Quarry Tramways

Narrow gauge tramways were extensively employed to transport the heavy stone from the quarries to the canal wharves or railways stations for onward travel. Often, there was a stone yard with cranes at both ends to facilitate the hardening of the blocks or working the stone into the required dimensions. Prior to 1830 inclined planes were employed at Conkwell, Murhill, Kingham Quarry, Combe Down and Hampton Down quarries to transport the stone to the canals using a form of winding drum – the rails were made from either wood or cast iron and bedded onto stone or wooden sleepers.

Corsham Wharf 1928.jpg

After around 1830 the tramways were commonly a standard wrought iron 2ft 5½in gauge and utilised a downward gradient wherever possible with wooden framed trolleys descending laden under their own weight and a boy employed as a brakesman to control the speed of descent. Often, these tramways ran for miles before finally reaching their destination. Horses hauled the empty trolleys back uphill to the quarries – on the level, one horse could quite easily pull a loaded trolley weighing ten tons, but when uphill three horses were needed to pull six tons. The same gauge was used underground, although most of the track would have been laid temporarily and removed as the workings became exhausted.


A trolley being winched out of Monks Park Quarry


Probably the same trolley as above abandonned at Monks Park Quarry

Due to the unsprung design of the trolleys and the weights carried, derailment was commonplace and it was discovered that by placing three small stones known as ‘squats’ on the bed of the trolley under the larger stone, allowed some movement and fewer derailments occurred.

Spring Quarry Tramway 1928.jpg

Maintaining the tracks at Corsham

Most of the track was removed during the second world war and very little evidence can be seen today.

Loaded Trolley.jpg
Pictors Tramway.jpg

Track connecting Ridge with Eastlays Quarry


Corsham Stone Wharf


The platform and brake for the control of the trolley on it’s descent to the wharf

Corsham had an extensive network of tramways as can be seen from the below map from 1920. Most sizeable quarrys utilized tramways of some description. Due to the poor state of the roads at the time the weight of the stone could not be transported in any other economical manner.