🌳 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.
⌨ Following a little bit of tinkering behind the scenes, this website has moved to a new address using the new .fod.uk web domain to reflect our location in the Forest of Dean. Everything else should remain exactly the same — so if you spot any errors please inform the Webmaster.
The Eimco 24 is a larger version of our Eimco 12B rocker shovel which has been restored to working order at Lea Bailey Light Railway. This particular example has been stored outside for several years and is in need of restoration. Other than the operator’s platform and guard rail, the machine is complete. The air hoses and steel cables will need to be replaced with new ones and the bucket drive chain will require some work to free it off. Until our volunteers have had a chance to look closely at the condition of all the mechanical parts this Eimco 24 will remain as a static exhibit.
One interesting fact about our particular machine (which bears the number 45299) is that it has been converted to right-hand drive; most Eimco rocker shovels being built as left-hand drive models. We believe this was so that it could work with another machine in a wide tunnel to allow the two operators to work side-by-side.
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.
Rob Needham has created two YouTube videos from our recent Open Weekend on 16th & 17th September 2017. Our new arrival, a wagon-mounted compressor, supplied air for the Eimco 401 locomotive and 12B rocker shovel, as well as a rock drill which was demonstrated to visitors. Our resident Simplex 21282 was also in action with four battery-electric locomotives on display in varying states of restoration.
Our Open Weekends are an important source of revenue for the Railway’s projects. If you would like to help us then please consider becoming a member of the Lea Bailey Light Railway Society.
Planning is under way for the next Open Day on 16th & 17th September 2017. We will be welcoming a visiting locomotive in the form of Simplex № 8540 which was № 38 at Arnold’s in Leighton Buzzard before it was preserved.Update: Due to other commitments, the owner of 8540 will be unable to attend with the locomotive. We will have our new 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.
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.
Following the clearance of the mine tip area, a large quantity of partially-dressed stone has been stockpiled at the other end of the running line. Part of the planned work to utilise the flat area on top of the tip includes re-laying the track which leads to the container. Most of the sleepers will need replacement and some of the soil needs digging away to allow better drainage so the new sleepers won’t rot away like the old ones. To this end, our volunteers have started to construct a retaining wall to alow this embankment to be remodelled.
The ground has a well-compacted layer of road planings on top of the original mine waste which has hardened well after 100 years in-situ. Digging the top layer away allowed us to place some of the largest and flattest stones into a trench before adding mortar to hold them in place. On Sunday 25th June, the first course was laid with the aid of a string line to keep everything straight. In typical Forest of Dean fashion, blocks of different sizes will be used to build the wall. Once it reaches almost the desired height — just below rail level to allow ballast to be retained — a number of smaller stones will be used to make the top as level as possible. We are then planning to finish the top with a course of bricks (known as “rowlocks”) with a few “shiners” added as a feature. This means that some of the named bricks we have found at Lea Bailey will be incorporated into the wall with their writing on show.
A group of members from Lea Bailey Light Railway Society travelled up to the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways event Quirks & Curiosities II on the weekend of 28th April – 1st May. Our resident Eimco 401 “Whistling Pig” and “Issing Sid” from Statfold Barn Railway were in operation in Minffordd yard throughout the event. Following the Eimco’s return to Lea Bailey it was joined by Sid for our Spring Open Weekend on 13th-14th May.
Planning is under way for the next Open Day which will take place on 13th & 14th May 2017. We will be welcoming “Issing Sid” from Statfold Barn Railway for a return visit after our popular Running on Air event in 2015.
Amongst the residents that we hope to have running will be the Eimco 401 compressed-air locomotive, Wingrove & Rogers WR8 battery-electric locomotive, and the Eimco 401 rocker shovel which will be operating on its own special display line with a public viewing area. For a taste of what is to come, see Rob Dickinson’s YouTube video from our 2015 event.
Several other events and 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 Grand Tidy Up in February, we decided to take the opportunity to do some groundworks around the site. We are certainly not short of shovels, nor of enthusiasm, but the nature of the work to be done would have taken several months of Sundays, so we enlisted the help of a mini-digger with a skilled operator for the day. Your generous donations at our Open Weekends and annual Membership Subscriptions make projects like this possible.
One important job was to level the top of the mine tip area following the removal of a large quantity of stone and the re-positioning of the two halves of the ex-Sharlston pit wheel. This will allow better access for HGVs and more space for our volunteers to park their cars on a Sunday. A hole was also dug in the centre of the steel ramps giving us the start of an inspection pit, although we will still need to do some work later to line the sides and bottom, as well as putting in some basic drainage. A future project will see a second track running down from the points outside the mine to the top of the tip which will pass across the pit.
As well as some general tidying up and levelling of the ground, the digger was also put to use in widening the gulley at the Southern end of the line. This area was previously used to hide a stockpile of rail (now recovered) and we intend to lay some rails into here in order to demonstrate our Eimco 12B rocker shovel on open days. The bank leading to the top of this area has been graded to allow visitors safe access to watch the Eimco in action.
Editor’s Note: This post was first written as a draft, but only published in December 2017. It has been backdated to the beginning of March, when the events described took place.