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.
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.
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.