Last chance for steam coal in the Forest as supply dwindles

By Jake Chown  
Saturday 14th May 2022 6:00 am
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Dean Forest Railway is running a series of Steam Days in early May with its supply of traditional coal set to run out (DFRS )

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DEAN Forest Railway are offering a final chance to experience the traditional smell of “black gold” in the Forest of Dean this month, following the closure of the last mine capable of supplying true Welsh steam coal.

The DFR society, which is based at Norchard Station in Lydney, have been running a series of ‘Steam Days’ in April and early May, which will be among the last to be powered by traditional coal.

The end of the supply of steam coal follows the closure of the last remaining mine, Ffos-y-fran in Merthyr Tydfil, earlier this year.

Heritage railways across the country were given hope for a new source of steam coal in the UK after plans were submitted for a mine at Dewley Hill in Newcastle last year, but the application was refused in January.

It leaves DFRS in a position where they are having to find a new source of coal to power their steam engines, which will likely have to come from overseas.

Fears over a shortage of coal for heritage railways has also arisen since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, due to a ban on all imports of Russian oil and coal, which operators rely on when UK supplies are low.

The society is giving people the chance to “come and wave goodbye to an unsung hero of the last 200 years” at one of their steam days this month, including a one-hour train ride or all-day Steam Rover.

DFRS described traditional steam coal as “an icon of the industrial revolution” in a Facebook post at the end of April.

The post said: “Following the closure of the last mine capable of supplying true Welsh Steam Coal to heritage railways, it’s your last chance to enjoy the traditional smell of the famous “black gold” in the Royal Forest of Dean.

“As our supply dwindles, we have begun the process of finding a suitable alternative to power our steam trains on for 2022 and beyond.

“We expect to run out of Welsh in the next two to three weeks, so book your tickets today or pop on down in early May to enjoy the sights and sounds.”

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