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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Leamington Spa - BR Locomotives: gwrls3903


British Railways 2-6-2T 5101 class large prairie tank No 4176 quietly simmering outside the four road Leamington Spa Engine Shed (2L) on Saturday 3rd April 1965. There is a single white head-lamp in the centre of the buffer beam indicating that the locomotive will be operating as a light engine (new BR class 0, old class G). In the background is an unidentified British Railways standard class 2MT 2-6-0 (possibly No 46505). Leamington Spa Shed (2L) closed two months later on 14th June 1965, but prior to this there had been five of these BR standard class 2MT locomotives allocated to Leamington Spa Shed; 46428, 46442, 46457, 46470 and 46505.

The 5101 class large prairies were an updated version of the successful 51xx (ex-31xx) class locomotives that had been designed by the Great Western Railway's Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) George Churchward in 1903. The 5101 class locomotive's external appearance could be distinguished from the earlier versions by their curved drop frames, motion plate, outside steam pipes and lower cab roof. Internally the No 2 standard boiler was superheated and the operating pressure was 200lb, producing a tractive effort at 85% of 24,300lb (power class - C). Like their predecessors the capacity of their water tanks was 2,000 gallons, but to increase their range the 5101 class had enlarged coal bunker with a four ton capacity. An additional balancing pipe was also provided between to side tanks to reduce the tank filling time. These modifications slightly increased the locomotive's total weight by six tons, but the maximum axle weight was calculated at exactly 17tons, 12cwt, which just placed them in the route colour Blue category and limited them to main lines and some branch lines. See 'Engine Map' for more details about the Great Western Railway's method of locomotive classification.

The 51xx and 5101 class prairie tank locomotives had a good turn of speed and were capable of accelerating quickly from stationary, which made them ideal for suburban passenger services where frequent station stops were necessary, but they were also used for freight and banking duties. No 4176 was built in November 1949 at Swindon works as part of lot 369. This lot of twenty locomotives was the last of the 5101 class to be built and brought the class total to two hundred locomotives. No 4176 was initially allocated to Exeter shed (EXE), but after being allocated to several other South Western Sheds transferred to Leamington Spa Shed (84D) in October 1960. On 24th April 1965, prior to the closure of Leamington Spa Shed No 4176 was reallocated to Oxley Shed (2B) and withdrawn from there in October 1965. No 4176 then survived for just over a year as a stationary boiler at Tyseley Shed.

Robert Ferris