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GWR SMALL PRAIRIE TANKS

 



  INTRODUCTION  
 

 

   

Having painted and described Ron Brook's 1963 moulded Airfix kit of the Great Western Railway Large Prairie Tank Engine it would be remiss of me not to take another look at the smaller 2-6-2Ts that emerged from Swindon and Wolverhampton Stafford Road and continue to have an important place in 21st Century railway preservation in Gloucestershire and beyond.

 


Having painted and described Ron Brook's 1963 moulded Airfix kit of the Great Western Railway Large Prairie Tank Engine it would be remiss of me not to take another look at the smaller 2-6-2Ts that emerged from Swindon and Wolverhampton Stafford Road and continue to have an important place in 21st Century railway preservation in Gloucestershire and beyond.
 


  DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION  
 

 

   

Having painted and described Ron Brook's 1963 moulded Airfix kit of the Great Western Railway Large Prairie Tank Engine it would be remiss of me not to take another look at the smaller 2-6-2Ts that emerged from Swindon and Wolverhampton Stafford Road and continue to have an important place in 21st Century railway preservation in Gloucestershire and beyond.

 


 

With its high power to weight ratio, George Jackson Churchward's Small Prairie design has been described as the ideal branch line locomotive and clearly inspired later LMS and British Standard 2-6-2Ts.  The prototype, 115, was built at Swindon in 1904 with driving wheels of 4' 1", a smaller boiler than the Large Prairie and smaller cylinders measuring 17" x 24". Such was the immediate success of 115 that less than a year after its introduction, a further ten locomotives were ordered on a Swindon lot number but actually built at Wolverhampton. The class became numbers 3101 - 3110 for a short time until renumbered 4401 - 4410 with the prototype renumbered 4400.

The 4400 Class were modified in service with higher capacity lipped coal bunkers and also superheated boilers from 1913.  They were popular due to their lively acceleration, although such small wheels - while delivering 21 440lb of tractive effort - limited their top speed.  Despite this, the 4400 Class remained intact in 1948 and the last example was not withdrawn until September 1955.
 

 
 

 

   
 

Combining the best features of the 4400 Class - including 1 000 gallon capacity side tanks -with larger 4' 7" driving wheels was the 60 mph capable 4500 Class of 1906, which remained in the wide ranging "Yellow" GWR route availability band despite an increase in weight from 56 tons 13 cwt to 57 tons.

 
 

 

   
 

Combining the best features of the 4400 Class - including 1 000 gallon capacity side tanks -with larger 4' 7" driving wheels was the 60 mph capable 4500 Class of 1906, which remained in the wide ranging "Yellow" GWR route availability band despite an increase in weight from 56 tons 13 cwt to 57 tons. 

Locomotives 2161-2180 ( renumbered 4500-4519 in December 1912) became the last GWR locomotives to be built at Wolverhampton and the next batch, 2181-2190 ( renumbered 4520 - 4529 in December 1912 ) were built at Swindon with a boiler pressure increased from 180 to 200 pounds per square inch, raising the tractive effort from 19 120 lb to 21 250 lb.

From 4530, Class 4500 locomotives also had curved rather than square fronted framing

4540-4554 of 1914-1915 were the first Class 4500 2-6-2Ts to be fitted with superheat from new while 4555 built in 1924 (and pictured, above, at Worcester Shrub Hill on 19 September 1965) was the first of the Class to be fitted with outside steam pipes as standard, improved superheaters and 3 ton 14 cwt coal bunkers.

While 4555 to 4574 - built to Lot 226 in 1924 - were the last of the Churchward Small Prairies, Charles Baker Collett's 4575 Class of 1926 were distinguished by their larger 1 300 gallon side tanks which, like the Large Prairie Classes, had sloping tops to aid the driver's forward vision.  One hundred examples of Class 4575 were built up to 1929 and allocated the numbers 4575-99 and 5500-74.

Both 4500 and 4575 Class Small Prairies worked all over the Great Western Railway and British Railways Western Region including empty coaching stock trains in and out of Paddington and hauling freight on the Brentford branch.  Withdrawals began in 1950 with 4531 but 5508, 5531, 5564 and 5569 survived until 1964.

