Route of Porthgain quarry railway

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Here the coast path crosses the route of the Porthgain granite quarry railway. The ruined buildings (see below) are reminders of the railway and the area's busy industrial past.

For 80 years, from 1851 to 1931, Porthgain was a bustling industrial village and port. Slate and granite were quarried nearby for export and local use. Bricks were made in the village using waste slate.

Tramways were initially built for horse-drawn trams (basic wagons) to carry dressed slate from the slate quarry (south of here) to an incline, where a stationary engine lowered the trams to the harbourside. Another tramway took slate waste from the dressing sheds to the clifftop where it was dumped in the sea before the brickworks opened in 1889. The embankments on your seaward side here are of slate waste.

Quarrying at the clifftop at Pen Clegyr began commercially in 1889, initially producing building stone and granite setts for roads in rapidly expanding towns and cities. The Tate Gallery in London is faced with Porthgain granite, as are many of Dublin’s large public buildings. As motor traffic grew, the quarry had its heyday producing crushed granite in various sizes, from 75mm (3 inches) to dust, to build smooth Macadam roads

The quarry railway took stone from the quarry to the crushers and hoppers you can see near the harbour. The line was approximately 600 metres long and had a gauge of 91cm (3ft). The trams were horse-drawn until steam locomotives arrived in 1910. Quarrying ended in July 1931 when the quarry company, United Stone Firms Ltd, went into liquidation.

The parallel stone pillars by the path here supported the water tank which supplied the steam locos. The nearest brick building to the south was the weighbridge, where loaded trams were weighed. The brick ruin beyond it was the shed where the locos were housed and maintained.

Walk about 50 metres west along the coast path and you’ll see where the railway route leaves the path, on the seward side, and heads down an ever deepening cutting to the disused quarry. The remains of some of the wooden sleepers that carried the rails are still embedded in the surface. The ruins of the quarry workshops and smithy are also visible. 

With thanks to Philip Lees

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