Their names had the ring of racehorses Lady Madcap, Rough Pup, Irish Mail Cackler, Holy War, Covert Coat, King of the Scarlets, Cloister, Cadfan Red Damsel, Maid Marian, Wild Aster... True, they had a turn of speed but the trackwork on Australia lefal was no racing ground. Up on the mountain, they fussed pulling wagons of rubbish to the domen fawr slab to the inclein. The driver, in the relaxed pose of the chieftan astride his pocket war horse had seen everything and knew how to sort it.
If the wagons fell off the track, many hands would help it was their bargen, their llygad, after all. When it was time for repairs, the blacksmith would call upon arcane skills, grinding valves cold setting motion. Even a boiler repair was possible. Keep it dark, don't let the management know- blame sometimes descended with the mist.
Perhaps once in twenty years, things were gone beyond this fiery alchemy. The injan would be sent down the inclein to Gilfach Ddu where much tutting and moving of caps to back of heads ensued.
A replacement, reconditioned, appeared at the crimp and after some appraisal, was steamed. She wasn't as good as "Wild Aster", the driver said as he polished the brasswork clean but Alice would do alright. And so she whistled and bustled for another thirty years, outlasting the driver, who was tearful when he looked back handing over to his young acolyte joke catching in his throat.
There was always slate to be moved, quick-like and the boy drew on the mantle transmuting surplus battledress and beret Into heroic robes. Alice was everywhere, mighty war feather at her valves, coal smoke her cloak impudent whistle returned with interest from the sinc walls
And him Up the foxes path before anyone else, to light her up then attend to thirst, to coal spreading steam oil Wiping her face and the brightwork, before emerging like a fanfare from the shed her manifesto: let's get it done!
The rockmen and rubblers made a point of not looking but sneaked a glance against themselves as he moved regulator and brake with studied nonchalance a run of car dipios following.
At lunch, while the men sat in the caban he would stand outside and watch her sizzle in the mist politics or chapel talk at his back, never quite one of the hoggia chwarel. Even when the blast horn went off, he and the injan retired to their own shelter the shape of a Hunslet and her man.
Time wore out In the way of things, the quarry fell silent. He ran Alice to the shed, emptied then wiped her tanks and boiler closed the doors after her, thinking he'd be back.
The rails rusted, windows broke, let in the wild weather slates tumbled from the roof occasionally a goat or a walker would shelter beside her eyes wide in wonder.
Up here, everything was too difficult to move or take for scrap. A fox had several litters under her wheels. Gradually, Alice settled on her springs.
The boy became an old man memories shattered by the dementia, quarrying at the galleries of his mind. Memory of Alice's bright work dulled, workmates all gone. Only the wind whistled shrilly up there on the lefal, Nobody marked the cruel joke of it.
Her tanks rusted to a filigree as she settled geologically into the ground
Years later, she was rudely dragged from where she'd reconciled to lie, to oxidise into dust. Pulled away and down what remained of the inclein.
They rebuilt from many different parts
Not really the same engine at all a replica that would not convince the air borne spirits of the galleries but - she'll do.
In a few years, once again, she will be abandoned
She'll surrender to the caress of corrosion, to settle into the ground only oxides left to mark her existence. Ashes scattered to the quarry winds.
Up there on the galleries of Dinorwig, the iron ghosts rumble among the shattered rock and mist wraiths Occasionally roaring from tunnel mouths Spooking the goats.
This poem is copyright Iain C Robinson 2017. No reproduction or copying of this writing by any means, electronic or physical is permitted without prior agreement of the author.
All images are copyright Iain Robinson 2017 and must not be used without prior permission. The depiction of a mine or site does not indicate that access is possible- permission should be sought before entering any private land. Underground exploration should not be undertaken unless properly equipped and with at least one experienced member of the party.