Porthmadog Maritime Museum, The Harbour, Porthmadog, LL49 9LU 01766 514581 / 07866633927 contact@portmm.org

Slates to the Sea

Slates to the Sea

In the beginning slate was transported from the mountains to sea level at the wharves on the river Dwyryd by carts, then transferred by barge to the deep-sea ships at Ynys Cyngar.  The construction of the Cob and development of Porthmadog spelt the end of this practice but it was a gradual changeover.

The introduction of tramways and the Ffestiniog narrow gauge railway dramatically speeded up and increased the amount of slate moved.

The line was constructed between 1833 and 1836 to transport slate from the quarries around  Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog where it was loaded onto ships.  The railway was graded so that loaded wagons could be run by gravity downhill all the way from Blaenau Ffestiniog to the port.  The empty wagons were hauled back up by horses, which travelled down in special ‘dandy’ wagons.

In October 1863, steam locomotives were introduced to allow longer slate trains to be run and this also enabled the official introduction of passenger trains in 1865.  In 1869, the line’s first double Fairlie articulated locomotive was introduced and these double-ended machines have since become one of the most widely recognised features of the railway.

Down trains continued to run entirely by gravity but faster up-journeys and longer trains increased line capacity.

The Ffestiniog Railway was the link between the two towns, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Porthmadog, and contributed greatly to their growth and prosperity.

Slates were shipped to ports around the UK and Europe including  Liverpool and London and transferred to larger vessels bound for all corners of the world