By Martin Creese
The annual summer gala at Threlkeld this year marked the 50th anniversary of the end of steam working at Dinorwic Quarry near Llanberis in North Wales, the second largest slate quarry in the world and in Wales, only Penrhyn being larger.
Elidir Fawr contains a vast bed of slate rock that was quarried on its northern side at Penrhyn and its southern side at Dinorwic. The first commercial slate mining took place at Dinorwic in 1787; a number of smaller quarries eventually becoming two main ones, Garret on the west side and Braich on the east – slate from the levels being brought down inclines.
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An extensive network of railway lines developed in the quarry and with the quarry covering over 700 acres there were estimated to be 60 miles of railways within the quarry of 1ft 10¾in gauge, with over 2000 wagons of all kinds in use.
There were 22 galleries in the main quarry, each with its own railway system. The output of the quarries was moved to Port Dinorwic by the 4ft gauge Padarn Railway, allowing the quarry wagons to be carried on transporter wagons, a concept familiar to us today with such companies as Freightliner.
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