Penrhyn Quarry delays Severn Valley plans

By Paul Appleton

WHAT was described as ‘unprecedented local demand’ for roofing slates means that the Severn Valley Railway’s new refreshment room at Bridgnorth will not receive the order for its new roof until “sometime in March”.

Project managers are determined to remain true to the original design spec and use traditional Welsh slate for the main roof of its new building, which is based on genuine GWR buildings of the type from the early 1900s.

Taking shape – the new refreshment room on Platform 1 at Bridgnorth, seen on December 3. But the slate roof will have to wait. PAUL APPLETON

Their policy is that it is better to wait a few months more than to use alternative materials and regret it for years to come.

Welsh slate production is a shadow of what it was even in the mid-20th century and with most slate now imported from Spain, China and the US, Penrhyn Quarry at Bethesda in North Wales is one of the few remaining suppliers – today employing just 200 people, whereas in its heyday at the end of the 19th century, there were almost 3000 quarrymen employed there.

It’s now part of Welsh Slate Ltd, which as well as Penrhyn, owns quarries at Pen-Yr-Orsedd, Cwt-Y-Bugail and Oakeley Quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog, the latter once served by the Ffestiniog Railway.

All the roof trusses for the new building’s roof are now in place, with the dummy GWR style chimneys complete and just awaiting their heavy capping stones, which will need to be craned into position. It has been decided to waterproof the building with a temporary alternative material, while the delivery of slate is awaited, so that subcontractors can get on with the task of completing the internal services.

It is still planned to move the Railwayman’s Arms public bar into the new structure as soon as the building is functional in order that work can get underway without further delay.

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