Due to the heavy snow which fell in and around the Forest of Dean from the early hours on 10th December 2017, our usual Sunday working party was cancelled. Local bus operator Stagecoach West suspended all services in the area, and the narrow roads we use to access the site were untreated and there was a risk of getting our cars stuck. We hope to pay a visit in the next few days when the roads are a little better but before all the snow has melted. Meanwhile here are some photos from the archives, taken by Rob Needham in January 2013.
🌳 One disadvantage of having a railway on the edge of the Forest of Dean, is that every year the track gets covered in leaves. As well as making the track slippery for locomotives, the leaves form layers which trap moisture and can cause our wooden sleepers to rot prematurely. Shifting all of these leaves by hand would be an almost never-ending task and it would not be possible to get them out from every nook and cranny in the ballast.
Since obtaining the wagon-mounted compressor (formerly at Statfold Barn Railway), we have mainly used it to power our Eimco 12B rocker shovel and 401 locomotive. Using some standard fittings and length of copper pipe, Nick has made a blower gun which has come in handy for several of our restoration projects by removing dust, grit and detritus from locomotives and wagons alike. With Ben on 21282 providing the motive power and Richard wielding the pointy end, we were able to clear the running line, loop and long siding in about half an hour. Our young volunteer James was able to clear a large pile from outside the shed using a wheelbarrow whilst Nick worked on the controller of the WR8.
⚖ There are some things that are just too heavy to be moved with a Tirfor winch, and the Lea Bailey Light Railway has a large collection of these things. Despite the term “light railway” being part of our name, a lot of the old mining equipment in our collection is of a heavy-duty nature and therefore requires a little more than man-power for mechanical handling. The first items to be moved were two sets of 3-car articulated manriders, which would have originally been used to transport miners underground from the bottom of the shaft to the working face. Using this method instead of requiring them to walk saved time to allow more productive time per shift, and also allowed each miner to put more effort into mining rather than walking. The long-term aim is to restore one set using the other as a source of spare parts, with leftover steelwork being made available for other projects.
👷 Another ex-mining rail vehicle consists of two 4-wheeled bogies which were originally connected in the centre and used for carrying heavy materials. It is envisaged that the running gear such as wheels and bearings can be re-used to make a couple of useful works wagons for the railway. We also have a different kind of manrider, which would have used a 4-wheeled chassis or short bogie vehicle, but currently consists of just the top section. It is hoped to mount this on one of the old wagon bases from Euroclydon Tunnel once the frame has been restored.
⭕️ By far the largest and heaviest objects are the two halves of the old winding wheel from Sharlston Colliery in Yorkshire. This was actually the “spare” which was kept on site in case of any damage or mishap to the original, which was used to haul coal and transport miners up and down the shaft. After the colliery closed in 1993 one half of the original was mounted on a brick and concrete plinth as a memorial to all the miners who had worked there.
📅 The eventual aim (subject to planning) is to mount the two halves of the wheel — one on each side of the entrance — in a similar fashion to the one at Sharlston. In the short term, however, the site looks a lot neater, and we can now start work on the next phase of clearing the top of the old mine tip. This in turn will allow a small workshop and more siding space to be installed, and bring about further restoration of our railway and mining heritage.
It has become a tradition in recent years to produce a calendar highlighting some of the events and milestones that have passed in the previous year. Twelve photographs have been selected from 2016, printed in full colour on glossy card, and spiral bound complete with holes for hanging. The cost is £7.00 each, plus postage which varies depending on location. Collection in person is free of charge. To order yours please use the contact details below.
- Rob Needham: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Forest of Dean has always been a “working forest” and that means at some point something has to be done with all the trees to prevent the whole area reverting back to the wild. To that end, the Forestry Commission has an ongoing programme of thinning out mature trees in order to give the others more room to grow, and also allowing daylight to reach the forest floor which in turn encourages plant growth.
A local contractor has been using the Lea Bailey site as a base for part of this work and the trackbed of the former Mitcheldean Road & Forest of Dean Junction Railway is an ideal roadway to gain access to the woods beyond. Our volunteers have relaid a section of track with steel sleepers and replaced the fishplates with one bolt per pair (compared to the usual four) for ease of removal and re-fitting. This means the large forestry machines can cross the track without causing damage. It will probably prove useful in other ways, for example as a handy unloading point for visiting locomotives at open days.
The Forest of Dean — and indeed the Lea Bailey area — gets a mention in the famous Diary of Samuel Pepys, as this extract from 20th June 1662 shows:
“Up by four or five o’clock, and to the office, and there drew up the agreement between the King and Sir John Winter about the Forest of Dean; and having done it, he came himself (I did not know him to be the Queen’s secretary before, but observed him to be a man of fine parts); and we read it, and both like it well.
That done, I turned to the Forest of Dean, in Speed’s Maps, and there he showed me how it lies; and the Lea-Bayly, with the great charge of carrying it to Lydney, and many other things worth my knowing; and I do perceive that I am very short in my business by not knowing many times the geographical part of my business.”
Our volunteers have not been idle whilst this work was going on (although it was fun to watch the forestry machines at work on our tea breaks) as more progress has been made on the siding. One of the large wagons with side-opening doors has proved useful for ballasting although when fully loaded it is rather heavy! Being somewhat less than fully-charged, our WR5 needed a helping hand on the steepest part of the track. Several large rocks which were getting in the way have been broken into smaller pieces and shifted by rail to a rapidly-growing stack at the end of the line.