15 Small Prairies - numbered 4578, 4581, 4589, 5511, 5524, 5529, 5534, 5545, 5555 and 5549 were auto coach fitted from 1953 while examples a fitted in Preservation include 5526, 5541, 5542 and  5572 ( cab end only )

 
 

 

   
 

PRESERVATION

 
 

 

   
 

During the 1960s and 70s many British preserved railways opened on former branch lines that were ideal for Small Prairies - or indeed had been their stamping grounds in decades before.   As such, a number of these compact 2-6-2Ts  - including 5521 pictured above at Norchard on the Dean Forest Railway  - were acquired either direct from traffic or from sources such as the scrapyards in Barry and restored to their former glory.

 
 

 

   
  During the 1960s and 70s many British preserved railways opened on former branch lines that were ideal for Small Prairies - or indeed had been their stamping grounds in decades before.   As such, a number of these compact 2-6-2Ts  - including 5521 pictured above at Norchard on the Dean Forest Railway  - were acquired either direct from traffic or from sources such as the scrapyards in Barry and restored to their former glory.  
 

 

   
  CLASS 4500  
 

 

   
 

4555

 
 

 

   
 

4555 was issued new to Tyseley depot in September 1924, was based at Machynlleth in 1947, Westbury in 1959 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in December 1963.  After many years working on the South Devon Railway, 4555 moved to the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway at the start of the 21st century where it was named "Warrior" and is undergoing overhaul in 2011.

 
 

 

   
 

4555 was issued new to Tyseley depot in September 1924, was based at Machynlleth in 1947, Westbury in 1959 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in December 1963.  After many years working on the South Devon Railway, 4555 moved to the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway at the start of the 21st century where it was named "Warrior" and is undergoing overhaul in 2011.

 
 

 

   
 

4561

 
 

 

   
 

4561 was issued new to Tyseley depot in October 1924 and was based at Truro in 1947, Newton Abbot in 1957 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in May 1962 with a mileage of 997 635. 4561 came to the West Somerset Railway in 1975 where restoration was completed in 1989 and the Small Prairie steamed there until 1998. After several years on display at Bishop's Lydeard, 4561 spent part of 2007 / 2008 at STEAM in Swindon but is back at Williton awaiting overhaul in 2011.

 
 

 

   
  4561 was issued new to Tyseley depot in October 1924 and was based at Truro in 1947, Newton Abbot in 1957 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in May 1962 with a mileage of 997 635. 4561 came to the West Somerset Railway in 1975 where restoration was completed in 1989 and the Small Prairie steamed there until 1998. After several years on display at Bishop's Lydeard, 4561 spent part of 2007 / 2008 at STEAM in Swindon but is back at Williton awaiting overhaul in 2011.  
 

 

   
  4566  
 

 

   
 

4566 was issued new to Newton Abbot depot and was based at St Ives in 1947 and 1959 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in April 1962. Having spent eight years at Dai Woodham's Barry scrapyard, 4566 arrived at the Severn Valley Railway in 1970 and was restored to working order in 1975. 4566 has more recently visited the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway and was overhauled in 2006.

 
 

 

   
  4566 was issued new to Newton Abbot depot and was based at St Ives in 1947 and 1959 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in April 1962. Having spent eight years at Dai Woodham's Barry scrapyard, 4566 arrived at the Severn Valley Railway in 1970 and was restored to working order in 1975. 4566 has more recently visited the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway and was overhauled in 2006.   
 

 

   
  CLASS 4575  
 

 

   
  4588  
 

 

   
 

Outshopped from Swindon in March 1927, 4588 was issued new to Tyseley depot, was based at Truro in 1947, Penzance in 1959 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in July 1962.  After being restored at its birthplace it went into service on the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway although also worked on the South Devon Railway at Totnes in the late 1980s and on the Severn Valley Railway a decade later.  It currently requires an overhaul and has been put up for sale by the P&DR.

 
 

 

   
  Outshopped from Swindon in March 1927, 4588 was issued new to Tyseley depot, was based at Truro in 1947, Penzance in 1959 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in July 1962.  After being restored at its birthplace it went into service on the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway although also worked on the South Devon Railway at Totnes in the late 1980s and on the Severn Valley Railway a decade later.  It currently requires an overhaul and has been put up for sale by the P&DR.  
 

 

   
  5521  
 

 

   
 

The restoration of 5521 at Bill Parker's Flour Mill Colliery restoration workshops in Bream, Gloucestershire, was notable for the fitting of air brakes - and a prominent smokebox mounted air pump - to allow the locomotive to work main line trains although it is not currently certified for Network Rail operations.

 
 

 

   
  5521 was issued new to Newton Abbot in December 1927, was at Taunton in 1947, Taunton in 1959 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in April 1962. 

