The Slate Industry of North and Mid Wales
The narrow gauge
tramways ran on many different types of track and some of
these were unique to the industry, or even the individual
quarry. Trackwork in the quarries themselves and
particularly in the working areas was often of indifferent
quality but the ability to access working areas rapidly was
considered of more importance. The use of temporary,
easily movable track and pointwork was widespread and several
ingenious designs were evolved. This type of tramway was
only ever suitable for wagons, locomotives demanded a far
higher standard of permanent way to operate on. The
major difference from main line practice was the widespread
use of wagons which had flanges on both sides of the wheel as
opposed to a single flange on the inside. There was also
widespread use of wheels which were loose on the axle rather
than fixed allowing the wagon to cope with minor variations in
the track gauge without derailing. Double flanged wheels
and variable axles were unsuitable for journeys of any great
duration and, with the exception of the Penrhyn Railway which
was laid out for double axle operation, all other locomotive
worked lines of any length conformed to normal railway
standards. The Penrhyn
railway museum, near Bangor has an excellent display of
quarry tracks and pointwork.
example of pointwork has no moving parts. Wagons
were pushed from behind and 'encouraged' to go in the
type is known as a 'Spoon Point'. Access to the
siding was obtained by lifting the two sections of hinged
track to align with the main line - one fitted over
access to the diverging track, the three metal strips
known as pointers were realigned by hand.
a main line turnout suitable for locomotives and double
flanged wagons. It was worked remotely by using a
Hughes rail' was invented by an engineer at Penrhyn
Quarry. The rail consists of a round metal bar
turned down at the ends which plugged into metal
fixings. In some cases slabs of slate with drilled
holes were used as sleepers.
example of a flat crossing designed for double flanged
was a steel prefabricated system which saw widespread use
in quarries from the 1920's onwards. The point is
designed for double flanged wheel use.
were a common way of supporting lightly used tramways.
to a transfer table at the bottom of an incline. The
lack of a continuous line of rails is not a big problem with
double flanged wheels.
A very rare example of T Bulb rail. Spotted near
the former Gorseddau Tramway trackbed by Max Birchenough.
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