Quarry rubble wagon, Llanberis

Quarry rubble wagon, Llanberis

The small, primitive railway wagon in the flowerbed outside the former Castle Hotel (now SPAR) was built to carry waste slate. It’s hard to believe that the vast heaps of slate you can see across the valley from Llanberis were the handiwork of wagons like this!

Only about 2% of the rock from Welsh quarries was suitable for splitting into thin, durable roofing slates. The other 98% had to be removed to provide access to the valuable slate. Some was used for other purposes, such as walls, fences, flooring and tombstones. Most was discarded as near as possible to the quarry, in places where the waste wouldn’t interfere with current or future operations.

Notice that this wagon has only three sides. The slate was ejected from the open end onto the waste tip. Sometimes this was done by hurling the wagon along a dead-end track. The slate slid out when the wagon was halted suddenly by a stop block on the track. Some rubble wagons were hinged for tipping.

This wagon has metal strips at each corner which protrude above the body. This type was known to quarrymen as “wagan clustiau” – meaning “ears wagon” – and could be transported by aerial ropeway out of, or across, chasms in quarries. The ropeways used the same principle as chairlifts and cable cars. Quarrymen referred to them as “Blondins”, after the renowned French tightrope walker Charles Blondin (1824-1897).

You can see a rubble wagon suspended from a Blondin at the disused Vivian quarry, near the National Slate Museum in Llanberis. The museum, free to enter, has many exhibits and displays about the quarry railways.

Postcode: LL55 4SU    View Location Map

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