One might almost imagine that the smell of soap and sweat, tiny specks of coal dust and the hum of voices at a change of shift still hang somewhere in the air. Dozens of helmets, working clothes and boots hanging down from chains on the ceiling, and the tiled washrooms recall the activities that once took place here day and night for 150 years. In the Michal Mining Museum and Cultural Centre in Ostrava (Czech Republic) visitors can follow the daily routine of colliers as closely as if they were one of them. The washrooms, the lamp room, the changing rooms, worn hand rails and well-trodden steps look just as they did on 2nd June 1994 when the pit closed for ever. Indeed it seems as if it has been trapped in a time capsule. The winding gear, coal washing plant and other surface buildings appear to have remained almost unchanged for almost a century. A special attraction is the engine room with its many windows, built between 1913 and 1915. Its original compressors, electric converters and winding engines look as if they have been preserved in an oversize jewel case.
What has a canary to do with a coal mine? Anyone who has visited the Michal Pit will know the answer: canaries, and sometimes even mice and other small rodents, were once used to check the amount of methane gas in the colliery air. In the 19th and 20th centuries the foremen at the Michal Pit would use them to check that everything was safe before they gave the green light for blasting operations.
The history of the pit goes back to the year 1843. At the time the Imperial Austrian authorities ordered the sinking of two shafts one of which ceased operations as early as the 1880s. The other, called the Michal Mine after an imperial privy counsellor named Michael Laier, passed into the hands of the Northern Ferdinand Railway Company in 1856. In the years that followed the colliery buildings and equipment were modernised time and time again. The most significant modernisation took place between 1912 and 1915.The aim of the comprehensive redevelopment was to concentrate the mining operations of a variety of smaller pits in the neighbourhood into a single location. After the renowned architect Frantisek Fiala had submitted his designs the Michal Pit was given a completely new set of buildings. At the heart of the complex was the engine room, whose inventory – it included two rotating electrically-driven Siemens-Schuckert converters - made the pit the first fully electrified colliery in the region of Ostrava. In 1916 the then state-of-the-art coalmine produced over 380,000 tonnes of coal from a total of 19 coal seams going down to a depth of up to 960 metres. The pit was planned for 1500 colliers but after it was nationalised in 1945 almost twice as many workers were employed here for a time. The final shift came to the surface in summer 1994 and shortly afterwards the shaft was filled in. At the same time, plans were made to conserve the site as an industrial monument. Today the Michal Pit houses a unique ensemble of fine old architecture and technology.
|Recommended duration of visit:||1,5 Hours|
|Duration of a guided tour:||90 Minutes|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||For details see website|
|Gift and book shop on site:||yes|
May, June and September:
Tuesday - Sunday 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm
Tuesday - Sunday 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm
April and October:
Saturday, Sunday 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm