Miner's lamp

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A miner's lamp is a lamp that is used when working underground. Comparable lamps are also required in other tunnel structures, for example in tunnel construction , in underground water channels and in cave exploration .

As Geleucht the designated Bergmann the whole of him in the pit used lamps . In the past, gel light was a general term for artificial light sources in other areas too , e.g. B. the lighting in a theater.

Miners changing shifts: everyone carries their light with them.

Common usage

Every miner has his "personal" miner's lamp. After the layer of the miner it is responsible, that he usually even the miner's lamp correctly to recharge the lamp works in the marked parking space in the charging station uses so that it again has a fully charged miner's lamp available to the next layer. At the start of the shift, the miner's lamp is switched on immediately and only switched off again at the charging station at the end of the shift. Under no circumstances should the miner's lamp be switched off underground (not even in well-lit workshops) to save energy in the wrong way. In the event of a power failure, that would be life-threatening.


Light is an indispensable good for miners , without which they cannot do their work: “A miner without light is a poor wretch” (German proverb). The mining industry required lighting early on in order to be able to work and distinguish ore from waste rock .

Open flame miner's lamps

Fragment of a clay frog
Open frog lamp

The first source of light in mining in the Stone and Bronze Ages was the Kienspan . In antiquity , clay frog lamps were used as oil lamps , which were initially the same as the lamps used outside of mining and which were filled with tallow . Candles were also used in parallel .

The miner's lamps got their characteristic appearance from the connection with a strong hook, which allowed them to be attached to the extension, partly also to the clothing or the helmet. Characteristic were frog lamps, tunnel lamps, spherical lamps (for example "Staßfurter Kugel") and screens (for example Freiberg aperture , Marienberger aperture). While lamps made of clay were widespread in ancient times, the lamps of modern times were made of sheet iron or brass (especially the lamps used by supervisors and lamps for presentation purposes , for example during mountain parades ).

In the Middle Ages, there was a trend towards lamps that were more suitable for use underground thanks to their devices (hangers). Mainly these were open or closed frog lamps made of clay, brass or iron. Tallow and rapeseed oil continued to serve as fuel. There were frog lamps in different designs, some of which were given their own names. Basically, a distinction was made between open and closed frogs, also according to their origin ( e.g. Harzer frog , Westphalian frog , Erzgebirge frog , etc.) and / or according to the manufacturer ( Pirringer frog , Seippel frog , etc.). Special frog lamps were rarely made for certain occasions, such as the so-called "Ernst August Frog", a special form of an open Harz frog, which was given to deserving miners as a lamp of honor on the occasion of the completion of the Ernst August tunnel . A Krüsel or Krösel is a small frog lamp . The name is a generic term for a hanging (oil) lamp from Lower Saxony.

In the 17th century, blinds came into use in which an oil lamp called a cuckoo or a candle burned in a wooden casing . Between 1792 and 1797, Alexander von Humboldt developed a "light-preserving lamp" for use in pits as a (head) miner in Franconia, which was supposed to prevent the burning light from going out underground by adding small amounts of air and water. Several new types of lamps were developed in the 19th century. Among the oil lamps were gas lamps , kerosene lamps , and especially after the invention of the carbide with the introduction of the carbide lamp , which gave a stronger light, the last step in the development of burning with an open flame Geleuchtes was done.

Safety pit lights

Davy safety lamp
Cutaway model Friemann & Wolf 300, flat petrol wick
Left: Friemann & Wolf Duisburg 20502
Right: EM Ciesczyn LB-1

In addition to the lighting problems, the open flame also harbored the risk of a firedamp explosion , i.e. the life-threatening explosion of flammable mine gases . The first attempts with canaries as gas detectors were successful in detecting dull weather , but less successful with flammable gases. The danger of fire weather therefore required a lamp that gave off light without being able to ignite the explosive gases. This led to the development of safety lights.

Davy lamp with flame screen

Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday recognized around 1816 that a highly explosive methane- air mixture could no longer ignite in narrow tubes with a diameter of less than 3.5 mm .

A wire mesh or sieve with a sufficiently fine mesh around the flame (flame sieve) makes use of this effect; the good heat conduction of the metal quickly lowers the temperature of the burning gas below the ignition temperature (see also the limit gap width ), which prevents an explosive atmosphere outside the lamp from igniting , however, the exchange of atmospheric oxygen and exhaust gases is allowed.

