Project 5526 Group
Small Prairie Tank Locomotive Preservation Group
based at the South Devon Railway
A Brief History.
Locomotive '5526' was built at Swindon Works in May 1928, as part of Lot 251, and cost the princely sum of £3,602 which included £737 for the boiler.
She was first based at St.Blazey Shed, and it was during this period that she was out-based at Bodmin for two months for the working of the branch to Wadebridge. In November 1929 the engine was transferred to Exeter where she remained for two years.
For the next six years '5526' led a nomadic existence, being allocated to Plymouth (Millbay and Laira), Moorswater, Launceston and Newton Abbott before being sent to Laira for her first "General" overhaul on 26th January, 1935. During this overhaul the engine was fitted with its second boiler. She was then transferred to her new shed at Truro on 6th June, 1935. '5526' settled to a day to day routine at Truro, for the next twenty-four years, where workings would have included branch services to Falmouth and Newquay (via both Chasewater and Par).
1959 saw the class pushed out of the West Country by the Diesel Multiple Units and '5526' was moved from Truro to Westbury in March of that year. Whilst at Westbury '5526' received her last "Heavy" and, in fact, her last "Classified" overhaul, being stopped between 17th April and 5th June, 1959. During this overhaul she was fitted with her seventh and final boiler, which had been constructed in October 1947 for the sum of £1,087.
Her final years were spent on local passenger and goods workings to such locations as Swindon and Bristol (via Radstock). On 8th June, 1962, after travelling a total of 968,577 miles over a period of thirty-four years, she was withdrawn from service. '5526' was sold to the now famous Woodham Brothers on 28th August, 1962 and was moved to their scrap yard in Barry in November of that year. Twenty-three years exposure to the sea air, and the removal of many of her parts for other locomotives took its toll on '5526'. She was finally reprieved in July 1985 when she became the 166th locomotive to be saved from the cutter's torch at Barry Island!
During 1984, three of the founder members of the group looked into the possibility of restoring one of the remaining locomotives at Woodham's scrap yard on Barry Island. A survey conducted on a Small Prairie Tank Locomotive revealed a prime candidate for restoration, and thus the "Project 5526 Group" was formed.
In July 1985, locomotive '5526' was transported to Toddington on the Gloucester and Warwickshire Railway. By 1988 it was realised that many of the facilities needed to complete the engine were not available to the group at that time.
The engine was moved to Swindon Works Heritage Centre during April, 1988. Here, in No. 19 Shop (formerly the DMU Repair Shop) most of the machinery needed for the overhaul and repair of the locomotive was available. The corroded rear portion of the main frame was replaced, wheels re-profiled and the boiler stripped, surveyed and retubed (not expanded).
During this period two new riveted side tanks and a bunker were manufactured.
The locomotive was obliged to vacate the workshop in November, 1992 due to building development hindering access to the site.
Seeking a suitable operating base, the group finally moved '5526' to Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway where it was warmly received. The locomotive currently enjoys the enthusiastic attention of group members and SDR staff in a well equipped workshop.