Some Early Lines
Old Railway Companies
Mitcheldean Road & Forest of Dean Junction Railway
A substantial stone overbridge near Drybrook (Mitcheldean Road & Forest of Dean Junction Railway). This section opened on 4 November 1907, but closed 0n 7 July 1930. Note the bridge-rail fencing, still extant in August 1988.
This was incorporated on 13 July 1871 to extend the Bullo Pill Railway ( an early British railway, completed in 1810 to carry coal mined in the Forest of Dean Coalfield to a port on the River Severn near Newnham, Gloucestershire. It was later converted to a broad gauge steam line by the Great Western Railway, and was closed in the 1960s) to the Hereford, Ross & Gloucester (both qv) at Mitcheldean Road, 4.75 miles away. Heavy engineering was involved and the line was never finished, despite the company’s absorption by the GWR under an Act dated 6 August 1880. The first 1.75 miles to Speedwell opened in July 1885, and to Drybrook on 4 November 1907, but the rest, though built and maintained, was not. Unused track went for scrap in 1917.
The Mitcheldean Road & Forest of Dean Junction Railway (MR&FoDJR) was a railway which ran for 3 1⁄4 miles (5.2 km) from the former Mitcheldean Road railway station on the Hereford, Ross and Gloucester Railway to a junction at Whimsey near Cinderford.
On 6 August 1880 the company was acquired by the Great Western Railway which completed the line but never opened it to traffic.
The line was later lifted beyond Drybook, although a small section between Drybrook Halt and Drybrook Quarry was relaid in 1928. Drybrook Halt was the northern terminus of a GWR railmotor service from Newnham which ran from 1907 to 1930. The line was closed again in 1952.
A short section of the trackbed at the northern end is used by the narrow gauge Lea Bailey Light Railway.
The Lea Bailey Light Railway is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway in the United Kingdom. It is built on the site of a former gold mine which was started by the Chastan Syndicate in 1906. Having sold 75,000 shares at £1 GBP each, test workings at Lea Bailey and nearby Staple Edge concluded that the small amount of gold present could not be extracted economically. The syndicate was wound up in 1908.
The mine was later extended and some 3000 tons of iron ore were extracted — a small amount compared to the 150,000 tons extracted from the nearby Wigpool Ironstone Mine.
An attempt was made in 2003 by the owners of Clearwell Caves to open the mine as a tourist attraction, but this was ultimately unsuccessful. In 2012, a small group from the Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club discovered the mine and a quantity of disused railway equipment and proposed to the owners that a volunteer-led project could start work on restoring the site. As of 2014, two locomotives and a number of wagons have been moved to Lea Bailey from storage at Clearwell Caves or the nearby Hawthorn Tunnel.
In 2013 the Lea Bailey Light Railway Society was formed; its members act as volunteers, undertaking all aspects of work on the site. A regular free newsletter is produced and sent out by e-mail.