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OK I think I had some file system trouble and now I am in rescue mode (RH8) the file system was found and then placed at /mnt/sysimage. Would it be possible for me to take a new hard drive and install it and then copy the files i need to the new hard drive.
You did it right - if stands for "in file" and of stands for "out file" so it will read from hda and output to hdb. It will take quite a while and the time wil vary depending on the speed of your computer and the drives used.