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A story of an aquarium and a famous slate quarry... *IMAGE INTENSIVE*

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TeeJF

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Towards the beginning of 2012 we decided we would set up an aquarium at home and there is nothing prettier as part of the background scattered amongst aquatic plants than greeny-blue Welsh or Cumbrian slate. The slate seam at Dinorwic Quarry in north Wales is not just one fetching shade of cyanny-blue, it is liberally run through with purple and dark blue deposits as well. So with the need for some slate identified and a choice between a site with an integral explore "in house" as it were, or a site the same distance away with nothing else going for it short of donning our scuba kit, we toddled off to Welsh Wales for the day. :)

Mae hanes y chwarel lechi Dinorwig gyda help Wikipedia...

The Dinorwic Slate Quarry ceased operation as an active quarry some 40 plus years ago. It is located in north Wales between the villages of Llanberis and Dinorwig, very close to Snowdonia on the A4086. In it's time it was the second largest slate quarry in Wales AND the world with only the neighbouring Penrhyn Quarry being any bigger. Covering more than 700 acres it consisted of two main quarry sections with 20 galleries in each, together with a number of ancillary workings. Extensive internal tramway systems connected the quarries using inclines to transport slate between the galleries, or "levels" as they usually known.

The first commercial attempts at slate mining at Dinorwic began in 1787 when a private partnership sought a lease from the landowner, Assheton Smith. Although this enterprise was moderately successful the outbreak of the war with Napoleon Bonaparte's France, together with excessive taxes and transportation costs, limited the development of the quarry to it's full potential at that time. A new business partnership led by Assheton Smith himself was formed on the expiry of the original lease in 1809 and from then on the business lowly blossomed, especially after the construction of a horse-drawn tramway to Port Dinorwic in 1824. At its peak in the late 19th century when it was producing an annual outcome of 100,000 tonnes, Dinorwic employed over 3,000 men and was the second largest opencast slate producer in the country. By 1930 though its work force had been reduced to 2,000, and despite a healthy output it continued to slowly decline until it's eventual closure in 1969.

The slate vein at Dinorwic is nearly vertical and lies at or near the surface of the mountain which of course made it very convenient to extract. It was worked in a series of stepped galleries which climbed the face of the mountain but this method was not the key factor in how the quarry developed to become what we see today. The first quarrying was spread out across several levels and this arrangement continued until the mid 1830s. Despite offering the prospect of far greater efficiency in the transport of the finished slate away from the quarry when compared to horse drawn carts, the arrival in 1824 of the steam railway brought with it problems of it's own creation. Removal of the slate from the upper levels was easily implemented but five major levels levels were all situated below the railway so in the 1840s a new lake level railway was constructed as well and the quarry as it is today suddenly began to take shape. Continual expansion of the levels meant that soon they began to run into each other becoming in the process new, larger open hillside gallery quarries, with the lowest levels being accessed through tunnels. Eventually several small sink shafts were dug to access the vein where it continued below ground level, including beneath the lake.

There is little difference in what we see of the quarry today to it's state at the time of the Great War apart from the obvious enlargement of the various quarry faces and the deepening of the sinks; certainly all the main inclines were in place then and very little changed before final closure in July 1969. The eventual demise of the quarry was mainly due to the fact that spoil had been carelessly dumped with little consideration for continued operation of the quarry in the future. The spoil heaps began to become unstable and there were several small land slides into some of the major workings. The only possible remedy for the problem was the wholesale removal of huge quantities of spoil and naturally the work and financial outlay involved to do this would render the quarry economically unviable. In 1966 after an enormous slide in the Garret area of the quarry, production practically ceased with the exception of a small amount of slate extracted after the removal of the debris. Just three years later the time had come to close the quarry for good.

At the Receiver's instruction public auctions were arranged on the 12th. and 13th. of December, 1969. to pay off some of the quarry's debts. The auctioneer's national advertisement in The Guardian, of 29th. November 1969, described the event as, "An auction sale of machine tools and stocks, four Hunslet locos, and engine and boat fittings". Following closure the quarry's workshop, Gilfach Ddu, was acquired by the National Museum of Wales and now houses the National Slate Museum. Redundant equipment from the quarry railway was used to build the Llanberis Lake Railway and many of the little Hunslet locomotives built to work in the quarry have subsequently been preserved on several of Britain's narrow gauge heritage railways. The quarry has also been utilised as the lower catchment reservoir for the Dinorwic pumped storage hydroelectric electricity generation system. In order to generate huge amounts of electricity practically instantaneously at times of peak demand water is dropped from a reservoir situated above the quarry through the hydro-electric generators, and it emerges at the bottom of the mountain where it runs into the lake. Then when peak demand has fallen back off again the water is pumped back up to the top reservoir. It is said that Dinorwic's engineers read the TV schedule papers and watch popular programmes go out in order to be ready for ad break brew time!

Part of the film "Willow" was shot in the disused Dinorwic Quarry, in June 1987 on some of the lower terraces next to the pumped storage scheme. Scenes from "Street Fighter" were filmed on the south side of the quarry near the Matilda hole and recently in 2009 Harriet hole was used as a location for "Clash of the Titans". The near vertical rock faces in the quarry have now become an extremely popular venue for climbers.


