Rhiwbach Slate Quarry and its tramway

by Dave Sallery

Contents of this website:

An Introduction to Rhiwbach

The Rhiwbach Tramway

A map of the tramway

The quarries served by the Tramway:

  Manod (Welsh Slate 'Cwt y Bugail')

  Rhiwbach quarry 
  Blaen y Cwm quarry 
  Cwt y Bugail quarry (old)

Links page

The information (not photographs) held within this website may be reproduced without permission if the website is credited with providing this information.   All of the photographs held on this website remain the property of the owners and must NOT be reproduced without prior permission.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.

Rhiwbach Quarry from the air

Crown Copyright:  Royal Commission for the Ancient & Historic Monuments of Wales.

An introduction

The group of quarries served by the Rhiwbach tramway are situated on bleak inhospitable moorland to the east of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North West Wales.  All the quarries, bar one, are now lifeless and deserted but through their remains they provide a unique insight into a way of life which has now vanished.   They were not major producers of slate but rather fringe players and the ups and downs of the industry always affected them before their bigger cousins in Blaenau Ffestiniog itself.   Periods of total closure were common as were frequent changes in ownership.   Their production costs were also higher.  This was partly because a lack of water power meant that expensive coal had to be brought in via the tramway and also because, for some, the owners of the tramway had a stranglehold over them in regard to haulage charges.   Nevertheless Rhiwbach in particular grew into a major industrial unit while the (old) Cwt y Bugail continued in production into the 1960's.   The route of the tramway today forms a virtually level walk of nearly 3 miles and it is in excellent condition considering its long period of disuse.  However, as this is an area of high rainfall, some parts of the trackbed are marshy and in one case a bridge has been washed away.  As with all mountain walks it is necessary to wear sturdy and waterproof footwear and warm clothing and to keep a close watch on the weather forecast.  In return you will be rewarded with some of the finest scenery in Wales and a unique insight into its industrial past.

Because of access difficulties at the Blaenau Ffestiniog end of the tramway, this website is arranged in reverse order with the route as described starting from Manod, which was actually on a branch line.  Proceeding from there to join the "main line" to Rhiwbach and then retracing our steps to the junction and then heading towards Blaenau passing Blaen y Cwm and Cwt y Bugail (old) to terminate this account at the head of Rhiwbach No.3 incline above Blaenau itself.  It is possible to follow the tramway route down the inclines to Blaenau but please be aware that there is active quarrying taking place in the area, which includes blasting.

The reason for using the term "old" to describe Cwt y Bugail is because this name was adopted by Welsh Slate for their Manod quarry.  Manod was also the underground mine chosen by the Government as an art store in the Second World War and there is more about this interesting period on the Manod Quarry pages.  

Should you wish to learn more about the Welsh Slate Industry, I have other websites to view: The Slate Industry of North and Mid Wales,  Rhosydd - A Ffestiniog slate Quarry and My Slate Quarry Collection on Flickr.

Link to Our Homepage

Llyn Bowydd with Moel Penamnen in the background.

Continue to the Rhiwbach Tramway

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