We are in the early stages of planning for our next Open Weekend which will be on 18th & 19th May 2019. This event will focus on mining, with displays and demonstrations of heritage mining equipment and techniques. Mining has had a great impact on shaping the social history of the Forest of Dean, its people and culture.
We recently received an e-mail from a new member who has expressed an interest in modelling the wagon at Clearwell Caves which was featured at the end of our previous post. As our Chairman’s day job is at Milkwall just half a mile or so up the road from Clearwell, it was easy to pop down and get some measurements and extra photos.
The wagon is roughly rectangular in shape with slightly rounded corners. The body has straight sides at the top and then they taper down to a narrower profile to match the width of the chassis. There are two dumb buffers on each end with an eye for attaching a chain or rope for haulage. A stake is driven throught this eye into the ground to prevent the wagon from being moved.
- Width at top of body: 113cm
- Length at top of body: 160cm
- Height of body: 92cm
- Distance from top of body to start of taper: 47cm
- Width over buffers: 78cm
- Buffers: 21cm wide x 15cm high
- Wheel diameter over outer tyre: 35cm
- Wheelbase between centres: 51cm
- Back-to-back inside flanges: 82cm
- Approximate rail gauge: 84.5cm (nominal 2’10”)
There is also a wagon of the ex-NCB type at the end of the siding which has been sign written. At a glance it appears virtually identical to the manrider tub wagon at Lea Bailey before the latter had been modified. We shall look at taking some measurements of these wagons for a future write-up.
Since the early days of Lea Bailey Light Railway, our site has been home to a variety of wagons, some of which are more useful than others. Unfortunately as with many of the items preserved here, we don’t know the history of these two wagons — they appear to have been fitted with side hoppers which had subsequently been welded up. One of the pair had been modified by our volunteers by grinding off the weld and freeing off the bolts and had seen some use as a ballast hopper. However due to a combination of the long wheelbase, thin flanges, and the fact these wagons are slightly out of gauge, they are prone to derailment (especially on points) and as such had been taken out of use.
As a temporary measure they had been parked off the end of the running line with the intention of finding a more permanent home. Sadly one wagon had sunk in the mud and the other had been pushed over by some unwelcome visitors. On a dreary day in January the decision was made to move them.
Using a Tirfor winch and a handy beech tree (no shortage of these at Lea Bailey) the downed wagon was slowly pulled upright. The Simplex was used to gently pull it along the ground towards the end of the running line and into a space previously cleared of rocks. With the Stop Board (temporarily) removed and some short pieces of rail in position, a hi-lift jack was used to get all four wheels above the track before gently lowering the wagon and allowing the Simplex to pull it along. The Hudson easy-turnout was pressed into service to place the wagon onto a side track until more volunteers were available to move it somewhere else.
The second wagon was already upright but proved more difficult to move due to being up to its axles in mud. Once the Tirfor had pulled it out the Simplex was once again brought into use to get it close to the running line, with several handy rocks being used to prop the temporary rails up out of the mud. This wagon was carefully taken through the loop and down the new track onto the mine tip before being carefully moved using the traverser onto another piece of temporary track.
Once the warmer weather arrives, we are hoping to clean up and paint this wagon and display it on our mine tip, similar to the wagons on display at Clearwell Caves which are visible to drivers and passengers in vehicles passing by on the nearby road.
The doors that lead into the Bailey Level mine are kept locked for safety reasons. Wild animals, small children, and even adults without the relevant training would all be at risk if they were able to enter the underground mine workings. Certain people, however, see a locked door as a challenge, and some recent visitors took it upon themselves to enter the mine uninvited, causing damage to the doors in the process.
It was good fortune that our volunteers had been planning a welding job and had brought all the necessary equipment along. The first job — an unenviable task — was to inspect the mine to make sure that our uninvited guests were not still trapped underground. Luckily our “visitors” had left the site unscathed and work could proceed with the repairs.
Using the rocker shovel and a tirfor winch, the bent part of the door was straightened and a piece of angle was welded on to strengthen it. Further pieces of steel were welded on to make a strong section to lock the door. Several addition pieces of angle have been welded onto the outside to prevent crow bars and other objects from being inserted in an attempt to lever the doors open. Other measures will also be taken to make the doors secure against unauthorised entry.
The job that was planned for the welder was also carried out — welding one of the rails to the baseplate to keep the new points to the correct gauge. In early November the doors were cleaned up with scrapers and a wire wheel and given a coat of black bitumen paint.
The Autumn Open Weekend will take place on 22nd & 23rd September 2018. On Saturday 22nd, there will also be the annual Steam-Up at Alan Keef Ltd just up the road at Lea.
