Route of quarry tramway, Abereiddi
The level section of footpath here follows part of the route of the tramway which once carried slate from the nearby quarry.
Initially the slate was hewn from the hillside and transported by sea. In the mid-19th century the workings were extended downwards, forming a deep pit. Slate was hauled up using a steam stationary engine, on the west side of the quarry (between the pit and the sea). It was then processed in sheds a little east of the quarry. You can see the remains of some of the sheds and other quarry buildings near the footpaths here.
The tramway, which opened in 1851, took the finished slate eastwards along the hillside. The route then turned north to reach Porthgain harbour. The aerial photos, courtesy of the Welsh Government, show the area in 1946. In the lower photo, the engine house is visible to the left of the quarry pit. In the upper photo, the tramway route runs left to right then upwards to reach Porthgain (top right corner).
The tramway was 3.6km (2.2 miles) long. Its rails were 91cm (3ft) apart. From 1909, a steam locomotive shunted wagons at the harbour, where stone also arrived from other quarries. The Abereiddi tramway remained horse-powered.
Slate quarries in this area were revived after Manchester businessman Herbert Birch spotted their potential in the 1880s. He was involved in the Manchester Ship Canal project, and planned to ship slate direct to Manchester from Porthgain.
The last slate from Abereiddi was dispatched before the First World War. Rock was blasted away in an attempt to create a new harbour in the flooded quarry pit, which is now known as the “blue lagoon”.
While Abereiddi exported slate, it imported limestone which was burned in limekilns near the beach. The resulting lime was used to fertilise fields. Cottages near the shore were wrecked in 1938 when the tide surged up past the beach as a great storm battered West Wales. Residents had to flee through the swirling water.
About the place-name 'Porthgain':
With porth, meaning ‘bay, harbour’, is Cain, possibly the lost name of the stream which enters the sea here. Cain is a fairly common Welsh river name (from cain ‘fair, bright’). Cain also occurs as a personal name, writes Prof Dai Thorne
With thanks to Derek Elliott, of the Welsh Government. Sources include ‘Gazeteer of Slate Quarrying in Wales’ by Alun John Richards, Llygad Gwalch 2007
Postcode: SA62 6DT View Location Map