Whilst the rest of the country was in lockdown, members of the Lea Bailey Light Railway Society were working behind the scenes on ambitious plans to extract and process a rare mineral from the Bailey Level mine.
During a routine mine inspection, a rich deposit of Coprolite was discovered in a partially-collapsed side working just off the main level. After work to stabilise the collapse, a partnership was soon formed with a local manufacturer of garden fertiliser to process the Coprolite ore into a consumer product at a new site inside a disused quarry on Wigpool Common.
To avoid transporting the ore by road on the narrow lanes around Wigpool a scheme was devised to move the ore by rail, utilising a new narrow gauge railway laid on existing forestry tracks. The project will be known as Rail Loop F with the “F” representing Fertiliser and also the Forest under which it is mined.
On 31st March 2021, approval was granted by the Mines And New Underground Railways Executive to begin construction. The ore will be drilled and blasted by trained Nonex operatives before being loaded into wagons using an Eimco 12B rocker shovel loader. The society would like to thank the Association of Rocker Shovel Experts for undertaking training and certification for this machine as well as providing servicing manuals.
An ore conveyor will move the coprolite up the steep incline to the forestry track above the mine entrance, where it will be loaded into wagons for the journey along Rail Loop F to the processing plant. The wagons will be hauled using the Continuous Rope And Pulley system, similar to the cable-hauled “creeper” utilised by the Arthur & Edward Colliery in Lydbrook many years ago.
Once the ore reaches the processing plant, it will be crushed to a fine powder by a set of Cornish Stamps along with dried organic silt from Wigpool Water Works. This Partially Oricaceous Organic Powder will then be mixed with a top-secret blend of natural fertilisers derived from plant and animal sources. These ingredients will be obtained from local farms to minimise the impact of road transport. The blend will then be stabilised using a proprietary formula to create Mineral Infused Liquid Fertiliser which is to be sold to consumers through a network of local distributors. The end product is designed to be diluted with water as a plant food supplement, suitable for both ornamental and food crops.
Professor Owen Lee and Dr. Joe King of the Sharlston Hill Institute of Technology for mineral analysis
Councillor April Fuller for her invaluable assistance with the statutory planning process
Mapping services by the Ordnance Survey with route overlay by Amos E. Wolfe
During the lockdown, individual volunteers have been visiting the railway for regular site checks, and so far no problems have been found.
Travel restrictions are being eased in Wales from Monday 6th July, and as some of our core group of volunteers travel to us from over the border, the Chairman is considering re-starting volunteer working parties from Sunday 12 July 2020.
We are currently consulting Government guidelines and drawing up a risk assessment and a set of guidelines for the various tasks that can be carried out on the railway whilst maintaining appropriate social distancing.
This year our Autumn Open Day will be a low-key affair as we only have one locomotive in operation and no working compressor to run the Eimco 12B and 24 rocker shovels and 401 air locomotive. Motor Rail “Simplex” 21282 will be available for demonstration trains and our volunteers will be on hand to give progress updates on our work at the mine.
Please aim to visit us between 11:00am and 3:00pm.
🆕 Update(as of 4th July 2019): Money raised so far is £690.00 with thanks to everyone who donated (including a very generous donation from a local business owner). Please keep donating if you are able to do so. Further funds will be used to purchase new traction batteries for the WR8 battery-electric locomotive
We have now had a quote from a supplier for parts required to get our Motor Rail diesel locomotive back into working order following the theft of several engine components during a break-in back in March 2019.
This leaves us with the sum of just over £500 to raise in order to get 21282 running again. The locomotive has been a valuable workhorse for many years, and had the honour of hauling the first train when the Lea Bailey Light Railway Society first started work on the site in 2012.
Volunteers are working hard and investing their own time and money to improve the security of our storage facilities to avoid any repeat visits from thieves and vandals.
Click the Donate button below and use your PayPal account or credit/debit card.
If more money is raised than is needed to purchase the replacement engine parts for 21282, we will put any additional funds towards a full service and repaint of the locomotive once it is running. We are also aiming to purchase a set of traction batteries for the Wingrove & Rogers WR8 battery-electric locomotive owned by the Society.
Disclaimer: Whilst the Lea Bailey Light Railway Society is a not-for-profit organisation, we are not a Registered Charity in the United Kingdom. Your donation will be used at the discretion of the Society’s officers to further the aims of our projects.
Volunteers at a heritage mine railway on the Gloucestershire-Herefordshire border have been left without motive power after thieves broke in and stole parts from two diesel engines.
Lea Bailey Light Railway Society operates the mine and associated railway system at Bailey Level in the Forest of Dean which is also home to several small independent iron and coal mines known as Freemines, operated under an ancient right granted by King Edward I.
A Lister JK6 coupled to a generator set which was stored awaiting restoration has been stripped of several parts but the real blow was the removal of the rocker covers and rockers from the 3-cylinder Deutz engine fitted to Motor Rail locomotive № 21282.
This 58-year old locomotive is known affectionately as “The Simplex” — a nickname derived from its patented two-speed gearbox design — and has been an indispensible workhorse since it arrived at Lea Bailey in 2012.
Wagons containing minerals and waste materials are moved by hand on the underground section of the railway, but a powerful locomotive is needed to shunt heavy loads including the two-ton Eimco 12B rocker shovel loader which is a popular exhibit at the Society’s open days.
Volunteers now have a race against time to source replacement parts to get № 21282 back into working order for the next Open Weekend on 18th & 19th May. Other items that have been taken include the starter battery & leads, coupling pins & chains, air filter, and a number of D-shackles.
Anyone with information is asked to contact email@example.com or report to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Due to recent unforseen events the Open Weekend has been postponed — watch this space for details…
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.