Waste-tip railway routes, Dinorwig slate quarry

Waste-tip railway routes, Dinorwig slate quarry

As you look downhill from this point on the cross-quarry footpath, you’ll see where narrow-gauge railway tracks fanned out for small wagons to create the huge mounds of slate waste which dominate the landscape. Please stay on the path and do not cross the fence.

The gallery below you is Ponc Pen Diffwys. To the right are the remains of long, narrow buildings where slate was processed. Construction of the post-war haul road (now the footpath) partly obliterated some of the buildings. Beyond them are the foot of the C3 incline and the ruined C2 winding house, which controlled the descent of wagons from Pen Diffwys.

Slate was quarried on the far side of the C inclines and waste brought to this side for disposal on former farmland. Some of the railway tracks at Pen Diffwys tip paralleled the contour lines, for rock dumping at the far end.

Other tracks curved sharply for waste to be dumped down the side of the initial tip. Their use peaked in the late 19th and early 20th century. Most had gone by the First World War. Further tipping would have cut off the waste tip of the next gallery down.

Rubble was carried in wagons with a hinge at one end. Labourers pushed one wagon at a time to the end of a track, then lifted the unhinged end for the stone to slide out. Some were punished for allowing a wagon to tumble down the slope. Horses were sometimes used to retrieve runaway wagons.

Only a small percentage of the rock quarried at Dinorwig was suitable for roofing slates. Some slabs were turned into snooker tables, gravestones and other objects.

Waste was produced at several stages, firstly in making the good slate accessible. Then small teams of skilled quarrymen (often including brothers, sons or nephews) blasted manageable sections free and separated the bad rock for tipping. Sawing the good slate to form rectangles produced waste offcuts. After quarrying operations, “rubbish” was occasionally cleared from higher up the rockfaces to reduce the risk unexpected rockfalls. This could involve further blasting.

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