Since the early days of Lea Bailey Light Railway, our site has been home to a variety of wagons, some of which are more useful than others. Unfortunately as with many of the items preserved here, we don’t know the history of these two wagons — they appear to have been fitted with side hoppers which had subsequently been welded up. One of the pair had been modified by our volunteers by grinding off the weld and freeing off the bolts and had seen some use as a ballast hopper. However due to a combination of the long wheelbase, thin flanges, and the fact these wagons are slightly out of gauge, they are prone to derailment (especially on points) and as such had been taken out of use.
As a temporary measure they had been parked off the end of the running line with the intention of finding a more permanent home. Sadly one wagon had sunk in the mud and the other had been pushed over by some unwelcome visitors. On a dreary day in January the decision was made to move them.
Using a Tirfor winch and a handy beech tree (no shortage of these at Lea Bailey) the downed wagon was slowly pulled upright. The Simplex was used to gently pull it along the ground towards the end of the running line and into a space previously cleared of rocks. With the Stop Board (temporarily) removed and some short pieces of rail in position, a hi-lift jack was used to get all four wheels above the track before gently lowering the wagon and allowing the Simplex to pull it along. The Hudson easy-turnout was pressed into service to place the wagon onto a side track until more volunteers were available to move it somewhere else.
The second wagon was already upright but proved more difficult to move due to being up to its axles in mud. Once the Tirfor had pulled it out the Simplex was once again brought into use to get it close to the running line, with several handy rocks being used to prop the temporary rails up out of the mud. This wagon was carefully taken through the loop and down the new track onto the mine tip before being carefully moved using the traverser onto another piece of temporary track.
Once the warmer weather arrives, we are hoping to clean up and paint this wagon and display it on our mine tip, similar to the wagons on display at Clearwell Caves which are visible to drivers and passengers in vehicles passing by on the nearby road.
Most of the Heritage Railways in the UK have a period during the winter when they carry out maintenance, and ours is no exception, although we don’t have any scheduled passenger services to suspend during this time. During our last public Open Weekend in September 2016 one of our wagons developed a fault with the wheels siezing up, and had been upturned at the lineside awaiting investigation. Two volunteers, Nick and Richard, waved their magic spanners over the axles and fitted some new grease-nipples to the sealed axle and bearings, before adding some fresh grease and turning the wheels by hand until they rotated freely. Once rolled over right-way-up and re-railed with the help of Nick’s hi-lift jack, the wagon was given a run up and down the line with the Simplex and can now be pushed along easily by one person.
During the restoration to working order of the Eimco 401 compressed-air locomotive, one minor fault that needed ironing out was the ride height of the front wheelset. Each axlebox has two coil springs which give a small amount of up and down movement over uneven track. However, after its original working life and several years of sitting out of use the springs have lost some of their resilience. Ideally we would replace them with a brand new set but we don’t appear to have an Eimco dealership down in Cinderford, and working to a budget a brand new set would use up valuable funds. Add to this the time taken to manufacture a custom set of springs, and the necessity to have the locomotive stored in its stripped-down state, the most elegant solution was to fit spring spacers — a tried and tested modification used by many 4×4 off road vehicle owners to increase ride height.
Four pieces were cut from the end of a length of round bar and de-burred using a file before being inserted into the spring pockets. Nick’s hi-lift jack once again proving useful in getting the chassis of the locomotive to a suitable height for the job. The new batch of wooden chocks can be spotted in several of the photographs, with their custom paint job provided by a garden colour shade called Pick ‘n’ Mix which makes them easy to spot in the green of the Forest or the grey of the stone ballast.
Work on excavating the old mine tip continues, with several more loads of large rocks being moved to the end of the line using the WR8 battery-electric locomotive “Murphy” and 4-wheeled flat wagon. The remainder consisting of smaller stones and dust is being moved using a Hudson v-skip wagon and tipped next to the passing loop to extend the embankment which will allow an additional set of points to be installed. This in turn will allow a permanent track to be laid onto the top of the mine tip once the temporary track is no longer in use.
During our recent September Open Weekend, our volunteers took the opportunity to work on the temporary track which extends on to the top of the old mine tip. With four locomotives in operation (Simplex, Lister rail-truck, WR8 and Eimco 401) there was plenty of activity for our visitors to see, including the first public run of the Eimco compressed-air locomotive. Saturday was the busiest day in terms of visitors due to the Steam Up at Alan Keef Ltd. in Lea, and much of the day was taken up with running trains in various configurations and with driver-training on the Simplex for new members.
Sunday was a quieter day and allowed more time for working on the railway, which nevertheless provided a number of interesting activities for our visitors to watch. It also allowed Rob, our resident photographer, to come out from behind the sales stand and take some footage (mainly video in this case) of the goings-on. With a higher-than-usual number of active volunteers on site, the Hudson v-skip was quickly loaded with rocks and transported to the far end of the line, where a second temporary track was laid, accessed by a new addition called an easy-turnout. Manufactured by Hudson, it is made from pressed steel and fits on top of the rails, allowing a wagon to ride up and balance itself over the central pivot, before being turned by hand and lowered onto another track at almost any angle — in our case 90° to the main line.
With the rockpile substantially reduced, there was space for another pair of rails to be added. Once laid and tested the wagon was refilled and emptied several times with the haulage being shared between all four locomotives, including the Simplex which is the heaviest currently on site.
On the following weekend we changed our usual working day from Sunday to Saturday, partly to allow a visit to The Brewery Tap afterwards to discuss the previous Open Weekend and to discuss plans for the next one (13th & 14th May 2017). Our volunteers split into two teams with one group shovelling silt out of the shed into a U-skip and hauling it off to be tipped using the WR8 battery-electric locomotive, with the other group loading rocks into the V-skip and using the Simplex. Two separate tip sites (one on either side of the main line) were accessed using the portable turntable.
Two videos were produced at the Open Weekend, the first from Saturday 17th September and the second from Sunday 18th. Both were filmed by Rob Needham.