BSAC Divers recover historical slate wagon from Snowdonia lake

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A team of BSAC divers have raised a 110-year-old Welsh slate wagon from the depths of a lake in Snowdonia, North Wales.

Members of Rhosneigr Sub-Aqua Club on Anglesey discovered the important piece of industrial history while diving Llyn Padarn, Llanberis.

image-27427-origThe wagon, with a wooden chassis and measuring around 4ft long by 3ft wide, is thought to have been used to transport slate from Dinorwic Quarry to the seaport at Y Felinheli.

Rhosneigr SAC member, Rob Geal from Newborough, said: “We usually dive in the sea off the North Wales coast, but sometimes come to inland waterways for a change.

“Two years ago, a group of eight of us were diving in Llyn Padarn when, just below the site of the old quarry hospital and the current rail tracks, we came across the wagon lying on the lake bed about 20 metres down.

“We examined it and as it looked very interesting we decided it would be a good idea to come back at some time in the future and try to raise it.”

Earlier this year saw members come together to establish how they would successfully raise the 80 kilogram wagon from the lake bed.

Rob said: “We bought a top of the range 100 kilo lifting bag, which is basically a balloon that can be taken underwater, attached to an object and then inflated to bring it gradually to the surface.

“With our own boat waiting on the surface, we went down and attached special straps capable of lifting up to four tons to each corner and then fixed them to the bag, which was then gradually inflated using air from our own personal cylinder and a separate one which comes with it.”

Due to the heavily silted nature of the lake bed, visibility was poor, taking the divers around four hours to completely raise the wagon to the surface.

Rob added: “Upon examination, we found that quite a bit of it was still intact, including the wooden chassis, one of the four metal wheels it originally had, a wrought iron shaft connecting the wheel to the axle and a piece of wrought iron for connecting it to other wagons.

“It was decided that as it must be part of the history of the old slate railway, we’d hand it over to the Llanberis Lake Railway. It’s great to think that we’ve recovered a piece of the region’s industrial history.

“It’s certainly one of the most interesting things we’ve ever found. All we usually see when we go down is the odd dumped car.”

An initial inspection by railway bosses found that as the wagon has a wooden chassis, it must be one of the earliest used on the line which would make it at least 116-years-old as all wagons, post-1900, were made completely from metal.

Emlyn Pritchard, manager of the Llanberis Lake Railway, is delighted that the club decided to hand over the wagon.

“It’s part of the heritage of this railway and the whole area and as such is an important industrial artefact,” he said.

“We’ve not yet done a full investigation but judging from its appearance, it’s one of the wagons used on the old slate railway, part of the route of which we now run on.

“We’ll be delighted to have it on exhibition at the railway.”

Source: www.bsac.com

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