A3 winding house, Dinorwig quarry

Link to Welsh translationA3 winding house, Dinorwig quarry

This is one of the most intact winding houses in the old Dinorwig slate quarry, which closed in 1969. It’s a landmark by the footpath which follows the well-preserved inclines between the Llwybr Main (“narrow path”) and the quarry's Mills level.

The winding house controlled the descent of narrow-gauge wagons loaded with slate. Their weight hauled up empty wagons on the adjacent track. Each group of wagons was attached to one of the cables you can see on the winding drum.

The brakesman, based in the hut alongside of the winding house, regulated the speed carefully. On occasions when a winding-drum brake failed, the laden wagons rushed down the slope and the empty ones approached the top so quickly they were hoisted onto the drum. Much damage was done, sometimes causing injury or death.

At the north-east end of the winding house is a surviving set of railway points, where the incline’s two tracks converged. Points normally have a pair of blades which slide from side to side to direct the wheels to the correct track. Here there’s a pair of V-shaped plates of cast-iron. Quarrymen would use their skill and strength to direct the wagons to one track or the other.

There’s another cast component a little further along, where the inner rails of the two incline tracks meet. This is known as a frog (think of outstretched arms and legs!). The quarry workshops, now the National Slate Museum, had wooden patterns for casting these and many other components.

This winding house controlled wagons on the A3 incline, the third in a series which started with the A1 incline (near the museum) and ended with A10, c.650 metres above sea level.

Loaded wagons arrived here from upper inclines or from Ponc Pen Diffwys, the level which diverged westwards near the foot of A4. When the workers of this level held a literary festival in 1878, one of the essays was on the damaging effects of tobacco. John Morris, a blacksmith, was among the men who sang solos. The 2.5-hour event also included a stone-splitting competition.

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