The restoration of 5521 at Bill Parker's Flour Mill Colliery restoration workshops in Bream, Gloucestershire, was notable for the fitting of air brakes - and a prominent smokebox mounted air pump - to allow the locomotive to work main line trains although it is not currently certified for Network Rail operations. 

Normally based on the Dean Forest Railway in Gloucestershire, 5521 was a star attraction at Poland's Wolsztyn steam festival in May 2007, 2008 and 2009 and during 2008 was regularly rostered to operate three daily round-trip suburban passenger trains (36 stops and starts to electric multiple-unit timings) from Wroclaw to Jelcz Laskowice in Poland, under the auspices of the Wolsztyn Experience.

5521 also steamed from Poland through Slovakia to Hungary in 2007 and 2008 and appeared at the Steam Engine Grand Prix in Zvolen, Slovakia and in Budapest, Hungary, in September 2007.  On 11 Sept 2007 the Swindon built 2-6-2T even piloted the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express on its way back from Istanbul to Venice from Budapest’s Nyugati station to Kelenfold.  Not bad for the first privately owned British steam locomotive to haul a passenger train on the continent of Europe - and from a class which hauled portions of both the Cambrian Coast and Cheltenham Spa Expresses.

During its time in Europe 5521 suffered no failures but more than once had to haul a complete train and a larger locomotive which had failed during double heading.


5521 returned from Poland to England by sea in May 2009 and was displayed at the National Railway Museum in York until mid-July, next to 6000 King George V and the recently re-streamlined 6229 Duchess of Hamilton, both of which travelled to America, and 607, the Vulcan Foundry built 4-8-4 that returned from China.

5521 operated on the North Norfolk Railway, the Dean Forest Railway and briefly at the Avon Valley Railway before being withdrawn at Christmas 2009 for examination after two collisions, one on the NNR and one on the DFR.

In 2010 5521 attended the Bodmin & Wenford gala from 16 - 18 April, and then moved to the Didcot Railway Centre for their GWR 175 event from 1 - 9 May and their Spring Bank Holiday event from 28 - 31 May. It then returned to the Dean Forest Railway for their festival commemorating 200 years of the Severn and Wye Railway, from 19 June to 4 July, and remained there for the rest of the year, operating Santa specials.

In winter 2010 - 2011 the front end of the locomotive is being dismantled to permit repair of the damage to the front extension frames from the 2009 incidents.

 
 

 

   
  5526  
 

 

   
 

5526 was issued new to Par St Blazey depot in May 1928, was allocated to Truro in 1947, 85C Hereford in 1959 and was withdrawn from Westbury in June 1962.  Saved by the Project 5526 Group, this 2-6-2T was partly restored at Swindon and completed  with BR lined black markings at Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway

 
 

 

   
  5526 was issued new to Par St Blazey depot in May 1928, was allocated to Truro in 1947, 85C Hereford in 1959 and was withdrawn from Westbury in June 1962.  Saved by the Project 5526 Group, this 2-6-2T was partly restored at Swindon and completed  with BR lined black markings at Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway  
 

 

   
  5532 and 5538  
 

 

   
 

After 20 years at Barry, 1928 built 5532 was moved to the Dean Forest Railway where it donated its frames and other components to the restoration of classmate 5538.  With wheelsets and boilers routinely exchanged, 5538 has now taken the identity of 5532 with the original 5532 becoming a source of spares.

 
 

 

   
  After 20 years at Barry, 1928 built 5532 was moved to the Dean Forest Railway where it donated its frames and other components to the restoration of classmate 5538.  With wheelsets and boilers routinely exchanged, 5538 has now taken the identity of 5532 with the original 5532 becoming a source of spares.

5538 is seen above at Cheltenham Malvern Road Engine Shed in 1957 to the left of Large Prairie 5157 and Small Prairie 4573.

5532 was first issued to Stourbridge depot in June 1928 and was allocated to Pontypool in 1947, 82C Swindon in 1959 and was withdrawn from Plymouth Laira in July 1962.

5538 went new to Cheltenham in July 1928 and was still there in 1947, continuing to carry 85B shedplates in 1959 before being withdrawn from Newton Abbot in October 1961.

 
 

 

   
  5539  
 

 

   
 

Built at Swindon in 1928, 5539 was also allocated to Cheltenham in July of that year although was Bristol Bath Road engine in 1947, based at St Blazey (83E) in 1959 and withdrawn from the Cornish shed in April 1962.  5539 currently awaits restoration at the Llangollen Railway.

