Whilst the rest of the country was in lockdown, members of the Lea Bailey Light Railway Society were working behind the scenes on ambitious plans to extract and process a rare mineral from the Bailey Level mine.
During a routine mine inspection, a rich deposit of Coprolite was discovered in a partially-collapsed side working just off the main level. After work to stabilise the collapse, a partnership was soon formed with a local manufacturer of garden fertiliser to process the Coprolite ore into a consumer product at a new site inside a disused quarry on Wigpool Common.
To avoid transporting the ore by road on the narrow lanes around Wigpool a scheme was devised to move the ore by rail, utilising a new narrow gauge railway laid on existing forestry tracks. The project will be known as Rail Loop F with the “F” representing Fertiliser and also the Forest under which it is mined.
On 31st March 2021, approval was granted by the Mines And New Underground Railways Executive to begin construction. The ore will be drilled and blasted by trained Nonex operatives before being loaded into wagons using an Eimco 12B rocker shovel loader. The society would like to thank the Association of Rocker Shovel Experts for undertaking training and certification for this machine as well as providing servicing manuals.
An ore conveyor will move the coprolite up the steep incline to the forestry track above the mine entrance, where it will be loaded into wagons for the journey along Rail Loop F to the processing plant. The wagons will be hauled using the Continuous Rope And Pulley system, similar to the cable-hauled “creeper” utilised by the Arthur & Edward Colliery in Lydbrook many years ago.
Once the ore reaches the processing plant, it will be crushed to a fine powder by a set of Cornish Stamps along with dried organic silt from Wigpool Water Works. This Partially Oricaceous Organic Powder will then be mixed with a top-secret blend of natural fertilisers derived from plant and animal sources. These ingredients will be obtained from local farms to minimise the impact of road transport. The blend will then be stabilised using a proprietary formula to create Mineral Infused Liquid Fertiliser which is to be sold to consumers through a network of local distributors. The end product is designed to be diluted with water as a plant food supplement, suitable for both ornamental and food crops.
Professor Owen Lee and Dr. Joe King of the Sharlston Hill Institute of Technology for mineral analysis
Councillor April Fuller for her invaluable assistance with the statutory planning process
Mapping services by the Ordnance Survey with route overlay by Amos E. Wolfe
During the lockdown, individual volunteers have been visiting the railway for regular site checks, and so far no problems have been found.
Travel restrictions are being eased in Wales from Monday 6th July, and as some of our core group of volunteers travel to us from over the border, the Chairman is considering re-starting volunteer working parties from Sunday 12 July 2020.
We are currently consulting Government guidelines and drawing up a risk assessment and a set of guidelines for the various tasks that can be carried out on the railway whilst maintaining appropriate social distancing.
This year our Autumn Open Day will be a low-key affair as we only have one locomotive in operation and no working compressor to run the Eimco 12B and 24 rocker shovels and 401 air locomotive. Motor Rail “Simplex” 21282 will be available for demonstration trains and our volunteers will be on hand to give progress updates on our work at the mine.
Please aim to visit us between 11:00am and 3:00pm.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.