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Category: From the Archives

Posts that have been created from the content of our old website, dating back to the early days of Lea Bailey Light Railway.

New Passing Loop ?>

New Passing Loop

Testing the finished loop
Testing the finished loop passing loop with SImplex 21282 and Hunslet 7446

On 15th June we used Jack’s Land Rover to haul the two prefabricated Y points out of Euroclydon tunnel, where they had been rusting away propped up against one side of the tunnel. Then on 22nd June Pat drove his Land Rover up from Devon, on the way collecting a 2 axle trailer from Chris at Old Sodbury. With a Tirfor winch the points were hauled onto the trailer and moved to Lea Bailey (the pressed steel sleepers of the two sets of points had locked together and we could not separate them, so the two were loaded as one item!) When we had an excavator at Lea Bailey over the first weekend in July, we used it to separate the two sets of points. And then started thinking about how to use them. After some thought, a run-round loop seemed to be the best option as it would give use much improved flexibility in use of locos and wagons by being able to shunt them around without so much pushing by hand.

So in August we started building up the soil level either side of the track where we were going to lay the loop and also experimented with the jim crow from Clearwell to see how easy it would be to bend the rails required for the loop. It was easier than expected, although the 35lb/yd rails that we have are probably the heaviest we can do with the jim crow that we used. (The 35lb rails were from the stock that we unearthed earlier in the culvert by the mine site boundary.)

Then over the following two weeks we stocked up with sleepers from the stack in Euroclydon tunnel, and new bolts and second hand fishplates from Alan Keef. The point operating arms were straightened and point blades made operable. Concrete was cleaned off the points.

Finally on 24th August we started taking up the track where the loop was to be laid and put the first set of points in place. By the end of the day two pairs of straight rails had also been laid. By the 26th the second set of points was in place and one side of the loop had been laid (but not yet spiked to the sleepers or fish-plated). On 1st September the final rails were laid and we tested it with the push trolley. In a couple of places the gauge was slightly out, and was adjusted with a sledgehammer. Over the following two weeks, the rails were spiked to the sleepers and on the 12th Gareth, the blacksmith from Longhope, came and cut holes for the fish-plate bolts to enable fishplating to be completed. After a final check of the track, both tracks of loop were tested with both locos and some wagons a week before the open day. Since then one damaged and worn point blade has been replaced with a new one cut from a piece of 35lb rail (the points are otherwise slightly smaller rail section).

Now the loop is proving useful and is used almost every time we have the locos running.

Open Day September 2013 ?>

Open Day September 2013

Attempting to start the Hunslet
Pat Clifford attempting to start Hunslet flameproof locomotive 7446

On 18th September enlarging of the car park at Lea Bailey was completed. It looked enormous — an estimated 16 cars could comfortably be fitted in. Way too large, surely? But on Saturday 21st, it was full to overflowing, with at least 7 cars parked on the edge of the road. So the sales team on the stand at Alan Keef had obviously been very persuasive, helped no doubt by the flyer handed out to visitors to Alan Keef’s site.

What did they see at Lea Bailey? Not as much as we had hoped, as the Hunslet (HE7446) refused to start. One of the group, Pat Clifford, who stopped off for the day on his way home to Devon from a holiday in Scotland, spent all day working on it. He attracted quite an audience at times, particularly when he used the compressor to charge up the loco’s air reservoir and then the air starter to try and get the engine going. After checking over the fuel and the exhaust systems, he decided that the problem was the exhaust conditioner, which was out of water and also heavily sooted up. At least at the end of the day we knew what needed doing.

Meanwhile the Simplex was as reliable as ever, driven by Ben Elvey who was shunting wagons around. And at the end of the day the new run-round loop proved its value in enabling the loco to take wagons one or two at a time to their correct locations for the site to be secured.

While all of this activity was going on, Jen was doing a brisk trade providing refreshments, handing out leaflets, selling booklets — and bricks! Several visitors were interested in some of the old bricks lying around the site (having been brought in some years ago as hardcore). So they were told that there was no charge for the bricks, but a donation to Society funds would be appreciated.

Our volunteers seemed to spend all day talking to many interesting people, telling them what we had done, what our plans and hopes were, and answering their questions.

Open Day at Alan Keef Ltd — September 2013 ?>

Open Day at Alan Keef Ltd — September 2013

Passenger train
Passenger train on demonstration line at Alan Keef Ltd

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:

  1. (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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Welsh Highland Railway 597mm gauge Hunslet (901/1906) ‘Russell’ is under long term restoration.
  5. This metre gauge 0-4-0 tram loco (Henschel 5276/1899) 4 ‘Rur’ is a new arrival.
  6. 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’.
Road making at Welland Steam Rally ?>

Road making at Welland Steam Rally

Tipping wagons of crushed stone for road making

We had been invited to be part of a road making demonstration at Welland Steam Rally on 26th – 28th July 2013. This involved our Simplex shuttling up and down a short length of temporary track hauling stone (from a steam-driven stone crusher) to the road head where a steam roller ‘did the business’. The Welland showground is a number of large fields in the lea of the Malvern Hills, a beautiful location with plenty of space for ‘working steam’ to go through its paces.

