Welsh Quarry Locomotives
Further to the note on page 19 of the February Branchline,we have received information from David Conrad, Ray Corley and Omer Lavallee which helps to round out the history of these intriguing machines. The actual gauge has been questioned. Although nominally 2' 0", the gauges vary from 22 3/4" to 23 1/2" to 24".
At one time there was a great deal of industrial activity in the mountains of Caernarvonshire in north Wales. Roofing slate was in great demand for the houses of the British cities. This was quarried and sometimes mined and brought to the coast where it was transferred into small coastal steamers for movement to market. The quarry railways were generally two-foot gauge but the lines to the coast varied. The Festiniog Railway was built to the two-foot gauge but the line to Port Dinorwic was four-foot gauge (and it transported two-foot gauge wagons in double rows on flatcars). By 1960 the decline of the slate industry was nearly complete and the quarries were gradually shut down. Large fleets of narrow gauge locomotives had been maintained and these were gradually sold or scrapped. A number came to North America. Set out below is the fate of these small locomotives.
The quarries concerned were the Dinorwic Quarry, sometimes known as Padarn, near Llanberis, and the Penrhyn Quarry near Bethesda. The latter was originally Lord Penrhyn's Slate Quarries until a corporate name change in January 1952. Some of the Penrhyn locomotives had been purchased from the Durham Water Board in the 1930's but most were purchased new. All were known by name although some carried a number as well.
LOCOMOTIVES IMPORTED INTO CANADA
In 1965, Charles Matthews of Langstaff, Ontario, imported "Gertrude" and "Edward Sholto" from Penrhyn, and "King of the Scarlets" and "Michael" from Dinorwic. The Dinorwic locomotives are stored at Langstaff but the Penrhyn locomotives were sold to the Ontario Science Centre. The OSC sectioned "Gertrude" and you can see it, including innards, at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. "Edward Sholto" was subsequently sold to Dr. Douglas Wight of Athens, Ontario, in October 1968. It was acquired by Andrew Merrilees in 1979 and is currently stored at Garden Prairie, Illinois.
Charles Matthews imported two other two-foot gauge locomotives from England. These were "Liassic" from Rugby Portland Cement in 1968 and an unnumbered and unnamed locomotive from Avonmouth Smelting in 1959. These are believed to be stored along with the Dinorwic locomotives at Langstaff.
Neil McNish imported "Elidir" from Dinorwic on behalf of the York Locomotive Preservation Society in July 1966. "Elidir" is believed to be stored in a shed at Bolton, Ontario.
LOCOMOTIVES IMPORTED INTO THE USA
C.B. Arnette of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, brought over six Penrhyn locomotives in January 1965. These were "Marchlyn", "Winnifred", "Ogwen", "Glyder", "Nesta" and "Cegin". All are still in existence although two are now at a sugar mill museum in Puerto Rico.
Full details of all locomotives, including present locations, are. shown below.
Although the slate quarries are no longer in commercial operation there is still a great deal of interest in the area. There is a view of the Dinorwic Quarry from the Snowdon Mountain Railway, (a cog railway) while the Festiniog Railway, one of the foremost preserved lines in Britain, is in full operation using not only double Fairlies but also two Penrhyn locomotives, "Linda" and "Blanche". The Llanberis Lake Railway has been built over a part of the old four-foot gauge right of way of the Dinorwic Railway while the Welsh Highland Railway is now striking out north from Portmadoc along this old two-foot right of way. You can even go underground in a slate mine in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Full details of the myriad of railways and tramways that honeycombed this area are to be found in the Oakwood Press series of books on British Narrow Gauge Railways, particularly the three volume series "Narrow Gauge Railways in North Caernarvonshire" by J.I.C. Boyd.
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, May 1988.