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.
⚖ There are some things that are just too heavy to be moved with a Tirfor winch, and the Lea Bailey Light Railway has a large collection of these things. Despite the term “light railway” being part of our name, a lot of the old mining equipment in our collection is of a heavy-duty nature and therefore requires a little more than man-power for mechanical handling. The first items to be moved were two sets of 3-car articulated manriders, which would have originally been used to transport miners underground from the bottom of the shaft to the working face. Using this method instead of requiring them to walk saved time to allow more productive time per shift, and also allowed each miner to put more effort into mining rather than walking. The long-term aim is to restore one set using the other as a source of spare parts, with leftover steelwork being made available for other projects.
👷 Another ex-mining rail vehicle consists of two 4-wheeled bogies which were originally connected in the centre and used for carrying heavy materials. It is envisaged that the running gear such as wheels and bearings can be re-used to make a couple of useful works wagons for the railway. We also have a different kind of manrider, which would have used a 4-wheeled chassis or short bogie vehicle, but currently consists of just the top section. It is hoped to mount this on one of the old wagon bases from Euroclydon Tunnel once the frame has been restored.
⭕️ By far the largest and heaviest objects are the two halves of the old winding wheel from Sharlston Colliery in Yorkshire. This was actually the “spare” which was kept on site in case of any damage or mishap to the original, which was used to haul coal and transport miners up and down the shaft. After the colliery closed in 1993 one half of the original was mounted on a brick and concrete plinth as a memorial to all the miners who had worked there.
📅 The eventual aim (subject to planning) is to mount the two halves of the wheel — one on each side of the entrance — in a similar fashion to the one at Sharlston. In the short term, however, the site looks a lot neater, and we can now start work on the next phase of clearing the top of the old mine tip. This in turn will allow a small workshop and more siding space to be installed, and bring about further restoration of our railway and mining heritage.
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.
The Lea Bailey Light Railway Society has been invited to exhibit the Eimco 401 air locomotive at the Ffestiniog Railway for their Quirks & Curiosities II event in 2017. The first event took place back in May 2010 and a number of the more unusal types of narrow gauge locomotives and rolling stock were assembled in the yard at Porthmadog Harbour station. The event will take place over the weekend of 28th April to 1st May 2017.
One of the more unusual vehicles was a sail-powered rail car known as “Spooner’s Boat”, but we believe the Eimco will be the first compressed-air locomotive to run on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. The previous event also featured a Model T Ford and Series 2a Land Rover 109″ pickup, both from Statfold Barn Railway. Obviously a compressor will need to be provided on site to recharge the Eimco’s main air reservoir, but one interesting way of providing the air could be to couple up to the air braking system of one of the larger diesel locomotives. Any current or new members interested in coming up for the weekend please contact the Webmaster.
It has become a tradition in recent years to produce a calendar highlighting some of the events and milestones that have passed in the previous year. Twelve photographs have been selected from 2016, printed in full colour on glossy card, and spiral bound complete with holes for hanging. The cost is £7.00 each, plus postage which varies depending on location. Collection in person is free of charge. To order yours please use the contact details below.
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.
We will be holding our second Open Weekend of 2016 on 17th & 18th September at our Lea Bailey site. The main attraction is expected to be the first public running of our Eimco 401 air locomotive which is on loan to us for two years. Also running will be our Simplex diesel and WR8 battery electric locomotives, plus a visiting Lister rail truck. Three further locomotives in various states of restoration will be on display, plus we aim to give demonstrations of our Eimco rocker shovel.
New for this event is our Driver for a Fiver: donate £5 (or more if you wish) and you will receive practical instruction to operate one of our locomotives. This includes complimentary membership of the Lea Bailey Light Railway Society until the end of the year.
Open from 11:00 to 16:00 with refreshments and sales stand available on site. Not been before? Here’s how to find us.
Other nearby attractions include the Steam Up at the works of Alan Keef just up the road at Lea Line. Locomotives and rolling stock are built and maintained here for use around the world including Lydia for the nearby Perrygrove Railway near Coleford which will be hosting its 20th Anniversary Gala with 5 steam locomotives running.
With the wheelsets for the Eimco 401 back on site and re-gauged to 24″ the next task was to get them back into the frames. To say they were a tight fit is an understatement. Both sides had to be raised equally to avoid the axle boxes jamming in the horn guides. The wheelset nearest the driver’s position — which we have taken to calling the rear of the locomotive — was the easier (or least difficult) of the pair due to the presence of the adjuster bolts which are used to tension the drive chain.
The springs on the front wheelset are a bit “saggy” and may end up being replaced, but as a temporary solution the locomotive has been levelled with two wooden packing blocks. Once all the bolts were tightened up the faces of the tyres were cleaned with the aid of a grinder and polished with emery tape to remove any high spots and prevent them from rubbing on the frames. All that was left to do was slide the locomotive slowly onto the rails and park it up in preparation for the next task.
Before a pressure vessel can be tested with air, it needs a hydraulic test to verify the structural integrity. If there were any leaks or weak spots this would show up by the egress of water and avoid the risk of an explosion. Of course to fill the tank with water the air needs to be removed so a special air bleed pipe was made which required the locomotive to be tilted over and a small hole dug underneath in order to fit it.
The water was pumped in using Nick’s petrol powered fire pump from our own supply which flows out of the mine and is crystal clear as long as nobody has stirred up the silt by walking along the drainage channel! Once full, a special pump was used to pressurise the system to 165 psi which is 1½ times the working pressure of 110 psi.
After verifying the pressure reading and visually confirming that there were no leaks we were able to call in a professional to carry out the necessary pressure test and visual inspections to certify the pressure vessel (see video clip below). The next job will be to connect the drive chains and test the air motor which was blanked off for the test.