This principle has an important side effect: the methane gas entering with the air is ignited within the mesh by the higher temperature. This creates a characteristic bluish aureole - a blue "hat" on the flame - which the miner can use to estimate the methane content of the weather. The aureoles warn the miner about the flammable gas.

Clanny lamp with glass cylinder

The great disadvantage of the Davy lamp, the poor light output, which worsened during the shift due to the soiling of the wire basket with soot deposited on it, was remedied in 1839 by William Reid Clanny . He improved the Davy safety lamp by replacing the lower part of the wire basket with a glass cylinder . The two end faces of this cylinder were ground parallel and sealed against the weather by sealing rings.

The Clanny lamp, however, found it difficult to establish itself because there was constant fear that the glass cylinder could burst from the heat of the flame. This danger was only averted years later by the fireproof Jena glass .

In special versions of the lamp, the glass cylinder has marking rings with% methane information.

Weather lamp in the mining gallery in the Nordsternpark

Petrol safety miner's lamp

Carl Wolf from Zwickau achieved decisive improvements . In 1884 he patented a gasoline-burning lamp that burned brighter and did not give off soot. Finally the coal miner had a safe and sufficiently bright light available.

Wolf's second innovation was the internal ignition device, so that the miner could re-ignite the lamp himself if it went out without endangering himself and his comrades (buddies). Wolf also developed the so-called magnetic lock. This was a spring-actuated anchor lock that could only be opened with a magnet so that the miner underground could not manipulate the lamp himself in the event of a malfunction and thus cause an explosion.

With these innovations, the lamp began its triumphal march in the coal-producing countries of the world. The company Friemann & Wolf in Zwickau quickly advanced to become the largest manufacturer of mines' lamps in the world.

Electric miner's lamps

Hand lamp with NiCd accumulator from VEB Grubenlampenwerk Zwickau, height 380 mm, weight 2.5 kg

Since the early 20th century, electric mine lamps were increasingly used in mining. Initially, these were battery-operated hand lamps with backpack-like battery boxes and separate headlights. The high battery consumption, which caused weight problems and high costs, led to the development of rechargeable batteries . These lead and nickel-cadmium (also: alkaline or wet) batteries are still common today and have been continuously improved.

Compact hand lamps (called “bombs” or “putt lamp”) developed from hand lamps and were used until the 1960s.

Head lamps were already being made in the 1920s, but initially only used by craftsmen.

Fixed underground lighting was also used more and more. It has a particularly robust design and is also firedamp and explosion-proof in hard coal mining. Such lights are not referred to as miner's lamps .

The electric light is completely fire-proof if it is designed accordingly, but you can no longer check the methane content of the mine weather with it. That is why weather lights continued to be used until gas detectors were developed in the 1950s to 1960s.

Hand lamps

Hand lamps were the first mining lamps to be widely used. They are very solid and weigh up to 5.5 kg. A typical hand lamp consists of a cylindrical lower part in which the battery is located and the upper part, which is provided with (usually four) rods. The lower and upper part are screwed together. The frame rods protect the bell jar, which is spherical or hemispherical and has a corrugation on the inside to produce glare-free and shadow-free light. The lamp is switched on and off by turning the upper part. The frame bars hold the roof, to which a hook is attached with a rotating eyelet.

Head lamps

Battery head lamps (in charging compartments) in Ruhr mining

The first head (or cap) lamps consisted of a battery box to be carried on the lamp strap, which is connected to the head piece by the lamp cable. Nothing in this basic construction has changed into the 21st century. The battery consisted of either two or three cells that delivered a voltage of 2.4 or 3.6 V. With a weight of approx. 2.5 kg, a lighting time of 13 hours was possible. The miner now had his hands free, and the beam of the lamp fell always wherever the gaze was directed. The head lamps took a long time to prevail over the hand lamps across the board. Counter-arguments were the directed light, which created a sharp light / dark boundary, the higher costs and the lower robustness compared to conventional hand lamps. In the course of headlamp development, the sheet metal battery boxes and headers were replaced by plastic ones, and the switch moved from the battery to the headpiece. The weight sank to around 2 kg and two-filament lightbulbs were used with a main and a secondary or emergency light. A special route was the HLE 7 from CEAG, which was mainly used by the THW, the Federal Armed Forces and the fire services. This lamp had dry batteries and an integrated charger. That is why it had a lower battery capacity than normal miner's lamps and was equipped with a weaker light bulb in order to achieve the required lighting duration of at least 8 hours.

