|Moel Penamnen in the background, near the Cwt-y-Bugail junction|
|A cutting on the tramway in February.|
The views on a good day are great, over towards the Arenigs to the south and to Drum quarry a little nearer. The track starts high - on the 450 metre contour;so the views should be good!
After a short walk, the deep pit of Fridd comes into view on the right. A very old quarry, opened by at least 1818. Sadly, in 1834, two men walking back from Penmachno to Ffestiniog in the dark missed their way and fell to their deaths in this pit, which must have been deeper than it seems now. It's a spooky place, with a waterlogged and unstable adit in the base of the pit. The track rises up above the old route of the tramway here, past a curious derelict TV booster station. To the left, the old course of the tramway can be made out as it describes an elaborate dog's leg to lose height.
|Inside the Fridd Pit.|
Descending back to the tramway, a branch goes to the right, south east to the Rhiwbach quarry. I won't describe the place just now, but suffice to say that it is well worth looking down the engine house incline towards Penmachno. It's at least a day's explore, before even thinking about going underground. Before the incline head, more workings from the Fridd quarry appear to the right. An opened chamber in a small pit and a collapsed adit. This is the pit known as "Gatty's" after the lessee of Blaen-y-Cwm at that time. Over the tramway from the pit are the tips of the first mill, started around 1870.
|Gatty's pit, with Petra perching on a rock.|
|Inside the pit at Blaen-y-Cwm in winter. Yes, those are icicles.|
|Looking down the Blaen-y-Cwm incline to the mill.|
|The line of the tramway seen from the slopes of Manod Mawr. Blaen-y-Cwm pit is in the middle right, with the Engine House crimp middle distance centre. In the left distance is the mighty Rhiwbach quarry.|
|Looking towards Cwt-y-Bugail in the distance|
Ever since the summit of the trackway near the TV booster station, the impressive tips of Cwt-y-Bugail have been dominating the skyline to the north. The tramway approaches the branch to this quarry past an old ruined barracks, built about 1869 and mostly collapsed now. The branch veers off to the right, eastwards into the mill area of this once busy quarry. Again, a day at least should be set aside for exploration. We've visited it very many times and have still not explored everything. It's a weatherbeaten site, and was often cut off during the winter for months at a time.
|Towards Blaenau Ffestiniog, with Llyn Bowydd.|
After the junction, the main tramway turns sharply west towards Blaenau Ffestiniog. Wonderful views open up of Moel Penamnen to the north, Snowdon to the north west, and the Moelwyns towards the south west. Of course, the bulk of Manod Mawr has been in constant attendance all the way along the tramway and depending on the time of day, the change in direction results in a welcome brightness from the west. There's a small mineral mine, probably for lead on the slopes of Manod here. The Newborough mine, opened in 1818. There's an interesting spoil tip and rudimentary anvils for cobbing the ore beside a flooded shaft.
|The Newborough Mine|
|Looking down to Maenofferen from the No.3 incline crimp.|
Further reading: "Slate Quarry Album" by Gordon and Ann Hatherill,
Roy Link Publications, ISBN 978-0-9538763-8-9
with a chapter on the Rhiwbach tramway
Dave Sallery's excellent article on the tramway here
Start of the tramway at Manod SH73263 45602
Fridd Pitt SH73442 45853
Blaen-y-Cwm Mill SH73360 46282
Cwt-y-Bugail Junction SH73169 46728
Rhiwbach No.3 incline crimp SH71520 46951