Site of RAF bomber-parts factory, near Gilfach Ddu
The lowest part of the footpath here crosses an old railway tunnel where parts for RAF bombers were made during the Second World War.
Slate was taken on narrow-gauge wagons through the Glan y Bala tunnel from the Dinorwig quarry’s Wellington area, south east of here. At the far end of the tunnel the wagons were loaded onto the wider trains of the Padarn Railway at Gilfach Ddu, for carriage to the dock at Y Felinheli. In 1889 the railway was diverted to run along the shore of Llyn Peris and past the eastern edge of the quarry workshops at Gilfach Ddu.
During the war, large sheds where slate was formerly cut and split were taken over by the North East Coast Aircraft Company (NECACO), a plane builder from Newcastle upon Tyne. From November 1940 until the end of the war, parts and spares for Lancaster, Stirling, Halifax and Wellington bombers were produced at Llanberis and at NECACO's three sites in nearby Caernarfon. The old railway tunnel was cleared and enlarged for some of the machines to be placed inside.
Many men and women were employed at the Llanberis plant, working 12-hour shifts. Buses brought in workers each day from as far away as Anglesey and Bala. Conditions were often poor, especially in the damp tunnel. There were concerns about the health of people deprived of sunlight day after day, and it’s said that employees had the chance to use ultraviolet sun-ray lamps at the quarry hospital.
Despite the long shifts, workers were able to enjoy the facilities at the company's worker's club at Pool Side, Caernarfon. Events there included dances on Saturday nights.
The former NECACO site was eradicated with construction of the underground Dinorwig power station in the 1970s. You can see the tunnel’s northern portal at Gilfach Ddu.
The 1946 aerial photo, courtesy of the Welsh Government, shows the former NECACO buildings are in the bottom right, with the southern tunnel mouth to their left. The northern tunnel mouth is in the top left corner. The footpath is in the centre, zigzagging between waste heaps.
With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front Museum, Llandudno
Postcode: LL55 4TY View Location Map