Llŷn Tramway & Soch Valley Railway


Mining & Quarrying        Transport        Soch Valley Railway

Map of Llanengan and the Main Load

Halfway House        Pont Morgan        Rhiw

The Llŷn Tramway can be seen as a standard gauge version of the Glyn Valley Tramway
 or a Welsh version of the Wantage Tramway.

The Soch Valley Railway
connects the mines at Rhiw to the Llŷn Tramway at Pont Abersoch.

Mining & Quarrying

The Llŷn’s mineral wealth was extracted by quarries, mines and levels at: -
Bont Newydd, five iron mines.
Main Lode from Llanengan to Penrhyn Du worked by eight mines with three outliers. Working began in the 1630s the main period of working was in the latter part of the 19th century, with all of the mines closed by 1900. At their peak 240 miners dug lead, copper, & zinc ores. Tan-y-Bwlch Mine was the richest with an output of [tons of ores] 8,722 lead, 450 zinc and 4,652 copper 1873-86 [average 3½ tons/day].
Rhiw
manganese mining at Rhiw was a major project in its day, with over 195,000 tons mined between 1840 and 1945, with peak production in 1943 when 100 miners raised 20,333 tons. The mines started as quarries and became mines when it was cheaper to tunnel. There were six mines in all but only three of them were a viable operation and production stopped completely several times between 1840 and 1945. [See http://www.rhiw.com/hanes_pages/manganese.htm]
Others the Court and Pompren lead mines at Aberdaron and mines at Nanhoron, Bod gadle, and Bryn deufor.
The granite [Mynydd Tir-y-cwmwd Porphyritic Granophyric Microgranite] of the Llanbedrog headland was worked by three coastal quarries from the second half of the nineteenth century to 1949 when the last quarry closed. Quarrymen came from Nefyn and Penmaenmawr and lived in the small clusters of cottages around the neck of the headland. Output was setts, cut stone, for walling, structural, engineering, & decorative purposes. 

Bont Newydd

Main Lode

Outliers

Rhiw

Pen y gaer

Port Nigel/Porth-neigwl

Gweithfa

Rhiw Crown

Bryn gwynt

Daugoch

Ysgubor wen

Benallt

Brongaer

Pantgwyn 1896 suspended Alfred Evans [manager]

Old Tanrallt

Tyddyn Meirion

Bwlch

Tan-y-Bwlch

 

Ty Canol

Bron y gaer

West Assheton

 

Nant

 

Pared

 

Ty'n Llan

 

Bwlch tocyn (active to 1809 &1869-1892)

 Manganese Mining at Rhiw

 

Penrhyn

 

 

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Transport

Bont Newydd and Main Lode’  A major problem was moving ore, pit props, coal (to power the mines) granite and other materials the options were horrendously expensive pack mules or the dangerous and undependable beaching small ships in local bays. There was a four mile long forty-two inch gauge horse tramway between Pwllheli and Llanbedrog 1896-1927. Proposals were made to extend it 5 miles via Pont Abersoch (6¾ mile from the manganese mines at Rhiw and ¾ mile from the Bont Newydd iron mines) to Machroes (‘Main Lode’) with tourism as a bonus. Steep grades would have been needed to cross the granite Llanbedrog Headland precluding horse working and the cost of rebuilding the tramway for steam operation and the extension doomed the proposals.
When mining started at
Rhiw donkeys were used to carry the ore to Porth Cadlan where it was loaded onto small sailing vessels for export to Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. When production increased two jetties were constructed, one at Hells Mouth and the other in a cove off Hells Mouth called Porth Ysgo. As the name suggests both jetties were dangerous to use and ceased operation in 1927. The mines were connected to Porth Ysgo by a cable way. There were repeated unheeded calls for a railway from Rhiw to Pwilheli 13 miles away.
Thankfully model railway ‘economics’ are much easier than the real world’s and I’ve assumed a steam tramway was built from Pwilheli to Machroes enabling the ‘Main Load’ mines to survive past 1900.
Given construction of the Llŷn Tramway the Soch Valley Railway would have linked Pont Soch to Porth Ysgo with a cable way to the mines This would have made the narrow gauge Soch Valley Railway a much more practical 5½ miles long with the advantage of crossing easy terrain. The terminus station would have been called Rhiw but would have been 1½ miles from the small village [population of about 400]
The layout
Rhiw represents the terminus near the Hells Mouth Jetty. The station comprises a loop and siding to a loading dock and goods shed meeting all the needed for the small village of Rhiw. Behind the station a spur goes off to the terminus of the aerial cable way linking the railway to Benallt Quarry/Mine. In the centre is the worked out Nant Quarry and at the far end the Ty'n Llan Quarry.

Llanengan and the Main Load

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