, Big Pit, is a real coal mine which has been converted into a museum of the coal mining industry. The museum is located in South Wales in an area of industrial landscape which was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
In the Big Pit Mining Galleries are exhibitions of modern mining equipment and simulations of underground workings.
Visitors can see and interact with various buildings and machinery that were essential to the mining operations at Big Pit. They include the Winding Engine House which operated the “cage”, or lift, that transported the miners underground to the workings and back to the surface at the end of their shift, the Blacksmiths’ Yard where the colliery’s blacksmiths repaired everything that was made of metal, and The Fan House, which was the ventilation system for the colliery.
For many people the highlight of a visit to the National Coal Museum will be the Underground Tour. Visitors can descend 300 feet to begin a journey around a section of what were once real underground workings. During the tour visitors wear the same equipment as the miners did, helmet, lamp, belt, battery and self-rescuer. Once underground there is a walk, about 50 minutes, around the coal faces, engine houses and stables with a former coal miner as a guide. Children must be a minimum height of one meter for the Underground Tour and must be able to carry safety equipment weighing around five kg.
Big Pit is situated on the side of a steep hill and the buildings are on a number of different levels and, although there are ramps provided, they are quite long and the climb can be difficult. Underground there are places where it is necessary to bend to negotiate low ceilings.
National Coal Museum