Historical information

A mining safety cage was used in a mine lift. It was fitted with mechanisms to prevent the cage from dropping if the lifting rope broke. In the 1870s in Victoria, deaths and injuries from falling cages in vertical shafts of gold mines were a major problem. The inventor of this safety cage was Robert Allan, a machinery maker of Creswick Rd, Ballarat. He said his cage featured a ‘dissolving’ fulcrum. Others called it an eccentric (off centre) system. Note the pair of clutch levers designed to grab the side guides if tension ceases in the suspending rope from the poppet head pulley. Also, the hinged ‘lids’; designed to protect miners trapped in a braked cage from falling rope, and to enable rescue of the miners. This model was presented to The Ballarat School of Mines Council in November 1876.

This model was shown at the Smeaton Show in November 1874, Ballarat School of Mines Education from 1876, and examined by the 1879 Victorian Board of Inquiry (Pg 15 of FEdUni Catalogue 3437)

From the Argus of 13 November 1874:
At Smeaton Show, Robert Allan of Ballarat won 1st prize for a Model of a Mining Cage, a Butter working machine, a Cheese press and a Curd Mill.

By 1878 an Allan Safety-Cage was in operation in the Number 6 shaft of the Band and Albion Consols mine in Ballarat. This cage was judged the best inspected by the Victorian Board of Inquiry by 1879, p. 39.


Mining was a big industry in Ballarat in the late 1800s and a lot of deaths were recorded because of mining accidents, the development of the mining safety cage brake limited the deaths and injuries from falling cages in vertical shafts. The model also has links to the Ballarat School of Mines, being presented to the council in 1876. Ballarat School of Mines is the oldest Technical School in Australia and is a predecessor of Federation University. The model is significant to Ballarat's mining history.

Physical description

Model of a mine safety cafe. A grey painted wooden frame with metal model of cage and safety brake system. When tension ceases in rope a pair of crutch levers grab strongly onto the wooden guide strips which run down the sides of a vertical shaft.

This safety cage was discussed in "Safety Mining Cages. Report of the Board of Enquiry on Safety Cages 1878-9; together with proceedings of the Board and Appendices".