Below is a diagram of how a man engine worked to allow miners to travel up/down a mine shaft. The restored man engine house at Allihies, Co. Cork, is the only example of a Cornish design man engine house in Ireland.
The engine in the man engine house drove a set of steps on a long pole vertically up and down the mineshaft in a limited range. To descend, a miner (1) would move onto the step when it was level with a platform at surface level, the operation of the engine would then bring this down 1 level and the miner would step off onto the platform 1 level down. The operation of the engine would then raise the pole and bring another step level with the -1 platform level. The miner would then move onto the step and the operation of the man engine would bring the miner down to the -2 platform level. The miner would step off and the pole would then move back up.
This process was repeated until the miner was at the level they required. The process was reversed for ascending.