Railways in West Wales Part 1D – Porthgain Clifftop Tramway

This post is a short addendum to my post about the pre-railway age and the tramways of Pembrokeshire. In that post there was a section about the Porthgain to Abereiddi Tramway. In writing about that tramway, I failed to include details of the 3ft-gauge clifftop tramway which linked the slate quarry at Pen Clegyr Point with Porthgain.

I also failed to note the detail of the tramway tunnel between St. Bride’s Quarry and Porthgain Harbour. The original post can be found here:


Much of this current post about the Clifftop Tramway is summarised from a book by R.C. Jermy – “The Railways of Porthgain and Abereiddi,” which is an excellent study of the location. [2]

The 1906 6″ OS Map shows the clifftop tramway. [1]
By the time the 1906 survey was undertaken the tramway tunnel and St. Bride’s Quarry were abandoned and the tramway rails through the tunnel had been lifted. The two short branches of the clifftop tramway can be seen to good effect on this map extract. [1]

By 1906, lines which linked St. Bride’s Quarry with the harbour via two inclines had been removed. The later tramway tunnel was also redundant and the tramway rails had been lifted. “Traces of the earthworks and inclines, including the lines to the spoil tips, are the only remains on the 1906 map. There remained on the clifftop just the lines of the horse-drawn tramway fetching stone from the quarries at Pen Clegyr Point. From loading sidings in the quarry the line entered a shallow cutting passing a small smithy on the right, after which maps indicate a short passing loop. The line then climbed upwards towards the summit close to Pentop Gate at which point it curved right, passing the weighing machine which measured the wagon weights. The line then forked into two, one track leading to each of the stone crushers located above the storage hoppers. Small passing loops were located on each of these tracks.” [2: p17]

There is, for me, an interesting connection between this area and the Forest of Dean. In 1900, the Forest of Dean Stone Firms were registered in Bristol.”This concern took over the harbour and mining interest at Porthgain but after November 1909, and until it was finally wound up in 1922, its interests were managed by United Stone Firms, another Bristol-registered Company. This firm raised a mortgage of £200,000 on the Dean Forest and Porthgain interests in 1910 and indeed this was the time when the crushed stone demand was reaching its peak. Sailing ships and powered vessels called regularly, the quarry and harbour railway systems were well developed and the Company ran its own fleet of steam coasters, each of about 350 tons.” [2: p10]

However, by 1913, despite the success of its Porthgain operations the parent company passed into the hands of the receiver. It remained so until 1926 “when it was reorganised and taken out of receivership by Walter Bryant of Coleford, Gloucestershire, who formed United Stone Forms (1926) Limited.” [2: p10]

However,by July 1931, that company became insolvent and was closed by 31st August 1931.

The 1948 revision of the 6″ Ordnance Survey was published in 1953. As far as the map extract is concerned all remnants of the clifftop railway have disappeared. This seems to be an over simplification of the situation as a number of remnants were still present even if not recorded. [5] The line of the track can still be traced as a levelled strip on the clifftop, adjacent to the path to Porthgain harbour. [4] R. C. Jermy includes a number of photographs, taken in 1951 by H. Townley, which show the engine shed (with ‘Newport’ gently rotting away on one of the roads) and the remains of two traction engines, ‘Daisy’ and ‘Dinah’. Dinah was sited at Pen Clegyr and was used as a winding engine. Daisy sat on the clifftop. [2: centre-pages]

Jermy notes that “by 1908 the demand for roadstone had increased and the Forest of Dean Stone Firms made the decision to invest in a steam locomotive for operating the clifftop system. … It was realised that with the arrival of a heavy locomotive complete relaying with heavier track would become a necessity. Accordingly 200 sleepers were ordered … and … between 20th and 22nd January, 1909 the tramway was [re-laid] with heavy rails and sleepers from Pentop Gate by the water tank to the winding engine house at the top of the incline leading from the lowest quarry levels. A new engine shed was constructed, the roof over the single road being completed just six days after the arrival of the first locomotive! An inspection pit was located between the rails in the shed. Later, in November 1909 a ten ton weighbridge was installed in a brick building close to the water tower.” [2: p18]

Later, two further locomotives arrived at Porthgain necessitating the addition of a second road to the engine shed.