The use of halogen light bulbs marked the end of the development of classic head lamps. These lamps then had a second light bulb as a secondary light.

The current trend is towards headlamps with high-performance LED technology and maintenance-free lithium-ion batteries , which make it possible to achieve a further significant reduction in weight and size. Due to the low power consumption of the LEDs, it is possible to integrate the battery into the head piece, so that the battery box and the lamp cable are not required.

Use by the fire brigade

In the parlance of the fire brigades, the head lamp as head headlights designated. Fire brigade headlights must have ATEX approval, which means they must not only be firedamp proof, but also explosion proof. Since fire helmets do not have a holder for the head piece, unlike mining helmets, the lamp body is attached to the fire helmet with the helmet strap, the battery box to the protective clothing or the fire brigade belt .

If not attached to the helmet, the headlight can be used with red or green push-on lenses to provide visual and guide signals.

Robbery lights

A special type of miner's lamp is the robbery spotlight. In order to ensure the safety of the miners, the ceiling (the miner speaks of the roof) of the mine must be checked for loose clods (shells) in order to prevent dangerous stone falls. A high light output is required for illumination, especially at great heights. Mining lights have a significantly higher output than normal mining lamps.

Monuments / heraldry

Huge miner's lamp on the Rhine Prussia dump

At Moers on the Lower Rhine , a steel observation tower in the form of a safety lamp (“light”) was built on the dump of the Rheinpreußen mine to commemorate millions of miners and smelters . It is 30 m high, was completed in September 2007 and was created based on an idea by the artist Otto Piene .

From a height of approx. 90 m you have a wide all-round view of the Lower Rhine and the Ruhr area . At night the miner's lamp is illuminated and an 8000 m² area of ​​the heap is illuminated in red, indicating the use of coal's energy. A support group, founded by Konrad Gappa with miners and smelters as well as residents, initiated its construction and realized it together with the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia , the Ruhr Regional Association , the Wesel district , the city of Moers and with the help of donations from industrial companies and private individuals.

A similar dump art sculpture is located in Thuringia near Ronneburg on the Schmirchauer Höhe .

Mine lamps are in demand as collector's items and are also used in municipal coats of arms, for example in Spiesen-Elversberg in Saarland or in Schwarzach near Nabburg in Bavaria .


  • Heinrich Mache : The miner's lamp . Lecture given on January 18, 1911. In: Writings of the Association for the Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge, Vienna . tape 51 . Vienna 1911, p. 257–281 ( PDF on ZOBODAT ).
  • Kurt Repetzki: 3000 years of pit lights . On the history of the miner's lamp (=  Leoben green booklets . No. 148 ). Montan-Verlag, Vienna 1973, DNB  36452510X , p. 99 .
  • Karsten Porezag: The miner's open light . Sledge lamps, oil lamps, candle lamps. Glückauf, Essen 1980, ISBN 3-7739-0304-9 , p. 103 .
  • Karsten Porezag: The miner's glow . Open light: carbide lamps. II. Volume. Glückauf, Essen 1982, ISBN 3-7739-0382-0 , p. 204 .
  • Peter Hubig: 160 years of weather lamps . Lamps for safety in coal mining. Glückauf, Essen 1983, ISBN 3-342-00140-2 .
  • Norbert Peschke : 130 years of mining lamps and accumulator production in Zwickau. History of the Friemann & Wolf company and its successors . Self-published by Norbert Peschke, Wilkau-Haßlau 2014, ISBN 978-3-9815145-6-8 .

Web links

Commons : Miner's Lamps  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: miner's lamp  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Johann Christoph Adelung: Grammatical-Critical Dictionary of High German Dialect (1793), keyword Geluchte
  2. ^ Mining. (No longer available online.) Höll, archived from the original on December 2, 2013 ; accessed on June 7, 2011 : “… extremely rare brass honor lamp from the Harz region. Awarded to deserving miners on the occasion of the opening of the Ernst-August-Stollen in 1864 ... "
  3. Adelung 1877 lamp (2), the
  4. Frank Holl , Eberhard Schulz-Lüpertz: I made such big plans there…. Alexander von Humboldt in Franconia . Schrenk, Gunzenhausen 2012, ISBN 978-3-924270-74-2 , p. 110 .
  5. Mining Museum Anna-Blatt p. 11 ff ( Memento from July 26, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.2 MB).
  6. A “bomb” could sometimes be thrown a few meters through the face without it breaking.
  7. www.das-geluchter.de .