The Slate Industry of North and Mid Wales

Narrow gauge rolling stock
The humble rubbish wagon

Pride of place in any survey of quarry rolling stock must go to the humble rubbish wagon .  This simple design was instrumental in the dumping of over 700 million tons of slate waste on the tips of North Wales.  Of rugged construction with generally double flanged wheels they were confined to internal working in the quarries. The four hooks allowed this wagon to be lifted by an aerial ropeway.  The loaded wagons were pushed at speed to the end of a tip where they hit a stopblock, the load then continued while the wagon stopped, that was the theory anyway but sometimes the wagon went the same way as the load!  The vehicle is pictured standing on a wagon turntable.

2 foot gauge slate carrying wagons.

Slate carrying

The classic wagon design for carrying finished slate.  The slates were stacked vertically in the wagon and were carried to port, main line railway or the nearest town.  Often these wagons travelled by gravity down from the quarries and were returned by horse power. In several cases they travelled piggyback style on wagons running on a larger gauge.  The ornate wooden bodied wagons seen above were used by Dinorwic Quarry.  A more typical example can be seen below on the Ffestiniog Railway.

Restored examples of rolling stock on the Ffestiniog Railway.

Car Cyrn

The Car Cyrn was unique to Dinorwic Quarry.  It was used to bring slabs of slate down the quarry inclines to the mills.  The raised portion would be at the bottom end while descending the incline and chains would also be used to secure the load.

An incline passenger carrier

This vehicle was used on inclines to allow quarrymen to reach their place of work rapidly, it was not for the faint hearted!

Slate slab carrying wagons

Rail vehicles don't come much more basic than this rake of wagons used for carrying slabs of slate.  Of note are the double flanged wheels and the variable gauge axles.  These wagons were in use at Maenofferen Quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog until its closure in 1998.

A 2 foot gauge gunpowder van

Vehicles of this type were used to carry gunpowder from Porthmadog to the Blaenau Ffestinog quarries on the Ffestiniog Railway.

Narrow gauge art transporter - Manod

At the start of the Second World War the Government requisitioned Manod Quarry near Blaenau Ffestiniog as a safe underground store for some of Britain's art treasures.  To move the old masterpieces around the underground complex a number of these two foot gauge bogie wagons were built by the LMS railway at Derby Works.   There are further details of this interesting period on my Rhiwbach Tramway site.

Nantlle Railway wagon

A typical wagon of the Nantlle Railway.  This horse powered railway was of 3' 6" (105cm) gauge and ran originally from Pen yr Orsedd Quarry to Caernarfon.  From 1872 the tramway ran only as far as Talysarn where connection was made with the national rail network.  The Nantlle Railway continued in use, as part of British Railways, until 1963 and remained horse worked until a couple of years before closure.  

Ruston Bucyrus waste wagon

These impressive wagons for slate waste were far larger and more sophisticated than the traditional ones.  They were found at Dinorwic and Penrhyn Quarries and were used in connection with "American Devil" steam excavators.

A general purpose flat wagon from Dinorwic.  This example was allocated to the Twll Mwg level of the quarry.  Twll Mwg means 'Smoke Hole'.

Next page: Examples of quarry trackwork

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