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 railroad, or tramway, built in 1824. The railroad (a primitive form of railway) originally continued to the dock at Y Felinheli. The route has a falling gradient towards Allt Ddu, which facilitated downward loaded traffic without impeding uphaulage of empties and back-traffic.
After the low-level Padarn Railway opened in 1843, the direction in which slates travelled over this section of the old railroad 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 old railroad 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 railroad’s steep gradient (averaging 1 in 30 and even steeper in places) was more challenging for horses than the previous downward movement of slates here. 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 railroad provided road access to the Mills complex. It was also the route of the earlier slate road (1806-1808) from the quarry to Y Felinheli.
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.