Route of ‘village tramway’, Dinorwig slate quarry

Route of ‘village tramway’, Dinorwig slate quarry

The footpath from Allt Ddu to the former Garrett area of the slate quarry uses the route of a tramroad, or tramway, built in 1824. The tramway (a primitive form of railway) originally continued to the dock at Y Felinheli. The route has a significant falling gradient towards Allt Ddu, which wasn’t a problem because wagons loaded with slate travelled down and empty ones up.

After the low-level Padarn Railway opened in 1843, the flow of slates was reversed. The Chwarel Fawr and Allt Ddu quarries (near today’s bus turning circle) produced a substantial percentage of Dinorwig’s slate output. Once the original tramway to Y Felinheli had closed, slate from those quarries had to go to the Mills level at Garret, from where it descended on the A inclines to the Padarn Railway at Gilfach Ddu. The truncated route here became known as the “village tramway” because it led towards the village of Dinorwig.

Hauling slates up the tramway’s steep gradient was challenging for horses. In 1899 work began on a new route, with gentler gradients. It was a little to the right of the path as you walk up from Allt Ddu. The route of the redundant tramway provided road access to the Mills complex.

Trains from Chwarel Fawr had to reverse at Allt Ddu, where the horse was led to the other end of the wagons for the next section of the journey.

In 1902 the quarry company replaced the horses with a steam locomotive. This involved further investment, not only in the loco but also strengthening the rails and building an engine shed at Allt Ddu. The railway was complicated to operate, because a steam engine could not be walked from one end of the wagons to the other! No run-round loop was provided for the engine to switch ends.

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