by Cliff Thomas

Four adjacent Dean Forest narrow gauge railways to hold Open Days on September 20

Published 30th August 2014

Industrial railway action in the Dean Forest

For many years, Alan Keef Ltd has held an annual open day offering the rare opportunity to visit the factory where locomotives and carriages (principally narrow gauge – although this has not exclusively been the case) are constructed and overhauled.

Latest projects are displayed, various organisations publicise their activities and there is steam action on a short 2ft gauge running line which curves around part of the site at Lea Line, not far from Ross-on-Wye.

In recent years the 15in gauge Perrygrove Railway near Coleford has run an event in conjunction with the Alan Keef Ltd works Open Day. The concept is straightforward – the two sites are not far apart and this presents the ideal opportunity to easily visit both in a day.

Last year, The Lea Bailey Light Railway – a fledgling 2ft gauge project in a forest glade adjacent to a long-disused mine - added a third destination. This year, Clearwell Caves is added to the list, making four railway attractions operating in close proximity to each other on September 20 – a full day out in the Dean Forest beckons!

Alan Keef Limited

Steam hauled passenger rides will be worked this year by managing director Patrick Keef’s newly overhauled Bagnall 0-4-0ST Woto and Graham Morris’s Kerr Stuart ‘Wren’ 0-4-0ST Peter Pan visiting from its Leighton Buzzard Railway home.

Ex-WDLR 0-4-0DM Baguley No. 760 will be present – founder of the business Alan Keef’s first locomotive, re-uniting them after nearly 50 years. In addition ex-WDLR 4wPM Moto Rail No. 264 and ex-Lilleshall Abbey Baguley No. 1695 will be present.

Current projects to be displayed in the works will include the South Tynedale Railway’s Thomas Green & Company 0-6-2ST Barber (which is very close to completion), restoration progress on the frames of metre gauge Henschel (5276/1899) 0-4-0 tram No. 4 Rur (displayed at last year’s event after arriving from the continent a few days previously), the frames of The Corris Railway’s new-build steam loco No. 7 (based on the original Corris Kerr Stuart 0-4-2ST No. 4, now Talyllyn No. 4 Edward Thomas) and the ever-growing collection of components for the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway’s new-build Baldwin 2-4-2T Lyn.

The address is Alan Keef Limited, Lea Line, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 7LQ – however, with the adjoining field not available for car parking this year visitors need to park at The Lea Village Hall (postcode HR9 7JY) with a regular shuttle bus arranged to take people to the nearby works. The event is open between 11.00 and 16.30, admission £5 (adults), £1.50 (children) with all profits from the event split between St John The Baptist Church at The Lea and St Michael’s Hospice in Hereford.

Perrygrove Railway

The Perrygrove Railway, now under new ownership (see is holding a gala over September 20-21 showcasing its range of locomotives.

The event will feature visits by Exmoor Steam Railway-built 0-4-0TT St. Egwin from the Evesham Vale Light Railway, Jamie Page’s Baldwin 0-4-0 tender loco Soony and a third guest to be confirmed. Perrygrove-based 0-4-0+0-4-0 Garratt Tasmania and 2-6-2T Lydia will be in steam, possibly joined by 0-4-2T Spirit of Adventure following a two year absence undergoing overhaul. The line’s diesel fleet will also be in action.

However, potential visitors should note that the collection of original and replica Heywood minimum gauge equipment is no longer at Perrygrove having left in late July. This collection included replica Heywood 0-6-0T Ursula, a dining car, brake van and wagons, including the Dynamometer wagon, all of which is now stored at a private site in Lincolnshire.

Lea Bailey Light Railway

The September 20 date will represent the third public opening at Lea Bailey LR. On June 8 Lea Bailey and Clearwell Caves, two of Britain’s smallest 2ft gauge lines, opened in conjunction with the Perrygrove Railway’s diesel gala.

There is a short length of line at Lea Bailey on which resident locos Hunslet 4wDHF 7446/1975 and Motor Rail 4wD 21282/1960 run in a demonstration capacity. For the June event there was a visiting loco, Clayton 4wBE BO119B/1973 owned by Gareth Rees.

The charm of this project, very much in its early stages of development, is the way it reminds enthusiast visitors so much of how narrow gauge preservation once was, but so rarely is nowadays!

The site is easy enough to get to, but a little obscure. LBLR volunteers will probably be present at Keef’s with leaflets showing how to find the railway, or check the website for a location map.

Clearwell Caves

Clearwell Caves is principally an underground visitor experience with an iron mining museum. On the surface is a short industrial-type 2ft gauge running line with an adjacent collection of equipment awaiting restoration.

The June opening featured the resident battery-electric loco in operation, joined by Brian Faulkner’s ex-Clay Cross Lister 41803/1955, visiting from his private railway near Gloucester. The intention for the September date is understood to be for the underground incline to be in operation as well as the battery-electric on the surface.

And now for something completely different……… Visiting tanks for Kirklees gala

The ‘Tanks for Coming’ theme of the Kirklees Light Railway’s September 13-14 gala refers to tank locomotives, not military vehicles!

The, admittedly a shade tenuous, link to the Dean Forest is that three of the locos to feature at Perrygrove’s event are also booked to appear at the Kirklees LR gala: 2-6-2T Lydia, 0-4-2T Spirit of Adventure (subject, as above, to completion of its overhaul) and Baldwin 0-4-0 tender loco Soony.

Also booked for a guest appearance at Kirklees is the Bure Valley Railway’s 2-6-4T No. 1 Wroxham Broad.

Home-based tank locos in action will be 2-6-2T Fox, 0-6-4ST Badger, 0-4-4-0Ts Owl and Hawk. A pre-gala timetable featuring some of the visiting engines will run on September 12. The KLR’s traditional ‘Shelley or Bust’ end of gala train featuring as many locomotives as possible will depart Clayton West at 17.00.

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