Our large Hydrovane compressor will be on site providing air for the Eimco 12B rocker shovel, Eimco 401 locomotive and Holman Silver 3 rock drill. There will be regular demonstrations throughout the day. Four different types of Wingrove & Rogers battery-electric locomotives will be on display — all at different stages of restoration. There is also some new track since the last Open Weekend in May and the chance to see our Hudson wagon traverser under construction.
Some good progress was made on Sunday 19th August as two panels of track (complete with ballast) were laid from the new set of points towards the inspection pit next to the container. The rail is of a heavier section than the usual 35lb/yd found on the rest of the railway — it matches the track on the line towards the container — so putting a slight curve into the second section using the Jim Crow was quite challenging.
The next section of track to be laid will go straight through the current pile of ballast, but we should use most of it on this new section so hopefully not too much double-handling will be necessary.
Due to the hot weather and volunteers taking time off for other activities, there has been no major progress to report during the months following the Spring Open Weekend.
The National Association of Mining History Organisations (NAMHO) Annual Conference was held in the Forest of Dean from 1st to 3rd June 2018. Delegates had the choice of attending a series of lectures or signing up for one or more trips to various mines around the Forest. On the Saturday and Sunday of the event, we welcomed two different groups for a rare underground visit into the mine. Our visitors were also able to watch a demonstration of rock drilling by Richard with his Holman Silver 3 rock drill which produced some loose rock to be shovelled up by the Eimco 12B.
Work has continued on ballasting the new track and points and at the time of writing this post was almost complete. There is more track to be laid onto the old mine tip to link up with the isolated track section where the Eimco 24 is parked. This will use up the remaining ballast pile.
Hopefully you have been keeping up-to-date with what is happening at Lea Bailey Light Railway by reading the regular updates on this website and on our Facebook Page — but now is your chance to come and see for yourself. With a compressor wagon now on site, our resident Eimco 12B rocker shovel will once again be put to work alongside a rock drill on the open air demonstration line to show how these machines would have worked underground.
The Eimco compressed-air locomotive 401-216 and Motor Rail 21282 will be in operation, with four different types of Wingrove & Rogers battery-electric locomotives on display — all at different stages of restoration. We are also hoping to demonstrate the large Eimco 24 rocker shovel each day at around 3:30pm. Don’t forget to visit our sales stand where refreshments will be available including home-made cakes. 🍰
As we said goodbye to the Beast from the East, work started once again on relaying the track that was lifted back in February. The first priority was to reinstate the curve which would allow the wagons parked in the mine to access the rest of the line. The two curved rails were put back in place with five new sleepers and with a minimal amount of packing to get the correct level, the fishplates were bolted together and the rails were spiked down.
The Simplex was then driven by Nick to collect the wagons, although the honour of the first “train” over the new section of track goes to our young volunteer James who pushed an empty Hudson skip wagon round from the mine to the passing loop to allow the shunting to take place. The flat wagon was still full of bricks which had been stockpiled for our recent retaining wall project. With these unloaded we could then proceed to the other end of the line to load up components for the set of points — but first: lunch!
Richard had been busy in the kitchen and using a recipe from the Cornish Pasty Association, had produced some traditional beef and vegetable pasties — they can’t be called “Cornish” because they weren’t made in Cornwall — and our hungry volunteers were happy to indulge in another mining tradition known as “snap, “bait” or “croust”. [Having tasted one I can confirm they taste just as good as the Cornish genuine article. — Ed.]
After lunch (washed down with a cup of tea) we loaded up the component parts of a set of points that we had purchased from the North Gloucestershire Railway at Toddington. Everything except the frog was transported in one load and laid roughly on some old sleepers. The frog was loaded by itself and the use of an extended coupling bar was necessary due to the overhang at each end of the wagon. With the frog in place everything was roughly aligned by eye. We are awaiting some longer sleepers for the construction of this point, and once they arrive we can start measuring everything and getting it together with the correct alignments.
The rest of the day was spent using up the end of a tin of green paint on the container and picking out bricks and rocks from the lineside after the digger had done its job.
Not much to report in the last couple of weeks as we have been visited by the Beast from the East with several inches of snow falling in the Forest of Dean and surrounding areas. Before the snow came in we did see a nice bit of sunshine and managed to get some painting done. The container and tank have been painted green to help them blend in with the surrounding woodland, and the entrance barrier has received a rub-down and another coat of paint before new vinyl lettering is applied.
On Sunday 11th March our young volunteer James walked down and captured these photos of the railway and mine under the snow.