A new section of tramline has been installed in the centre of Bream. The feature uses six original stone sleeper blocks from the Oakwood Tramway. Part of the course of the tramway is followed on the walk. New iron chairs were cast at a foundry in the Midlands – using an existing Oakwood chair loaned by the Dean Heritage Centre for use by the foundry Pattern Maker. The engineers at the Hang Hill Works, The Flourmill, Bream carried out the fettling and fitting.
There are still stone sleepers to be seen in the Oakwood Valley but there are no iron chairs or rails left in situ now due to their value as scrap iron. Look out for the stone sleepers during your walk.
Tramway rails were held in place on the stone sleepers by iron “chairs”. The lugs in the bottom of the chairs dropped into the holes in the stone sleepers. The rails were then held in place in the chairs by wedges.
This particular stone sleeper has 3 holes. The middle hole was used for an earlier type of rail and fixing and is explained below.
The trucks or trams that ran on the rails were pulled by horses. The arrangement suited the horses as there were no obstructions for their hooves Local iron ore, coal and stone were carried in the trucks.
Early type of sleeper and fixing
The composite photo above shows how an early tramway join was made between two plates (rails):
Cast iron plates A and B were butted up together. The plates were positioned in such a way that the hole formed by the alignment of the two notches at D was directly above above the hole in the stone sleeper block E into which an oak peg had been driven. Finally the iron peg C was hammered into the hole at D and forced down into the oak peg at E.
As the years passed the single hole stone sleeper design was improved and the two outer holes were drilled to take the iron chairs. New stone sleepers then needed two holes. This was a more robust design that needed less maintenance and can be seen in the feature.
Examples of local tramway plates, sleepers, chairs, a wagon and much more can be seen at the Dean Heritage Centre at Soudley.