Previously we collected some track panels to use on the occasion and on 23rd July 2013, we transferred the track, Simplex and wagons to Welland in preparation for the event.  Rob Dickinson attended on the Saturday to make a record of the operation.

The demonstration was well organised and very popular with and appreciated by the visitors. The Ruston Proctor portable engine provided constant power for the WS Barron stone crusher. Unfortunately, although it had worked on Friday and would work again on Sunday, the Ruston Bucyrus crane was not operational and most of the stone was shifted using wheelbarrows, extremely hard work up hill in the warm sunshine. However, trains were run from time to time as can be seen, although it wasn’t much fun loading them!

Video Clips

Preparing for Welland Steam Rally (part 2) ?>

Preparing for Welland Steam Rally (part 2)

Unloading continues
Unloading rolling stock at Welland Steam Rally site

We have been invited to be part of a road making demonstration at Welland Steam Rally on 26th – 28th July 2013. This will involve our Simplex shuttling up and down a short length of temporary track hauling stone (from a steam-driven stone crusher) to the road head where a steam roller will ‘do the business’.

Previously we collected some track panels to use on the occasion. On 23rd July 2013, we transferred the track, Simplex and wagons to Welland in preparation for the event. As usual transport was provided by Ian Harrison.

Once at Welland, we unloaded carefully, first was the wagon with the track. As the run was downhill to the crusher we installed our one set of buffers here and then connected a couple more track panels. There followed the Simplex and the tipper wagons and once the rail wagon was lifted onto the track we were in business.

It sounds quite simple propelling panels up and bolting them together but these were of the home made variety with welded steel plates holding the rails with irregular spacings and holes for the fishplates. It took several hours before the job was done and a test train could be run.

The final pictures show three of the prize exhibits for the show:

  1. An Aveling and Porter 8 ton roller which will be used in our road making demonstration.
  2. An unusual American traction engine – basically a converted portable.
  3. A superb Foster showman’s engine.

Next: read about the event itself

Preparing for Welland Steam Rally (part 1) ?>

Preparing for Welland Steam Rally (part 1)

Arrival at Lea Bailey
Temporary track panels arriving at Lea Bailey

We have been invited to be part of a road making demonstration at Welland Steam Rally on 26th – 28th July 2013. This will involve our Simplex shuttling up and down a short length of temporary track hauling stone (from a steam-driven stone crusher) to the road head where a steam roller will ‘do the business’.

For the occasion we have been offered the loan of some 40 metres of lightweight track which we have collected from a private railway near Gloucester; of course we took the opportunity to look at this little gem. Our trackwork appeared on a small wagon propelled by a Clayton battery electric locomotive. The owner is a Lister enthusiast and in addition to 3 small diesel locomotives he has this delightful ‘Auto Truck’ (42019/1955) perfect for shunting small yards — there’s another one pre-WW2 here awaiting full restoration.

At Lea Bailey there was some shunting to do before the track could be loaded onto a flat wagon while stored on site. Before the event we have to check we have sufficient fishplates and bolts as we have inherited a couple of similar sections of our own.

Next: see what happened when the track and rolling stock were delivered to Welland

Tipper Wagon Delivery ?>

Tipper Wagon Delivery

On 22nd June 2013 we organised the move of a wagon from the south end of Hawthorns Tunnel, Drybrook to Lea Bailey. While not insubstantial, it was small enough to pull out with Jack’s Land Rover and mount on a trailer winched up by Pat’s Land Rover. Apart from the enforced diversion via Mitcheldean, everything went perfectly and you can also enjoy the proceedings in the video clip below.

A second similar wagon followed the next day and once we have opened up the tipper doors, these will be ideal for laying ballast.

First run of the Hunslet ?>

First run of the Hunslet

First drive
First drive of Hunslet 7446 at Lea Bailey

Ian Harrison’s truck made good speed to Lea Bailey and the minor items were unloaded first and shunted away by the Simplex. The Hunslet soon joined them and there was plenty of time to run it up and down and confirm, as expected, that it had no problems with the trackwork which had received considerable attention in the last few months.

Special thanks again go to the Wrights at Clearwell who have entrusted first their MotorRail Simplex and now their Hunslet with us.

New Arrivals 2 ?>

New Arrivals 2

On 8th April 2013 it was time to call Ian Harrison’s special lorry into action again. Our Hunslet mines locomotive was now in full working order and was loaded up first. We then squeezed in a rusty manrider, a hydraulic jack, part of a set of points and a small flat wagon to make the most of the opportunity. Once again, Ray Wright who had started the Lea Bailey project some years back was there to watch.

