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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin
Vol 6 No 2

The Gauge of Slate Quarry Track-Ways by Geoff Leet

Between Thurso Golf Club House and the Hill of Forss (Map ref ND094 666) a track-way can still be seen. Large flags were laid in two parallel tracks with plain ground between to give grip for the horse pulling one or more waggons. The surviving flags on the East side have a broad groove about 1Omm deep where the iron shod wheels ran, while the flags on the West side have a shallower groove. George Watson and I measured the tracks in two locations, starting at the outside edge of the Eastern groove, and measured:

First set; 0, 170, 1430, 1700.

Second set: 0, 150, 1420, 1630 mm, so would accommodate wheels 5" wide, with the space between (the Gauge) 4 ft. 3ins,

At Birkle Hill behind Castletown (ND 199 660) a more complete track-way runs uphill but becomes a plain stony track downhill. Here the deeper track can occur on either side, or no track be visible. The mean sizes are 0, 150, 1410, 1550 mm, and would accommodate the same axle described above

The road SE past Dixonfield leads past a quarry (ND 153 658) where a complete axle set survives, gauge 5 ft.; rim 4ft 7in. and diameter 3 ft. 3.4 in. ( = 1 metre.)

In the Weydale Quarry (ND 145 654) a timber axle survives with a gauge of about 3 ft.

Quarries at Weydale and Holborn Head used steel rails with horses for traction, the horse riding downhill in a stable waggon. The quarry railway gauges were smaller than the British railway gauge of 4 ft. 7.5 ins.

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