|THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD
© SEPTEMBER 1965
NORTH WALES NARROW GAUGE SCENE
I notice on page 119 of RECORD 5/6 that Penrhyn Quarry‘s SGT. MURPHY was thought to be for sale to Mr. T. Burdett, and also that it was "very decrepit". Certainly she looks so, but she is in my garden now and the neighbours haven’t complained! Seriously though, the boiler needs retubing, but then it should be alright at the full 160 lbs pressure. The lower part of the smokebox tubeplate needs some attention and a new smokebox door is wanted – although the smokebox itself is in excellent condition. The firebox was new in 1938 and the tanks are sound, having been fitted new in 1945. There is nothing that can’t be cured, and a lot of the decrepitude is due to a surfeit of rust which is mostly superficial.
SGT. MURPHY was taken out of service in 1947 at her routine "shopping" date due to the need for new tubes and tyres, the latter having worn thin during the War. An inside framer, Penrhyn had had a bit of a job to reduce her from 2ft to 1ft 10ľin gauge. Even now she is a bit on the wide side and I shall be happy when re−tyring restores the status quo. She left Penrhyn for Kingswinford at the unearthly hour of 11.15 pm on Saturday, 25th July 1964.
The name, by the way, results from her being the first of the secondhand acquisitions, and Mr. Battersby couldn’t think what to call her. She was purchased just after the 1923 Grand National which had been won by a grey gelding called Sgt. Murphy. The story goes that a group of quarrymen were at the top of the main level incline watching her come up for the first time, and there had never been a six−coupled locomotive on the incline before, of course. The effect as she came over the top must have been for all the world like a horse clearing a fence, and one of the men is reputed to have remarked, "Here comes Sgt. Murphy!" Mr. Battersby soon heard about it, liked it, and the SGT. MURPHY nameplates were cast.
(Vic Bradley tells me that when he visited the quarry in 1954 his guide was very reluctant to take him to the shed where SGT. MURPHY was stored, and then refused to enter with him. It appears that many of the older men were superstitious about this locomotive for it had once overturned and killed the driver – the only one at Penrhyn ever to do so. This is probably the reason why it was withdrawn for the comparatively trivial reasons of "Tyres and Tubes". The fact that it was very slightly overgauge tended to make it unsteady compared with the Hunslets. – Hon. Ed.)
THE NORTH WALES NARROW GAUGE SCENE
I was rather amused by the reference to Croesor Quarry on page 124 of. RECORD 5/6. It is indeed still in use, but not as a slate quarry. The under ground mine is hired out to Cooke’s Explosives Ltd., a subsidiary of I.C.I., and I am told they have many thousands of tons of explosives there – "enough to blow the top off Moelwyn Mawr" – so it is understandable that their security arrangements are rather strict. The stuff is taken there by road and loaded into wagons which are propelled into the mountain by a Ruston diesel loco. The wagons are then lowered down electrically worked inclines to a vast chamber where the explosive is stored. There are four single track inclines, each having its own motor. In the event of a power failure the motor would cut out but automatically brake any load.
The working loco and wagons are kept well inside the entrance to the mine and only appear in daylight when a consignment of goods arrives (or leaves) whilst, of course, the entrance is sealed like a strong—room when not in use. There were derelict locos at Croesor long before Cooke‘s came on the scene, and there is still one very derelict inside the long shed.
"MAN OF MERIONETH’
THE NORTH WALES NARROW GAUGE SCENE
There are two minor errors in the article on page 124 of RECORD 5/6. Under the heading "Blaenau Ffestiniog Area" the two locomotives (RH & HE) listed as at Ministry of Works, Bwlch-y-Slater quarries, are in fact at the Cwt-y-Bugail slate quarry, being the property of that quarry company. The Bwlch-y-Slater and Manod slate quarries are one and the same place, and it is the derelict Hunslet at the latter which is the property of the Ministry of Works.
The Ruston loco shunting the exchange sidings at Blaenau serves only the Oakeley quarry. It could not possibly work over the high level tramway to Cwt-y-Bugail as this tramway was reached by an incline up from the Maen Offeren workings which are two inclines above the Blaenau exchange sidings. The first incline towards Maen Offeren from Duffws has now been lifted and replaced by a rough road, but the second incline into the workings is still used. The third incline, up from Maen Offeren to the tramway, is intact but disused, whilst the Cwt-y-Bugail tramway has been lifted for some years now. It originally extended beyond Cwt-y-Bugail to Rhiwbach, with a branch line to Bwlch-y-Slater (i.e. Manod quarry). It was worked by a loco kept in a small windswept shed at the top of the incline from Maen Offeren, except during the last few years of the tramway‘s life when the shed was demolished (or perhaps it blew away?), the loco then being kept at Cwt-y-Bugail.
Regarding Dolgarrog, the standard gauge line here was worked by steam locos and ran from a junction with the ex−L.N.W.R. Conway Valley branch to the works on the opposite side of the valley. It is the track from this line which has been sold to the Welsh Highland Railway. There is also a 2ft gauge line here known as the Llyn Cowlyd Tramway. Llyn Cowlyd is one of the two reservoirs which supply hydro-electricity to the works, and the tramway is used to convey men and materials to the reservoir for maintenance purposes. The tramway commences on the lip of the valley, and is connected to the works at the valley bottom by a rope worked incline which is extremely steep. The German built loco EIGIAU, latterly at Penrhyn Quarry, formerly worked on this line, but in recent years the motive power has been a Motor Rail "Simplex" diesel.
|GREAT SUTTON, WIRRAL.
VIC. J. BRADLEY.