Click main image below to view enlargements and captions.

Decorative Arts, Model, Coal Mining, Brass Minecart, Antique, Wales, c. 1890s


Coal Minecart
E. Thomas & Williams, Wales: c. 1890s
Brass on wooden base
7 x 10 x 7 inches, overall

A charming small model of a Welsh coal mining cart. The brass rectangular bucket is set on four wheels and can be moved along a brass rail set on the rectangular wood base. Minecarts transport coal on a simple rail system along narrow gauge railway tracks underground from the mining area to the central location for removal via a mine shaft. In popular culture, a minecart featured prominently in a chase scene in the 1984 movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Product description continues below.


The model was apparently handmade by a craftsman with skill and expertise in metal work based on the nature and  quality of workmanship. It is perhaps unique. The wooden base of the model bears the brass relief label with an engraved model or serial number of the mining supply firm E. Thomas & Williams of Aberdare, Wales. We presume that this label was originally designed for a Thomas & Williams so called Cambrian mining lamp and applied for decorative effect on the base of the minecart. According to the previous owner of the minecart who lived in Aberdare, the cart was custom made for part of a larger display in the offices of Thomas & Williams. He stated: “‘This fabulous model of a mine tram was produced by E. Thomas & Williams apprentices during the 1890s as part of a display of the “Billy Fair Play” coal weighing machine displayed in the offices.  You can see the “Billy Fair Play” in a reprinted catalogue …. ” The previous owner suggested that it might be unique; indeed we have been unable to find any other similar extant models.

Minecarts (also called mine carts, mine trams, mine trolleys or mine hutches) were introduced in the early modern period for moving ore and materials in underground mining operations. Initially they were pushed or pulled by men or animals; later they were towed by narrow gauge electric or diesel locomotives. Today they have largely been replaced, especially in coal mines, by more efficient belt conveyor systems.

E. Thomas & Williams Ltd. was a Welsh mining supply company established in 1860 by Evan Thomas and Lewis N. Williams, based in Aberdare, Wales, U.K. The company was best known for making specialty coal mine safety lamps — made so not to cause an explosion in the mine — and other mining tools and devices. The company exhibited its wares widely during the 1880s and 1890s, winning gold awards at the London Mining Exhibition. They also produced shell casings during World War I and “Lightbuoys” designed to locate survivors from torpedoed ships during World War II. As demand for mining equipment declined during the postwar era, the company pivoted to producing traditional lamps for home use and the gift market.


Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light oxidation to brass, and other light wear and handling.


“E. Thomas & Williams Limited 1860.” Science Museum Group. (6 December 2022).

“Minecart.” Wikipedia. 30 November 2022. (6 December 2022).

Additional information




Late 19th/Early 20th Century