FR slate waggons

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

Slate Waggons formed the majority of the Ffestinog Railway's rolling stock, numbering over a thousand. There were several different varieties over the years.

Waggon Types[edit]

All early FR slate wagons were wooden. The earliest were built with inside wheel bearings, but outside bearings later became standard. The quarry owners liked the wooden wagons because they were kinder to the slate, absorbing a lot of the shocks. However, they required a lot of maintenance and in 1857 the decision was made that future construction would only be of iron. Later still in an attempt to carry more traffic construction of 3 ton wagons was undertaken. Some of these were built by Brown, Marshalls and Co. Ltd. These were generally disliked by the quarries as they were more difficult to load and unload and were too big to pass some obstructions in the quarries. The final batches reverted to the 2 ton type and were mostly built at Boston Lodge.

Within each batch of waggons there were both braked and unbraked examples. Braked waggons were vital to the operation of Gravity Slate Trains. At one time it was the practice to fit braked waggons with disc wheels and unbraked waggons with spoked wheels.

Wooden Slate Waggons[edit]

See the following pages for a pictorial survey of some of these waggons:

2 Ton Metal Slate Waggons[edit]

See the following pages for a pictorial survey of some of these waggons:

3 Ton Metal Slate Waggons[edit]

See the following pages for a pictorial survey of some of these waggons:

Waggon Use[edit]

The slate waggons belonged to the railway company, but individual waggons were allocated to specific quarries. The system wasn't perfect. The railway would complain that the quarries had appropriated the waggons for their own internal use whilst the quarries complained that the railway wasn't supplying them with enough waggons!

To identify which waggons were allocated to which quarries a system of colour coding was introduced in 1911.

Quarry Mark
Bwlch-y-slater White on middle rail
Diffwys Casson Vertical yellow rail
Greaves (Llechwedd) Red on middle rail
Maenofferen White square on black background on middle rail
Oakeley Blue on middle rail
Rhiwbach 2 white rings flanking red square on middle rail
Votty and Bowydd Green on middle rail
Wrysgan Green on vertical rail

Slate Waggon Conversions[edit]

Between 1914 and 1920, twenty-six 3-ton waggons were converted in to granite waggons for use on granite chippings traffic from Brooke's Quarry.


By the time the FR was taken over in 1954, virtually all the wooden slate waggons had rotted away and the remains were burnt in the Top Yard at Boston Lodge. They had no further use on the newly restored FR and the the iron parts could be sold for scrap. Only one survived, No.79, and this is now kept in the Gelerts Farm Museum on the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. A few more have been reconstructed in recent years using a mix of old and new metalwork.

In the early preservation years large numbers of metal slate waggons have been converted for other purposes, see the following pages for some examples:

However many more were scrapped at this period as the Railway did not need more than a representative collection but had urgent financial needs.

More recently, the railway has begun restoring large numbers of waggons to be used in demonstration gravity trains. See Extant FR slate waggons for a partial summary.

Wagons Acquired from Elsewhere[edit]

A number of non-FR wagons have been acquired post-preservation. These include examples of those built for the Croesor Tramway, LNWR, GWR and Rhosydd quarries.

In the years of decline prior to closure, many of the FR's wagons had been retained by the quarries for use over the Blaenau section and for internal purposes. In 1993, a total of 67 of these were purchased in derelict condition from Llechwedd Quarry. These include some variants not already present in the FR's stock, and some of the LNWR and GWR types. These waggons are now in the Waggon Tracks Shed and the best of them are under restoration[1].

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 183, page(s): 150