The Slate Industry of North and Mid Wales

Ceir Gwyllt/Wild Cars of Graig Ddu Quarry
The workmen at Graig Ddu quarry above the village of Manod, near Blaenau Ffestiniog, had a unique method of getting home quickly after a hard days work.  The inclines leading from the quarry were at a shallow angle compared to most quarries and it was possible to use crude rail mounted trolleys to travel down by gravity.  The tramway leading from the quarry consisted of four inclines.  The top one lead from the quarry to the dressing area and workshops - these were sited lower down as a source of water was available for power.  There were then two further quite long inclines, with a short level stretch in between, which lead to Manod village which was where the men dismounted.  Beyond that a short steeper incline lead to the GWR transhipment sidings.

The trolleys themselves operated on the two centre rails of the four rail incline.  This gave a track gauge of 90cm.  They consisted of a flat wooden board, 20 cm wide and 60cm long.  This was supported in front by a small double-flanged wheel and at the back by a flat iron casting with guiding flanges.  The wheel and slider ran on the inner rail of the right hand track.  Braking was provided by a cast iron band which was operated by a lever on top of the board.  Stability(!) was provided by an  iron bar with a roller at the end which rested on the inner rail of the left hand track.  The cars were made by the quarry blacksmith and at one time over two hundred were in use.  After arrival at the bottom at the end of work,  the cars were loaded into empty slate wagons and hauled up to the top during the day ready for the evening procession.  As might be expected accidents were common and there were several fatalities, most of which were caused by inexperience or misuse.  For the average workman though it was no more dangerous than riding a bicycle.  Graig Ddu closed in the early 1940's and this fascinating practice ceased.  No more would this 'Catamaran of the rails' be seen hurtling down the mountainside.

A short video clip of the Ceir Gwyllt in action can be viewed here

A quarryman demonstrates the principles of a Car Gwyllt

A staged cavalcade of a century ago.

A view from the top of Graig Ddu quarry with Blaenau Ffestiniog in the distance.  Manod, terminus of the inclines, is out of sight to the left.

The top incline of Graig Ddu which lead down to the dressing and workshop area.

Some views of a preserved Car Gwyllt at the Welsh Slate Museum in Llanberis





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