Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

April 28th 2015

Slate Miners travel to work at Wrysgan Quarry

Last year they visited Cwmorthin Slate Quarry but this year chose Wrysgan and again used the Ffestiniog Railway to travel much as the miners had done in Victorian times so it is appropriate that they used our railway in this, the 150th year of carrying passengers. Unfortunately, they had to travel in 3rd Class luxury as an appropriate quarryworkers carriage with hard wooden seats wasn’t available on the day…

The idea is to recreate, for a day, the life of a Victorian miner. The group dress in appropriate costumes and visit a mine, going deep into the depths using only the light from candles or simple oil lamps. In the case of the local slate mines, they set up camp in one of the old underground cabans and usually heat up a pot of cawl to eat swilled down with mugs of strong tea for lunch before returning to the surface. It is quite surreal in those surroundings; your scribe was unable to make this year’s event but made it to Cwmorthin last year. You can somehow sense the miners of old being present and cannot help but marvel at how they worked in those conditions day in, day out.

Here the group wait to board their train at Harbour Station – it must be post 1879 as Merddin Emrys looking fairly new stands behind them… The quarry owner and steward can be seen with their bowler hats on, various miners and their apprentice rwbelwyr along with sundry wives and maids. Even the local parch is present! (If you look hard enough amongst the ladies, a familiar face from the F&WHR should emerge…).

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The pictures were taken by David Roberts who is multi-media manager at Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences using – appropriately – a ¼ plate camera. This underground shot was illuminated by burning a magnesium ribbon exactly as would have been used in the 1880’s.

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