Snowdon slate quarry wagon, Llanberis

Link to Welsh translationSnowdon slate quarry wagon, Llanberis

The wagon exhibited at the site of the “Bing” (copper ore storage area) in Llanberis is one of the world’s oldest surviving railway wagons. It was abandoned at a short-lived slate quarry on the north-west flank of Snowdon, where the windy environment enabled it to survive more than 160 years in the open air.

The Gwaun y To quarry was on two levels. A basic road was built from the nearest farm to transport the slates to Llanberis, but the quarry closed suddenly. Thousands of trimmed roofing slates remain there today. The site, which has no public access, is below the railway bridge over the Llanberis Path (near Halfway station).

The wagon is thought to date from the 1840s and was probably the only one at the quarry. It transported slate within the quarry. It was abandoned on top of a heap of waste slate, where the wind quickly dried moisture from rainfall. Eventually it was pushed off the heap and began to rust. The wagon was removed for conservation in 1994 and repaired by Francis Stapleton of the Ffestiniog Railway.

Thousands more wagons of this type were used in North Wales quarries, including the one displayed outside Llanberis’ Spar shop. This early example differs from later wagons in several respects, notably the wheels’ positioning – close together and towards one end. The chassis frame, made of two oak beams, is deeper than on later wagons. The nuts on the original frame's bolts were six-sided, their earliest recorded use on any slate wagon.

One end of the wagon is open, for slate to slide out when the body was lifted from the other end. The sides taper outwards slightly towards the open end, to ease the slate’s movement when tipping. Notice also the curled corners at the open end – providing handles for quarrymen pushing the wagon.

With thanks to Francis Stapleton and Ken Jones

Postcode: LL55 4TW    View Location Map