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Cwm Bychan Copper Mine and Aerial Ropeway, Beddgelert

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Map ReferenceSH64NW
Grid ReferenceSH6041047540
Unitary (Local) AuthorityGwynedd
Old CountyCaernarfonshire
1. Pylons and top loading station for an aerial ropeway, early 20th century.
The remains of an aerial ropeway, which brought ore from a point near four lodes at the upper end of Cwm Bychan, to a processing plant near Nantmor, a distance of about 1.4kms. Much of the ropeway remains and it is possible to "reconstruct" the machinery in some detail from the surviving parts. At the upper end is a terminal station. This consists of iron scaffolding supporting a horizontal wheel ca 1.5m in diameter, around which the cable passed. Buckets suspended from bogies, each with a pair of wheels were held on the cable by a friction device attached to the wheel carrier. The suspended buckets arrived at the terminal station, where they were semi automatically lifted by their wheels onto a fixed iron track passing behind the horizontal wheel. Here they could be stored temporarily while being filled, after which they could be manually pushed around the iron track, before being slipped back onto the moving cable. The cable was supported along its length by pairs of wheels fixed to a series of pylons. One pair of wheels on each side of each structure. Four of these towers remain - hose closest to the end station. The concrete foundations of several others survive. The cable itself was stranded steel wire wound around a hemp core. The diameter of the cable was ca 2.5cm overall, the hemp core being itself ca 1cm., in diameter. A number of lengths of this cable still lie around. The surviving pylons are ca 4.5m high, the concrete bases, usually consisting of four blocks of concrete 60cm square, each set in a square 1.5m x 1.5m.

At the lower end of Cwm Bychan, now sited just N of an embanked section of the Welsh Highland Light Railway, is the mill and bottom station of the ropeway. The site includes a number of features such as a pair of oval pits, side by side, above which are two large circular concrete buddles, the lower having a central concrete boss. These are both 5.5m in diameter. Above, and slightly to the left is a concrete foundation platform. Above this are two substantial concrete foundation rafts, separated by a gap 1.5m deep and 1m wide, probably an offloading point for ore. The smaller right hand (E) raft has set in its top several iron posts, sheared off possibly once carrying a structure. The larger left hand (W) raft is quite bare of features perhaps this was an area where materials were manhandled. To the right and E of these concrete platforms are two large rectangular tanks, standing above ground level. Both are built of mortared stone with a concrete liner. To the W of these tanks, and just above the larger of the foundation rafts are the remains of a drystone built hut, only three sides of which remain. A fireplace seems to have existed at the N corner. Immediately above the tanks and this hut are two substantial rectangular platforms set edge to edge with a metre wide gap between. One of these carried a short track with a kind of sliding pylon carrying the tensioning pulley for the main continuous cable. This in turn was held taught by a short cable carried on another pylon on the other platform with its own pulley and the whole sliding pulley system tensioned by a large cage filled with stones. The cage survies at the site but not in situ.

2. Copper workings (old levels and trial levels) depicted on OS County series map (Caernarvon. XXVIII.5 1889). The main area of the mine is just to the W of the top station of the ropeway.
The cable way was a late (ie early 20th century addtion to the whole site and essentially exploited all the various older workings which had been establised in the area by the early 18th century.