|Lefl Dwr Oer and Graig Ddu from Diffwys. Manod Mawr is shrouded in mist.|
We started near to Hughes' transport depot, where a back lane leads to the foot of the no.1 incline. It's a popular stroll for locals, so the path is pretty well beaten. The inclines, all three of them, were built in 1865 to enable produce to be brought down to the then 2 foot gauge Ffestiniog and Blaenau Railway. Later, this was taken over by the GWR (in 1883) and broadened to standard gauge, so the trucks from the quarry were piggy-backed to Blaenau for re-loading onto normal wagons.
|A rusty wreck by the incline. Probably not a Car Gwyllt.|
Every quarry worker who came from Graig Ddu had one of these cars, made by the quarry blacksmith in his spare time. It must have represented a significant source of extra income for the man. At four o'clock, the men would ride down the incline en-masse, usually led by their appointed “captain”, one of the senior miners. It must have been quite a sight, some two hundred men descending at forty miles an hour down the mountain. The aim was to try and catch the Crosville omnibuses that stopped at the end of the incline, at the Great Western goods yard. If the men were late, of course, the speed might be significantly higher...
|The first incline, with Congl-y-Wal below and the Moelwynion in the distance.|
Only one woman was known to regularly use the “Wild Car”. Kate Griffiths, schoolmistress of Rhiwbach quarry school. She would be crewled up the inclines in the morning, walking from Craig Ddu through to Bwlch-y-Slaters and on to the Rhiwbach tramway, descending the incline there on foot to her schoolhouse at the quarry village. I have an image of a Mary Poppins figure complete with hat and brolly, speeding down the mountain towards Manod with considerable dignity. Unlike the only other woman known to have used the incline in that way. A local story tells of the wife of a quarryman using a wild car to descend after leaving her husband his lunch. I can't vouch for it's veracity, but apparently all went well until the final incline when she attained such a speed that the rudimentary brake wouldn't work and she hurtled towards a goods wagon. The poor woman had the sense to put her legs out in front of her and bounced off the wagon, being thrown fifteen feet in the air. Shocked men working in the yard described her aerial progress, petticoats akimbo, as being “like a rainbow”. Happily, she survived with only cuts and bruises...and an aversion to quarry inclines.
|Photo right: Item Ref GTJ18025, Meirionydd Archives, Gwynedd Archives service ref ZS/45/23|
|An old wooden bridge left at Lefl Dwr Oer|
|In for some weather...|
Huw Jenkins' excellent article about the Car Gwyllt here on his super Vale of Ffestiniog site
A fascinating account of the Car Gwyllt by MJT Lewis here
|The Drum House at the top of the final incline.|
|Looking out from the drainage adit|
|The Moelwynion towers above Llyn Ystradau from Graig Ddu. Blaenau sparkles on the right.|