Next: see what happened when the Hunslet arrived at Lea Bailey

Euroclydon Tunnel ?>

Euroclydon Tunnel

North portal
North portal of Hawthorns Tunnel

More correctly know as Hawthorns Tunnel, this 638 yard tunnel is normally securely locked at both ends to prevent casual access. We have been allowed special access to the tunnel to check on the long term possibility of running trains through it. I would say “again” but it apart from the odd engineering train it is almost as new and not smoke stained as normal. Under the pictures is an account of working in the tunnel more than 60 years ago.

Admiralty munition storage facility,
Hawthorns (Euroclydon) tunnel, Drybrook

Yesterday afternoon with Rob and Yuehong Dickinson, I visited Edgar Tippins of Lea Bailey, Herefordshire at the invitation of his daughter, Caroline Probert. The purpose of the visit was to hear and record his memories of working in the tunnel in 1947 and 1948, when the Admiralty was still using it for storage of munitions. Mr. Tippins was born in 1924 and has lived in the area all of his life, having been born at home in Drybrook. As he worked as a miner in the Arthur and Edward pit, Lydbrook, for seven years he could have registered as a freeminer, but he didn’t bother.

In the Admiralty facility he was one of a team of about a dozen workmen, most of whom were older than him, so he could well be the last living member of the team. There was a foreman in charge of the team, which was under the control of a manager in Malvern who visited the facility each week to hand out wage packets. The facility was used to store depth charges, torpedoes and mines, received from ROF Swynnerton, Staffs, (No 5 filling factory, which seems to have been connected with the Royal Navy, although producing a wide range of munitions) and ROF Glascoed, Gwent, (which produced sea mines for the Royal Navy). These were brought to the facility on standard gauge trains, via the GWR branch from Bullo Pill (near Newnham) to Cinderford. The trains were normally of up to seven or eight assorted wagons, which could be open wagons with the load covered by a tarpaulin or vans, and were hauled by a small engine, presumably a GWR tank engine. When the Admiralty took over the tunnel, they had laid concrete slabs through the tunnel and installed a narrow gauge railway (widely reported to be 18in gauge) – there is a single picture in Pope and Karau’s Wild Swan book on the Forest of Dean Branch. The munitions were transferred from the standard gauge to narrow gauge wagons in a barn-like transfer shed with platforms for the two gauges at the same height for easy transfer. There were three grounded coach bodies for the staff’s use – these included some female clerical staff.

The narrow gauge track ran into the tunnel on the right hand side and went the full length to the far end. At each end of the tunnel was a blast wall. Wagons on the narrow gauge were hauled by one of two battery electric locomotives, normally one being in use while the batteries of the other were being charged. Edgar’s work included checking and topping up the fluid level in the lead acid batteries. Each locomotive was approximately 3ft 6in wide and 8ft long. One was apparently taller than the other, and Edgar felt that the taller one seemed to be top-heavy. The munitions were transported on small (i.e. 4 wheel) flat wagons, not more than five or six at a time (one munition per wagon, up to 5 or 6 wagons at a time). He thought that the gauge was 2ft rather than 18in, but admitted that he wasn’t sure.

At each end of the tunnel an area was enclosed with ‘unclimbable’ steel fencing (rusting remains of which still survive in situ). Outside each tunnel portal was a hut for a security guard (apparently manned 24 hours a day, as there was a night watchman as well as the daytime guard). The purpose of the guard seems to have been to prevent unauthorised access to the tunnel as beyond the hut but within the fenced perimeter at the northern end of the tunnel was a larger shed known as the ‘lab’. In the tunnel there were concrete plinths on the left hand side (when facing north) to raise the storage racks above the wet floor of the tunnel. On these plinths were mounted vertical steel girders to support the racks on which the munitions were stored. (The plinths with mounting points for the girders plus a few of the girders are still obvious in the tunnel.) Torpedoes and depth charges were stored towards the Drybrook end with mines stored towards the other end of the tunnel. All munitions were stored without fuses, mainly in sealed wooden boxes. The whole tunnel was illuminated by small electric light bulbs.

There was apparently a regular movement of munitions into and out of the facility. The team also were responsible for routine care of the munitions, including removing old protective paint and re-painting. Tools used were brass, to prevent any sparks being caused.

This is my summary of over an hour’s conversation with Edgar as he remembered working in the Euroclydon tunnel. (Note – the tunnel is variously known as either Euroclydon, after the house above it which was built by a member of the well-known Brain family of colliery owners, or Hawthorns, after the name of the area above the tunnel.) The conversation was recorded by Yuehong on video.

Rob Needham, 4th October 2012