Dinorwic Quarries and Padarn Railway

Gauge: 1ft 10¾in (577mm) (Quarry) and 4ft (1.2m) (Padarn)

The Dinowic Quarries Railway was built in 1824 to connect the quarries at Llanberis in North Wales with Port Dinowic on the Menai Straits. The main 4ft gauge line closed in 1961, and the quarry closed completely in 1969.

In 1971, the Llanberis Lake Railway was opened on the site of the former 4ft gauge line along the shore of the lake.  The quarry workshops at Gilfach Ddu are now the National Slate Museum.

A quarrymans’ passenger service was provided between
Gilfach Ddu and Penscoins with five intermediate halts.

Slate has been quarried at Llandeiniolen and Llanberis since about 1700, on land belonging to the Vaenol Estate, owned by the Assheton Smith family. In 1788 a “Great New Quarry” was started at Llanberis overlooking the lake. This was followed by the building of a quay at Port Dinorwic on the Menai Straits to which the slates were taken by horse drawn carts. In 1824 a railway of 1ft 10¾in gauge was laid, along which trains of wagons were pulled by horses. Eventually the production of slate outgrew this transport system.

By 1843 a new 4ft gauge line was built for 6½ miles from Gilfach Ddu along the north east side of Llyn Padarn to Penllyn and on to Penscoins. This part of the Dinorwic system was often called the Padarn Railway. The little slate wagons were brought down rope worked inclines from the quarries, then run along the 1ft 10¾in gauge mainline to Gilfach Ddu. There they were loaded on to transporter or “host” wagons, four at a time, and taken to Penscoins. Once at Penscoins they were removed from the host wagons and sent down a further rope worked incline to Port Dinorwic where they were unloaded into ships or mainline railway wagons.

Two steam locomotives Fire Queen and Jenny Lind were introduced in 1848. Fire Queen still survives in the museum at Penrhyn Castle. They were replaced during the 1880s and 1890s when the Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds supplied three six-wheeled locomotives, Dinorwic (1882), Amalthæa (1886) and Velinheli (1895) to work the slate traffic and the quarrymen’s trains.

For use in the quarry the Hunslet Engine Company supplied twenty small locomotives of 1ft 10¾in gauge between 1872 and 1932 and a further two for shunting on the quay at Port Dinorwic. Three more came from other sources. At the height of operations over 2000 slate wagons were in use at Dinorwic, on fifty miles of narrow gauge line. 15000 men were employed.

By 1961 however, falling demand for slate and lack of use of Port Dinorwic caused the Padarn railway to be closed and the equipment scrapped. The quarry worked on until the continuing decline in demand for slate led to closure of the whole undertaking in 1969. By then many of the locomotives had been disposed of for preservation, among them Rough Pup (1891) now in this museum. Three others provide the motive power for the Llanberis Lake Railway, a tourist line built in 1971 on the site of the former four foot gauge line along the shore of the lake. There is now no slate production at Llanberis. The quarry workshops survive and form the National Slate Museum. Port Dinorwic is being redeveloped for housing. The dock is used by yachts.

Padarn Railway 4ft gauge

Number / NameManufacturerTypeNotes
Fire QueenA. Horlock and Co. of 18480-4-0Withdrawn 1886. Preserved at Penrhyn Castle
Jenny LindA. Horlock and Co. of 18480-4-0Scrapped 1880s
DinorwicHunslet Engine Co No.302 of 18820-6-0TScrapped 1963
Pandora / AmalthæaHunslet Engine Co No.410 of 18860-6-0TRenamed in May 1909. Scrapped 1963
 Velinheli Hunslet Engine Co No.631 of 18950-6-0TScrapped 1963

Dinorwic Quarry and Port Dinorwic 1ft 10¾in gauge

Number / NameManufacturerTypeNotes
WellingtonDe Winton & Co. of 18700-4-0VBTWithdrawn 1890s
HarrietDe Winton & Co. of 18740-4-0VBTWithdrawn 1890s
PerisDe Winton & Co. of 18750-4-0VBTWithdrawn 1890s
VictoriaDe Winton & Co. of 18760-4-0VBTWithdrawn 1890s
PadarnDe Winton & Co. of c18980-4-0VBTWithdrawn
Dinorwic / CharlieHunslet Engine Co. No.51 of 18700-4-0STWithdrawn c1920
George / Minstrel ParkHunslet Engine Co. No.184 of 18770-4-0STWithdrawn c1920
LouisaHunslet Engine Co. No.195 of 18770-4-0STWithdrawn c1920
Velinheli Hunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.409 of 18860-4-0ST
Alice / King of the Scarlets Hunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.492 of 18890-4-0ST
Enid / Red Damsel / Elidir Hunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.493 of 18890-4-0ST
No 1 / Rough Pup Hunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.541 of 18910-4-0ST
No 2 / Cloister Hunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.542 of 18910-4-0ST
Vaenol / Jerry MHunslet Engine Co. “Mills” Class No.638 of 18950-4-0ST
Elidir /Lady MadcapHunslet Engine Co. No. 652 of 18960-4-0STEx-Groby Granite Co. 1910
Port Dinorwic / CacklerHunslet Engine Co. “Mills” Class No.671 of 18980-4-0ST
The First / Bernstein Hunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.678 of 18980-4-0ST
The Second / CovertcoatHunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.679 of 18980-4-0ST
Wellington / George BHunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.680 of 18980-4-0ST
No 3 / Holy WarHunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.779 of 19020-4-0ST
No 4 / Alice Hunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.780 of 19020-4-0ST
No 5 / Maid MarianHunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.822 of 19030-4-0ST
No 6 / Irish MailHunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.823 of 19030-4-0ST
No 7 / Wild Aster / Thomas BachHunslet Engine Co. “Alice” Class No.849 of 19040-4-0ST
SybilW G Bagnall No.1760 of 19060-4-0ST
No 1 / Lady JoanHunslet Engine Co. “Port” Class No.1429 of 19220-4-0ST
No 2 / DolbadarnHunslet Engine Co. “Port” Class No.1430 of 19220-4-0ST
No 70Andrew Barclay & Sons No.1995 of 19310-4-0WTEx-Raisby Hill Limestone Co. 1948
Michael Hunslet Engine Co. “Port” Class No.1709 of 19320-4-0ST
ElidirAvonside Locomotive Works No.2071 of 19330-4-0TEx-Birtley Brick Co