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.
Following the New Year, our volunteers have returned to work on their projects at Lea Bailey. A recent working party was cancelled due to snow, the following week was wet, and a visit after Christmas was cancelled after two members came down with heavy colds. We are currently carrying out a light restoration on a large tub wagon which had previously been converted to a manrider, possibly at a coal mine, but like many of our items we are unsure of its origin.
The outside had previously been treated with a needle gun and wire wheel before painting with black bitumen, and today’s task was to work on the inside. During the work, we managed to find several old crisp packets and food wrappers, possibly from the miners’ lunch boxes many years ago.
Nick has also been working on the WR5. The battery box has been removed and work has started on removing the parts necessary to separate the frames from the running gear. This will allow a full internal inspection of the final drive and hopefully a repair to allow the locomotive to run again. Whilst it is stripped down we can also think about rubbing down parts and repainting them when the weather is a bit more favourable.
Some time ago, the Lea Bailey Light Railway arranged a wagon exchange. One of the Hudson u-skip wagons stored at Clearwell Caves was swapped with Brian Faulkner (owner of a private 2-foot gauge railway nearby) for a v-skip to be used at Lea Bailey. The tipper had seen better days, and in early 2016 a replacement skip was sourced from Alan Keef Ltd. and fitted as part of our Winter Works programme. The old skip was stored with the hope that it could be repaired and re-used in the future, along with the spare pedestals that came with the new skip.
Richard Dixon is another of our members who has his own 2-foot gauge railway, and had a Hudson skip chassis that he had purchased as part of a job lot and was surplus to his requirements. This was purchased by the society and stored awaiting repairs. Recently, it was decided to assemble the kit of parts into an operational wagon. Some new bolts were obtained and Nick fitted the pedestals to the wagon chassis and after a liberal application of oil to the wheel bearings it was propelled around the track to the mine entrance where the spare skip was in storage.
With the help of some old sleepers, the tipper body was rolled onto the chassis, and we now have another useful wagon in the fleet. We are planning to clean it up with a wire wheel and apply some black bitumen paint in order to protect it from further deterioration, and eventually the rusted parts of the chassis and skip will have some welding done. Another wagon being prepared for painting is the converted coal tub manrider, which was swept out by our new young volunteer James. We are also planning to clean up and paint some of the structures on site such as the shed, container and tank, so new members and volunteers are always welcome.
Most of the Heritage Railways in the UK have a period during the winter when they carry out maintenance, and ours is no exception, although we don’t have any scheduled passenger services to suspend during this time. During our last public Open Weekend in September 2016 one of our wagons developed a fault with the wheels siezing up, and had been upturned at the lineside awaiting investigation. Two volunteers, Nick and Richard, waved their magic spanners over the axles and fitted some new grease-nipples to the sealed axle and bearings, before adding some fresh grease and turning the wheels by hand until they rotated freely. Once rolled over right-way-up and re-railed with the help of Nick’s hi-lift jack, the wagon was given a run up and down the line with the Simplex and can now be pushed along easily by one person.
During the restoration to working order of the Eimco 401 compressed-air locomotive, one minor fault that needed ironing out was the ride height of the front wheelset. Each axlebox has two coil springs which give a small amount of up and down movement over uneven track. However, after its original working life and several years of sitting out of use the springs have lost some of their resilience. Ideally we would replace them with a brand new set but we don’t appear to have an Eimco dealership down in Cinderford, and working to a budget a brand new set would use up valuable funds. Add to this the time taken to manufacture a custom set of springs, and the necessity to have the locomotive stored in its stripped-down state, the most elegant solution was to fit spring spacers — a tried and tested modification used by many 4×4 off road vehicle owners to increase ride height.
Four pieces were cut from the end of a length of round bar and de-burred using a file before being inserted into the spring pockets. Nick’s hi-lift jack once again proving useful in getting the chassis of the locomotive to a suitable height for the job. The new batch of wooden chocks can be spotted in several of the photographs, with their custom paint job provided by a garden colour shade called Pick ‘n’ Mix which makes them easy to spot in the green of the Forest or the grey of the stone ballast.
Work on excavating the old mine tip continues, with several more loads of large rocks being moved to the end of the line using the WR8 battery-electric locomotive “Murphy” and 4-wheeled flat wagon. The remainder consisting of smaller stones and dust is being moved using a Hudson v-skip wagon and tipped next to the passing loop to extend the embankment which will allow an additional set of points to be installed. This in turn will allow a permanent track to be laid onto the top of the mine tip once the temporary track is no longer in use.