Records appear to show that one of these locomotives, Singapore, was too heavy for the tramway rails in place when they arrived and as a result in some expenditure was necessary to upgrade the tramway. In fact, the prevailing weather conditions and the weight of the locomotives seem to have resulted in a significant regular maintenance programme being implemented.

Jermy shows two plans of the railway – the first shows it much as on the 1906 6″ Ordnance Survey. He dates his sketch plan to 1905. [2: p20]. The second is the result of a survey of the line by Jermy in the 1980s which seems to show the small network at its fullest extent in around 1925. [2: p21] This sketch plan shows the engine shed in its position on the Northeast side of the St. Bride’s Quarry, three roads serving the crushers and hoppers, a small Yard on the North side of St. Bride’s Quarry, a weighbridge and water tank to the Northwest of the Yard, a long straight length of line with two tracks, one known as ‘The Cutting’, the other as ‘Jerusalem Road’. These two line led to the Upper Level of Pen Clegyr Quarry and, via a cable-worked incline to the lower level of the quarry. [2: p21]


The first locomotive was named ‘Portgain‘. It was built in 1909 by Andrew Barclay in Kilmarnock. It was Works No. 1185. … No. 1185 was an 0-6-0T with 7″ x 13″ outside cylinders, 2ft 2½in wheels 3ft gauge. … Despatch Date: 26th July 1909. [2: p23][3] This locomotive was out of use by 1929 and was scrapped on site shortly after 1931. [4]

The second, ‘Charger‘ was built in 1891 by W.J. Bagnall in Stafford and had the Works No. 1381. It had a copper firebox, brass tubes and two 5½in x 10in outside cylinders. It passed through a number of ownerships before, in September 1912, it was moved to Porthgain. [2: p29-30] This locomotive was scrapped shortly after 1931. [4]

The third, ‘Singapore‘, was a 0-4-2 saddle tank built at the Kerr-Stuart works in Stoke-on-Trent and had Works No. 659. It had 9½in x 15in outside cylinders. It was built in 1899. It was first bought by the contractor G. Pauling and Co. It was shipped to Ireland and was used on the Burtonport Extension contract which Pauling’s were undertaking for the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway. Sold in 1903, it went to Scotland and remained there until 1912 when it was transferred to Porthgain. [2: p31-33] This locomotive was out of use by 1929 and was scrapped on site shortly after 1931. [4]

The fourth locomotive was ‘Newport‘, a 0-4-0T loco. It was built by Hudswell, Clarke and Company of Leeds. It was originally built as a 2ft 10in gauge loco with Works No. 311 in 1889. In 1900 it was owned by Kellett & Sons who worked on the Hagley to Frankley section of the Elan Valley Aqueduct. It went through a number of ownerships after this before entering service at Porthgain in May 1929 after an overhaul. [2: p33-36] This locomotive remained in the Porthgain Railway Locomotive Shed after closure until scrapped in 1953. [4]


  1. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=15.6&lat=51.94963&lon=-5.18788&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 28th October 2022.
  2. R.C. Jermy; The Railways of Porthgain and Abereiddi; The Oakwood Press, Oxford, 1986.
  3. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.industrial-loco.org.uk/Barclays_List_1100.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwigzb7drIP7AhWgR0EAHVYTBAMQFnoECBMQAQ&usg=AOvVaw1yWPftV1gbG5KyHi_9Oszk, accessed on 28th October 2022.
  4. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porthgain_Railway, accessed on 29th October 2022.
  5. https://maps.nls.uk/view/102188088, accessed on 31st October 2022.

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