16mm Projects

Alan Poxon : Miscellaneous Penrhyn Quarry Wagons

What do you build next when you already have rakes of Penrhyn slate, fullersite, rubbish, coal and gravel wagons? Well, I searched through books and old photographs to identify the less well known, and often much less numerous, quarry wagons. The obvious place to start was with those wagons used within the quarry that never ventured onto the Penrhyn Quarry Railway. The first of these was known to the quarrymen as sleds.

Penrhyn early wooden small sleds.

These wagons had double-flanged wheels and were usually propelled by hand or, less frequently, using long chains attached to a locomotive. Photographs of early examples show short-wheelbase small wooden sleds with dumb buffers that were used to carry slate slabs from the quarry face to the cutting sheds. Such wagons often doubled as rubbish wagons and are likely to have been made in the quarry workshops at Coed-y-Parc using wheelsets supplied by a local foundry.

Another use for small sleds was as locomotive tenders, or runners as they were known at Penrhyn. When I modelled a runner, I found that the wheelbase was much too short to run properly behind a 16 mm Hunslet. Consequently, I increased the wheelbase, which made a slightly longer than scale model, but the runner is now a good runner. With these sleds, I intended to do the same thing, in fact, I adapted PS Models freelance slate wagons as the basis for most of these models.

For the early wooden sleds, the donor wagon was shortened and the plywood bed cut into planks and distressed with a craft knife and coarse files. The wagons had a hard life carrying heavy slate slabs and so most were heavily repaired during their working life. I inserted an odd sized plank to to give a suitable rustic look. New sole bars with dumb buffers were fabricated from scrap wood and a coupling ring fixed at each end. This allowed the sleds to be more easily shunted using chains.

Penrhyn late-era iron small sled.

Rivet and bolt-head detail was added using 2 mm and 1 mm NailArt half moons. The wooden body was stained with Humbrol dark brown enamel wash and aged with Humbrol black weathering powder. The wheels were treated with RailMatch light rust paint and suitable slate loads were procured from a friend's garden path. Chains were sometimes used to hold the load but the weight of the slate slabs on the wooden planks was often enough to prevent movement.

Hugh Napier chain shunting Penrhyn sleds.

Some photographs show later small sleds to be of iron construction. I modelled one using plasticard on a donor chassis and added Crafty Critter self-adhesive nail art rivet detail. Livery for sleds was probably Penrhyn grey but soon this became weathered to bare wood. In later years, the small iron sleds were often treated with red oxide paint. Large sleds were also used in the quarry, which I had previously modelled, so the search went on for more esoteric Penrhyn rolling stock.

The next wagon is probably the most unusual as, at Port Penrhyn, two tar boilers were recorded. These were used to heat up pitch to which was added slate dust to make a material similar to bitumen, known to the quarrymen as Penrhyn Grout. The tar boilers were supplied by Phoenix Engineering of Chard who were established in 1891 and still make a variety of tar spraying road vehicles today.

Phoenix Engineering tar boiler.

The Penrhyn tar boilers were rail mounted as the warehouse, where pitch was offloaded from ships, only had rail access. The wagons were described as having a curved body, similar to the Ffestiniog powder wagons, with firedoors in each side and a chimney at each end. This model was fabricated from plasticard sheets and tube, on a donor wagon body. No photographs of these Penrhyn wagons are known to exist but inspiration was drawn from contemporary Phoenix Engineering products.

Another type of wagon was photographed disused in 1945. This originally belonged to the Ogwen Tile Works that had a siding off the Penrhyn Quarry Railway. A number of these wagons were ordered for the works in 1890 but were sold to the quarry in 1893. In later life the wagons were used for loco coal and it was this that I intended to model. The 4 ton capacity wagon had a rectangular steel body with a half-height lifting door on one side.

Ogwen Tile Company coal wagon.

Using the donor wagon, I built the body from plasticard sheet and angle, with Crafty Critter rivets. Dimensions were taken from a photograph that helpfully had someone stood infront to give some sense of scale. A removable load was fabricated using small coal on a wood insert. The wagon was outshopped in Penrhyn grey with black axle boxes. I have yet to add the painted “No.1” shown on the prototype and the chalked label “loco coal”.

Water tank wagons were used in Penrhyn quarry as counterbalance on the gravity inclines and as a water supply for locomotives working on the less accessible levels. From written descriptions, these wagons appear to be a similar size to the Ogwen Tile Works wagons. Again the bodywork was fabricated from plasticard on the donor wagon and painted Penrhyn grey, as are the extant static water balance tanks on Red Lion level.

Penrhyn water tank wagon.

The next miscellanea in this project were bolster wagons, as used to carry large timbers for the quarry and for the Penrhyn Estate. There were three sets, in two sizes, of these timber wagons that ran on the mainline to Port Penrhyn, with a flat wagon between two bolsters making up each set. Among my freelance wagons reused in this project, I had a pair of The Line Side Hut quarry bolsters.

Penrhyn bolster wagons.

I was more than pleasantly surprised to read on their website that the bolsters were based on ones built at Coed-y-Parc, the Penrhyn quarry workshops. To the basic model, I added a plasticard covering to the wooden deck, to represent the later years when a protective iron sheet was fixed in place. Rivets, corner detail, extra fixing rings and chains were added before the model was repainted in Penrhyn livery.

The last wagons are really a postscript to the previous project on Penrhyn late-era iron slate wagons.  Although Penrhyn adopted a similar-sized fleet of slate wagons from three manufacturers, they did trial a slightly larger version in 1879. These wagons were supplied by deWinton and had their carrying capacity increased by some 10% to around 2½ tons. Externally, the side of the basket carried three vertical bars instead of the two on all other iron slate wagons.

Penrhyn large deWinton slate wagons.

It is believed that these wagons were originally fitted with buffers and brakes, although one of two survivors in examined in 1953 was fitted with a buffing plate. The quantity of these larger wagons supplied to the quarry is unknown. Roy Plum designed and 3d printed a body kit for me along with deWinton style axle boxes. A wooden floor and Binnie six spoke curly wheels were used to match the other slate wagons. Penrhyn livery of grey bodywork and  black axle boxes was applied.

10 more quarry wagons, of 7 different types, have thus been added to the inventory of Penrhyn stock

Penrhyn miscellaneous quarry wagons.


March 2023



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