Mine Mechanic Memories

Mechanics Hub - February 9, 2014
My First Mechanic Job

It was 1977 and I had just finished the 6 month pre-apprenticeship training at Cariboo College in Kamloops. We covered soup to nuts in that course including automotive, commercial transport, heavy equipment and welding. It was a lot to ingest but great content for all of us rookies.

It was taught in modules starting with building a puller......a half inch thick piece of iron that we cut with a hack saw. The slots and threaded hole and bolt in the middle was filed and threaded with hand tools. The only power tools used was a drill press.

Afton Mines was only 15 minutes from town and looking for apprentices. They had a lot of applications and the one thing going for me was that I was born in Kamloops. Companies like to hire people who are rooted. At the time I was determined to do what ever I could to get hired. I got an interview and after that phoned the personnel department every week.

Some of the guys I graduated with did not get a job in the trade and took other jobs... but that did not sway me from trying my best. Eventually I got the phone call and they offered me a job along with an apprenticeship AND a one year credit on my 4 year apprenticeship. This was very exciting since I knew they were looking at second and third year apprentices applying for the same position.

Preparing For The New Job

A new set of tools was in order so I bought a top box and all the basic hand tools I needed. This was enough to get started and I could add more tools as time went on. There was a guy I knew in my pre-app course that had already been hired at Afton and I was looking forward to looking him up. He was the one who gave me the heads up on the opportunity.

The First Day

The first day was exciting of course. I knew nothing about mining and the equipment but that was what the apprenticeship was all about. Learning and being mentored by Journeymen every day working along side of them was great. I was just a year out of high school and ready to learn the heavy duty mechanic trade.

NOTE: The photo above is one of the Journeyman I worked with (his name was Mike). The other guy on the right with the scruffy beard is me :)

Working On Heavy Duty Earth Moving Equipment

It was pretty intimidating at first with all the heavy equipment running around. Earth moving machinery included 100 ton Lectra Hauls with a Cummins KTA 2300 diesel engine (V12). The engine ran an electric motor that generated current to run the wheel motors.

The operator just had to run the throttle for more or less current to the wheel motors. The brakes on the Lectra Hauls were air over hydraulic disc brakes. Later on the mine purchased Wabco rock trucks that were larger at 120 tons. In the beginning since everything was new the equipment was on warranty so most of the repairs were done by the dealer mechanics.

My first jobs were service work in the shop and out in the field plus a lot of repairs on hydraulic systems. Working with Journeymen was interesting since they had been around the trade for a while and I would ask as many questions as I wanted.

A couple of them were grumpy at times and were not interested in sharing their knowledge with a young whipper snapper like me but that did not phase me. If you don't ask you'll always be guessing and that isn't a comfortable position to be in.

It Was Time To Explore New Opportunities

After less than two years at the mine experiencing shop and shovel crew maintenance it was time for a change. A couple of friends of mine were Mechanics up north and they told me about all the opportunities at commercial truck shops. This was very appealing to me because I knew the commercial truck trade was much more into engines, transmissions and electrical.

The name of the company was Gear-O Rama in Fort St. John and once I got up there and met everybody it was just a matter of months before I was pulling wrenches on class 8 trucks and trailers. The experiences I had in the mine and truck shops was invaluable and I will always appreciate the people and the knowledge that they shared with me.

Have you got any stories about working through your apprenticeship you would like to share? Write them in the comments below I would love to read them :)
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