Mae'r ffotograffau ...




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We walked up from the road to the base of the first accesible incline on that side of the quarry.
At one time there were other inclines lower down than this one as can be seen from the winding house here.​



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Not bad for something that amounts to a 100+ year old dry stone wall!!!​



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Steep or what! And they only got worse the higher we went. :cry:



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All that is left of the railway on this incline is one or two sleeper fixings.​



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We have climbed a couple of levels now and we are approaching the winding house at the top of the next incline.​



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Part of the winding mechanism.​



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Would this be "Jones the wind up" or "Jones the drag"?​



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Many of the levels have a variety of buildings dotted about them, some still in great condition.​



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I'm guessing this is part of a railway points mechanism.​



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And here is part of the railway...
And before you ask, no we didn't :sick: :exclaim:



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We found a very interesting tunnel however the water got quite deep within a few yards of the entrance so we didn't go in any further.​



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Almost at the top after five incredibly steep climbs!​



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This long building houses the slate cutting beds.​



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Here is an old piccie we found of just such a cutting mill in action. The noise must have been horrendous.​



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Silent now...​



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The circular saws remain in the cutting beds.​



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Another "random" cottage!​



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The only good sheep in my book is a dead sheep... or a kebab :exclaim:



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In parts of the quarry the levels eventually all joined up leaving humungous pits in the mountain.​



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In the generator house now. The drive engine is still here but the copper generator parts have been taken away for salvage.​



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This appears to be part of a workshop but the purpose of this machine was not immediately apparent to us.​



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The maker's identification plate is still on the engine.​



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This photograph gives some idea of the size of this quarry.​



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In another building now. Is this the jacket you left behind last time Mr. B? :p



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A varied collection of miner's clothing, boots and assorted artifacts.
Apparently the clothes were still complete up until very recently then some goats ate them .​



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The same engine would be called "Jihad" now I suppose...​



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Part of a so called "Blondin" overhead cable system which was named after the famous tight rope walker of the time.
If my memory serves me correctly he did stuff like walking a wire between two skyscrapers in New York.​



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This quarry is full of serious "bottle tests" :exclaim: :exclaim: :exclaim:



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There are quite a lot of tunnels dotted about like this and the other one.​



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The steps here by which TJ is standing are cut into the rock and descend to another small cottage in the bottom of this humungous pit.​



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Everywhere you go on this side of the quarry you can hear the hum of the Dinorwic hydro-electric generators.
This building is the entrance to part of the system.​



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...and here's what it's all about. The water running the generators pours into the lake here.​



:) ... a dyna eich lawer. Diolch am edrych ... :)


Oopsie :exclaim: I almost forgot :exclaim: Here's the reason for our visit :)

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:p
 

gingrove

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Am I the only one getting large gaps with captions between the pickies? But I love the things I can see and a great history! I've just noticed that some more pics have arrived so ithink it may be a problem with my connection!
 

TeeJF

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Am I the only one getting large gaps with captions between the pickies?

Thanks for your kind comments guys. I think my server is slightly flaky today as it has been slow up loading pics. It's normally like greased lightning so i assume there may be work happening. Anyhow all the pix are showing so please stick with it if it's slow.

Thanks for flagging the problem up. If it perists I'll chew the domain company! :)
 

Mars Lander

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Great stuff Team TJ the entrance to the tunnel shot is exceptionally caked in aceness, I wonder if temptation would of been too much to try walking that precarious looking train track :)
 

UEP-Wales

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Looks like an amazing place and you've taken some great shots :)

Aww cheers! M and T
 
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borntobemild

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great pics - absolutely outstanding. Would love to visit.

You should, it's well worth the effort of climbing the inclines. Thanks for your kind words. M and T
 
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skeleton key

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An absolute cracker Tj :)


Cheers bud! :) M and T
 
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UrbanX

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That looks sooo like the one in Coniston in Cumbria!
Thanks for sharing, you two have been busy :)
 

TeeJF

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That looks sooo like the one in Coniston in Cumbria!
Thanks for sharing, you two have been busy :)

I take it you mean Hodge Close? That was where we always used to go to get slate because it was a regular dive venue for training in the winter and we knew it well. We also used to take the little scrot.... oops, cadets there to abseil.. There used to be a huge cave with an open hole in the roof piled up to within feet of the opening with cars but I couldn't find it the last few times we went. Thanks for the compliments. We've actually not been very busy at all but I kind of got up a bit of a backlog and I'm only getting round to doing all the postings now. :)
 

night crawler

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That wheel in the workshop could have been a drive wheel fro the pully system operating the saws. Exceilent report as ever and the photo's looking down the steps made me feel dizzy.
 

TeeJF

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That wheel in the workshop could have been a drive wheel fro the pully system operating the saws. Exceilent report as ever and the photo's looking down the steps made me feel dizzy.

Yeah, I never thought of that. There was a photo I didn't use which I took looking along the big drive shaft that runs the length of the cutting mill wall. My God but that must have took some power when it was running at full chat! There was a sort of clutch thing as well at each saw, though it wouldn't half have gone in with a thump as you engaged the drive because it was kind of running or not running, no half way measures or easing it into drive :exclaim:

Thanks again for your kind comments, both yourself NC and everyone else who has encouraged us. :) :) :)
 
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