Diesel Hunslet engine at Threleld Quarry & Mining Museum
England Heritage Railways Travel

Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum

Another weekend in the Lake District saw me looking to visit some sort of train related activity. I had seen some wonderful photos of steam engines at Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum so I thought why the hell not. Unfortunately the timing didn’t work out for me as they weren’t running steam trains the day I was there. Nevertheless we went a visiting anyway.

Brief History of the Quarry

Thelkeld Quarry Face with train tracks heading away

The quarry was opened in 1870s to supply railway ballast for the Penrith-Keswick line. The quarry continued growing and was supplying stone for the Thirlmere water scheme, railway ballast for the Crewe-Carlisle line, road kerbing and building fascia.

During the 1890s Threlkeld Granite Co was formed to produce concrete flagstones. In 1936 the company amalgamated with Cumberland Granite Co at Embleton thus closing Threlkeld.

In late 1940s the quarry was reopened and with the aid of steam locomotives, the quarry extended. Post WW2, the railway was dismantled and rock was loaded at the quarry face by Ruston Bucyrus excavators (see VET later). The quarry finally closed in the 1980s with anything salvageable sold off.

In 1992 Lakeland Mines and Quarries Trust negotiated a lease to develop a museum at the site. In the 10 years that the quarry had been closed the weather and vandals had caused some serious damage to the buildings left behind.

Valiant effort was made by the Trust to restore the site and in 1995 the Museum was handed over to the current owners. For around 10 years the Caldbeck Mining Museum joined the project but in 2004 the Caldbeck Collection was removed and a year later the new Interpretive Mining Section was opened.


Fluorescent gems at Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum


Spin on to current day and there’s so much to see at the Museum. It is a font of information about all the local quarries. There was way too much for me to take in (especially with two kiddos running around) but I did find the old photos to be especially interesting.

One thing the kids found fascinating (except for the chocolates available to purchase) was the luminous crystal display. To be honest I never knew that some of them would glow in the dark under a UV light.

Vintage Excavator Trust (VET)

The "Hooley" at Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum. Part of the Vintage Excavator Trust's collection

The Vintage Excavator Trust (VET) bought the quarry and now uses the site to store vintage excavators. The jewel in the crown is the “world’s oldest steam excavator” the 1909 built Ruston Proctor Number 306. Affectionately known as the “Hooley”, was rescued by Mr Ray Hooley after it had been abandoned and submerged in the Blue Lagoon.

But there are so many different ones on site – plenty to see and if you’re into old machinery. I was fascinated when walking around the site as it reminded me of the good old days of going around the local scrap yard with my Dad. Not that Threlkeld Quarry is full of old scrap! The machines at Threlkeld are actually far from scrap as a lot of them are in tact and I think some are operational.

Narrow Gauge Railway

Diesel Hunslet engine at Threleld Quarry & Mining Museum

Ah but let’s be honest, the main draw for me was the little narrow gauge railway. I’d seen pictures of visiting Quarry Hunselts and thought it’d be just my thing! They have a resident steam loco – “Sir Tom” but it wasn’t running the day we visited. Our noble steed for the day was red diesel Hunslet. Ah so it wasn’t steam it was still good fun!

Our little Hunslet took us to the quarry face where we were given a talk by the lovely guide. It was interesting learning about the quarry. Very engaging for the kids as well. And naturally I filmed a little video!

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