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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Leamington Shed: gwrls1606

GWR 51xx Class 2-6-2T No 3115 stands in front of the coaling stage with members of the shed's staff posed on the running and footplate

Great Western Railway 31xx Class 2-6-2T Large Prairie Tank No 3115 stands in ‘as built condition’ in front of the Leamington Shed coaling stage with members of the shed's staff posed on the running and footplate circa 1908.

Built at Swindon works in February 1905 (works No 2070), No 3115 was part of Lot 150 and was initially allocated to Newport Shed (NPT) in South Wales. From November 1907 to June 1911 the locomotive was allocated to Leamington Shed (LMTN) and the photograph would appear to have been taken during this period, as in 1909 the entire class was modified by the addition of struts to support the front frames during banking duties. In April 1911 a superheated boiler was fitted and when the Great Western Railway standardised the boiler pressures in 1919, a pressure of 200lbs gave the locomotive a tractive effort at 85% of 24,300lb (Power Group - C). After 1919 the flat ended coal bunkers on the 31xx class locomotives were extended at the top to hold an additional 18cwt of coal and a plain fender also added.

One long running problem was that with full side tanks (2,000 gallons) the locomotive's maximum axle weight of 18 tons, 4 cwt restricted the locomotive to main lines and a few branch lines (Route Colour - Red). In 1927 the water tank capacity of a number of the 31xx class locomotives (including No 3115) was restricted to a maximum of 1,600 gallons, but following a redistribution of weight it was found that the maximum axle weight could be reduced to 17tons, 5cwt even with full tanks (Route colour – Blue). For details of the Great Western Railway’s Power and Route classification system see 'Engine Map'). Following the weight redistribution the locomotives were renumbered and in May 1928 No 3115 became No 5115.

No 5115 was always a Birmingham Division locomotive, being allocated to:

  • Stourbridge Shed (STB) from June 1929
  • Tyseley Shed (TYS) from July 1930
  • Stourbridge Shed (STB) from August 1930
  • Leamington Shed (LMTN) from December 1932
  • Tyseley Shed (TYS) from June 1935

In an attempt to further increase the acceleration of the prairie tank locomotives, ten 51xx locomotives were withdrawn to be converted into 2-6-2T 81xx class large prairie tank locomotives. The rebuild involved reducing the coupled driving wheel diameter by two inches (to five foot, six inches) and fitting a new boiler operating at 225lbs to give a tractive effort at 85% of 28,165lb. The rebuilding programme was to have included all the 51xx (ex 31xx) class locomotives, but the Second World War intervened and only ten were converted.

No 5115 was withdrawn from Tyseley Shed in June 1939 and six months later No 8109 was allocated to Leamington Shed in December 1939. No 8109 was finally withdrawn from Tyseley Shed in June 1965.

Robert Ferris