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.
Hopefully you have been keeping up-to-date with what is happening at Lea Bailey Light Railway by reading the regular updates on this website and on our Facebook Page — but now is your chance to come and see for yourself. With a compressor wagon now on site, our resident Eimco 12B rocker shovel will once again be put to work alongside a rock drill on the open air demonstration line to show how these machines would have worked underground.
The Eimco compressed-air locomotive 401-216 and Motor Rail 21282 will be in operation, with four different types of Wingrove & Rogers battery-electric locomotives on display — all at different stages of restoration. We are also hoping to demonstrate the large Eimco 24 rocker shovel each day at around 3:30pm. Don’t forget to visit our sales stand where refreshments will be available including home-made cakes. 🍰
As we said goodbye to the Beast from the East, work started once again on relaying the track that was lifted back in February. The first priority was to reinstate the curve which would allow the wagons parked in the mine to access the rest of the line. The two curved rails were put back in place with five new sleepers and with a minimal amount of packing to get the correct level, the fishplates were bolted together and the rails were spiked down.
The Simplex was then driven by Nick to collect the wagons, although the honour of the first “train” over the new section of track goes to our young volunteer James who pushed an empty Hudson skip wagon round from the mine to the passing loop to allow the shunting to take place. The flat wagon was still full of bricks which had been stockpiled for our recent retaining wall project. With these unloaded we could then proceed to the other end of the line to load up components for the set of points — but first: lunch!
Richard had been busy in the kitchen and using a recipe from the Cornish Pasty Association, had produced some traditional beef and vegetable pasties — they can’t be called “Cornish” because they weren’t made in Cornwall — and our hungry volunteers were happy to indulge in another mining tradition known as “snap, “bait” or “croust”. [Having tasted one I can confirm they taste just as good as the Cornish genuine article. — Ed.]
After lunch (washed down with a cup of tea) we loaded up the component parts of a set of points that we had purchased from the North Gloucestershire Railway at Toddington. Everything except the frog was transported in one load and laid roughly on some old sleepers. The frog was loaded by itself and the use of an extended coupling bar was necessary due to the overhang at each end of the wagon. With the frog in place everything was roughly aligned by eye. We are awaiting some longer sleepers for the construction of this point, and once they arrive we can start measuring everything and getting it together with the correct alignments.
The rest of the day was spent using up the end of a tin of green paint on the container and picking out bricks and rocks from the lineside after the digger had done its job.
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.
Following last week’s successful first move of the Eimco 24, our volunteers have turned their attention to the next project: renewing the section of track between the points outside the mine and the container. This section was laid when the railway was built in the mid-1990s and many of the wooden sleepers have rotted away after years of sitting in wet mud and mine waste. We have already completed a retaining wall to keep the edge of the embankment neat and tidy and to prevent erosion.
The original intent had been to start preparation works first, with track lifting to start the following week but as we had such a good turnout of volunteers, including Pat Clifford on a visit from Devon and Chris Crowley who braved the weather on his bicycle from Cinderford, a start was made and by the end of the day, most of the rails in this section had been lifted. It was questionable as to whether any of the fishplate bolts would come off easily (or at all) after over 20 years with no maintenance but Nick’s ¾”-drive socket set performed admirably, with a long extension bar being used to start the 30mm nuts on the heavy rail section.
At the end of the day, one curved section of track had been removed, and all of the straight rails with two exceptions: the last section which sits on a concrete pad and supports the rails coming out of the container; and the other being a removable track panel with metal sleepers which had been made to allow access by Forestry Commission contractors. These will be moved next time before the digger comes in to carry out the groundwork in preparation for ballast.
Since its arrival in November 2017 the Eimco 24 rocker shovel has been inspected and found to be in excellent mechanical condition, despite its flaky paint and rusty wheels. In January this year, the control levers were freed off with the aid of Nick’s large socket set and a generous spray of WD-40.
On Sunday 3rd February, replacement pneumatic hoses were fitted and temporarily held in place with cable ties. The air motors and runing gear had the oil filled up, and the drive chain was sprayed with WD-40 and given some attention with a hammer to loosen the links.
The temporary track which had previously been used as a loading ramp to the arrival of the Eimco 401 has now been dismantled, in preparation for our next project. The track between the mine points and the container will be completely re-laid with new sleepers and granite ballast. Whilst the track is lifted, the area leading down to the inspection pit will be re-graded and a new set of points will be added to allow access to a second track which will be laid afterwards.
Planning is under way for the next Open Day on 19th & 20th May 2018. We will have our compressor wagon on site. Our resident Eimco 12B rocker shovel will once again be put to work on the open air demonstration line to show how these machines would have worked underground. We are hoping that compressed air locomotive Issing Sid from Statfold Barn Railway will be able to visit again (subject to confirmation).
Resident locomotives Simplex № 21282 and Eimco 401-216 will be operating throughout the weekend, and four battery-electric locomotives will be on display along with a number of different types of wagons. Visitors can also try their hand at panning for gold. Refreshments including home-made cakes will be available.
For a taster of what to expect, you can watch Rob Needham’s YouTube Videos of the September 2017 Event:
Many other attractions can be found around the Forest of Dean, all within a half-hour drive of our site at Lea Bailey. A number of links can be found below.
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.
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.