For many years on a Saturday in the second half of September, the workshops of Alan Keef Limited at Lea Lines have been thrown open to the public. The Keef specialty is narrow gauge steam overhauls but they also do repairs, rebuilds, new construction, rolling stock and internal combustion locomotives — they have acquired the business and goodwill of Motor Rail (UK Simplex).
This year the Open Day fell on 21st September and the evening before, some half-dozen of us from the LBLRS attended the associated quiz and curry evening at Lea Village Hall. The participants were almost entirely those who were exhibiting, we weren’t totally humiliated and it was a thoroughly enjoyable social evening. Possibly the best part was the local Mitcheldean Bespoke Ale at a mouth-watering £2 a pint.
The event was originally intended as a public relations exercise for Lea residents which raised money for local good causes. These days it attracts large numbers of enthusiasts who come to see the steam locomotives which are going through or have just come through ‘works’. This year there was a particularly interesting set which apart from the Welsh Highland Railway’s ‘Russell’ included a WW1 Baldwin and a German tram locomotive which was rebuilt as a fireless and is now to be fitted with a new boiler and returned to its original condition.
Like the two Krauss locomotives which had come over from Holland for repair, the tram was metre gauge. As usual, there were two small 2′ gauge steam locomotives giving rides on the demonstration line. Inside the main workshop apart from the temporary metallic residents there were stands from narrow gauge railway societies and book sellers.
We had our stand here (barely visible in the second picture) and apart from the model inherited from Clearwell, we had booklets, leaflets, post cards and a display of photographs. For two and a half hours, we fielded numerous enquiries, encouraged visits to our own open day and took donations from visitors.
The pictures above (courtesy of James Waite except picture 2) show:
- (top of page) Andrew Barclay 610mm gauge ‘Jack’ (1871/1925) worked turn and turn about with ‘Peter Pan’ on a passenger train on the U-shaped demonstration line.
- Graham Morris’s 610mm gauge Kerr Stuart 0-4-0T (4256/1922) ‘Peter Pan’ shunting two locomotives at the back of the works. On the left is Patrick Keef’s Bagnall 0-4-0ST ‘Woto’ (2133/1924) with its unusual marine boiler, current under a slow restoration, on the right is Alan Keef’s vertical boiler 0-4-0T ‘Taffy’ (30/1990).
- Harrogate Gas Works 610mm gauge Thomas Green 0-6-2ST (441/1908) is under restoration for the South Tynedale Railway. Our stand is behind on the left.
- Welsh Highland Railway 597mm gauge Hunslet (901/1906) ‘Russell’ is under long term restoration.
- This metre gauge 0-4-0 tram loco (Henschel 5276/1899) 4 ‘Rur’ is a new arrival.
- Four locomotives were in steam, the two behind are metre gauge Krauss Munich 0-4-0Ts 5472/1908 (front) and 3142/1894 (rear), both of which were restored here. The others are ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Jack’.