Some good progress was made on Sunday 19th August as two panels of track (complete with ballast) were laid from the new set of points towards the inspection pit next to the container. The rail is of a heavier section than the usual 35lb/yd found on the rest of the railway — it matches the track on the line towards the container — so putting a slight curve into the second section using the Jim Crow was quite challenging.
The next section of track to be laid will go straight through the current pile of ballast, but we should use most of it on this new section so hopefully not too much double-handling will be necessary.
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.
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.
Getting the big corrugated tin shed at Lea Bailey into a fit condition to be used as a workshop is somewhat of a long-term project, so a quicker way of getting somewhere reasonably secure and out of the weather is to get another container. Where to put it? If it was placed next to the existing container, then some of the surplus rails and bits of steel could be used to bridge across between the two and make an undercover area for other essential activities, like enjoying tea and cake on a Sunday afternoon.
With the two halves of the pit wheel out of the way, a further investigation of the top of the old mine tip revealed a large quantity (several lorry-loads) of stone, ranging from dust and pebbles right up to boulders weighing over a ton. It’s not a leftover from the days when Bailey Level was mined for gold or iron — it’s the wrong kind of rock to be local to the immediate area — but we suspect it to be quarry waste which was brought in during the early days of the Lea Bailey project to be used either as hardcore or as building material. We intend to utilise it for both of these purposes!
Because most of the stones are dressed on at least one face, we want to turn the rockpile into a stockpile and use it for future building projects. We have a railway which serves us well for moving bulky materials, but it doesn’t quite reach the loading area. Lacking a spare set of points, we decided to utilise the removable section of track which was put in place to allow Forestry Commission contractors to access the woods around Lea Bailey for clearance work last April. Over a couple of weekends, a curved section of track (also designed to be removable) was made up using some steel sleepers and the Jim crow. It rests on wooden sleepers set into the ground but it is not spiked down, allowing it to be lifted out once the fishplates have been unbolted. The rest of the temporary track leading to the rock piles will be left in place until the works have been completed.