 
 

 

   
  Built at Swindon in 1928, 5539 was also allocated to Cheltenham in July of that year although was Bristol Bath Road engine in 1947, based at St Blazey (83E) in 1959 and withdrawn from the Cornish shed in April 1962.  5539 currently awaits restoration at the Llangollen Railway.  
 

 

   
  5541  
 

 

   
 

5541 was allocated new to Swindon shed in August 1928 although it later moved to Bristol Bath Road and from 1938 to 1960 Machynlleth, Central Wales, was its home and from there it often worked the Pwllheli portion of the Cambrian Coast Express.  The last two years of work   for 5541 before withdrawal in July 1962 were spent as a Plymouth Laira engine on the Launceston branch in Cornwall.

 
 

 

   
  5541 was allocated new to Swindon shed in August 1928 although it later moved to Bristol Bath Road and from 1938 to 1960 Machynlleth, Central Wales, was its home and from there it often worked the Pwllheli portion of the Cambrian Coast Express.  The last two years of work   for 5541 before withdrawal in July 1962 were spent as a Plymouth Laira engine on the Launceston branch in Cornwall.  
 

 

   
     
 

 

   
 

5541 arrived at the Dean Forest Railway from Barry in 1972 and was back in steam by 1976.  Before its boiler ticket expired in 1986 it was driven by what was then Britain's only all-female engine crew and also appeared on television with Clla Black and Max Boyce.

5541 last worked in 2004 and is currently undergoing a 100 000 overhaul.

 
 

 

   
  5542  
 

 

   
 

Originally a Gloucester Horton Road locomotive in July 1928, 5542 was allocated to Taunton in 1947, Westbury in 1959 and was withdrawn from the Wiltshire shed in December 1961.  Acquired by the West Somerset Railway Association in 1976, 5542 was then sold to the Taunton based 5542 Fund who completed the restoration.  The locomotive now operates on both the West Somerset and Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway.

 
 

 

   
  Originally a Gloucester Horton Road locomotive in July 1928, 5542 was allocated to Taunton in 1947, Westbury in 1959 and was withdrawn from the Wiltshire shed in December 1961.  Acquired by the West Somerset Railway Association in 1976, 5542 was then sold to the Taunton based 5542 Fund who completed the restoration.  The locomotive now operates on both the West Somerset and Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway.  
 

 

   
  5552  
 

 

   
 

5552 was issued new to Tyseley depot in November 1928 and was allocated to Bristol Bath Road in 1947, Truro in 1959 and was withdrawn from there in October 1960. Rescued by Cornwall's Bodmin and Wenford Railway, restoration of 5552 was completed in 2003.

 
 

 

   
  5552 was issued new to Tyseley depot in November 1928 and was allocated to Bristol Bath Road in 1947, Truro in 1959 and was withdrawn from there in October 1960. Rescued by Cornwall's Bodmin and Wenford Railway, restoration of 5552 was completed in 2003.  
 

 

   
  5553  
 

 

   
 

5553 was first allocated to Bristol Bath Road in November 1928 and remained there in 1947 but had moved to Machynlleth in 1959 and was withdrawn from St Blazey in November 1961.

 
 

 

   
  5553 was first allocated to Bristol Bath Road in November 1928 and remained there in 1947 but had moved to Machynlleth in 1959 and was withdrawn from St Blazey in November 1961.

5553 was also the 213th and final locomotive to leave Dai Woodham's premises and in January 1990 was bought by the Waterman Trust ( founded by current GWSR Honorary President Pete Waterman ) and restored to working order.  It is normally based on the West Somerset Railway.

 
 

 

   
  5572  
 

 

   
 

5572 was issued new to Exeter in February 1929 and was allocated to Bristol Bath Road in 1947, Plymouth Laira in 1957 and was withdrawn from these in April 1962.  5572 was bought by the embryo Great Western Society in August 1971, initially restored by its Taunton branch and was a regular performer at Didcot from 1977 into the 1980s.  It is now stored at the Oxfordshire steam centre awaiting overhaul.

 
 

 

   
  5572 was issued new to Exeter in February 1929 and was allocated to Bristol Bath Road in 1947, Plymouth Laira in 1957 and was withdrawn from these in April 1962.  5572 was bought by the embryo Great Western Society in August 1971, initially restored by its Taunton branch and was a regular performer at Didcot from 1977 into the 1980s.  It is now stored at the Oxfordshire steam centre awaiting overhaul.