The Spooners of Porthmadog - James Spooner - Gravity Working

Gravity Working

Spooner introduced to the Ffestiniog Railway, from the start, the ‘horse dandy’, that peculiar practice (which may have been first used in Northumberland) whereby the horse, having fought against gravity for twelve long miles hauling empty slate wagons from bottom to top in four or five hours, was rewarded with a bag of oats and a high speed (100 minutes) ride from top to bottom behind eighty loaded slate wagons and propelled by ‘that very same gravity against which he had for so long toiled upwards’ – as a contemporary report put it. The carefully engineered downhill route with a continuous grade of about 1 in 80 for twelve miles was specifically designed for gravity operation and resulted in gravity and horse operation being successful and economical but slow. The line was soon operating to maximum capacity. As built the line was a pioneering model instantly appealing to many (in the mid nineteenth century) seeking to solve the problems of moving heavy loads down hill.

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