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 the hot weather and volunteers taking time off for other activities, there has been no major progress to report during the months following the Spring Open Weekend.
The National Association of Mining History Organisations (NAMHO) Annual Conference was held in the Forest of Dean from 1st to 3rd June 2018. Delegates had the choice of attending a series of lectures or signing up for one or more trips to various mines around the Forest. On the Saturday and Sunday of the event, we welcomed two different groups for a rare underground visit into the mine. Our visitors were also able to watch a demonstration of rock drilling by Richard with his Holman Silver 3 rock drill which produced some loose rock to be shovelled up by the Eimco 12B.
Work has continued on ballasting the new track and points and at the time of writing this post was almost complete. There is more track to be laid onto the old mine tip to link up with the isolated track section where the Eimco 24 is parked. This will use up the remaining ballast pile.
Not much to report in the last couple of weeks as we have been visited by the Beast from the East with several inches of snow falling in the Forest of Dean and surrounding areas. Before the snow came in we did see a nice bit of sunshine and managed to get some painting done. The container and tank have been painted green to help them blend in with the surrounding woodland, and the entrance barrier has received a rub-down and another coat of paint before new vinyl lettering is applied.
On Sunday 11th March our young volunteer James walked down and captured these photos of the railway and mine under the snow.
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.
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.