GWR Small Prairie 4566

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GWRGreat Western Railway Small PrairieLocomotive with a 2-6-2 wheel configuration 4566
4566 20140316.jpg
4566 at Bridgnorth in 2014
Built By GWRGreat Western Railway Swindon Works
Configuration 2-6-2T
Power class GWRGreat Western Railway: C, BRBritish Rail or British Railways: 4MTThe British Railways system of classifying steam locomotives by power using a number from 0, least powerful, to 9, most powerful, followed by either F for freight, P for Passenger or MT for Mixed Traffic.
Axle load class GWRGreat Western Railway: Yellow
Status Static display
Loco Number 4566
Built 1924
Designed By George Jackson ChurchwardGeorge Jackson Churchward, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Great Western Railway 1902-1922
Type GWRGreat Western Railway 4500
1970 Arrived on SVRSevern Valley Railway
1975 First steamed in preservation
1986 Re-entered service
2006 Re-entered service
2017 Retired from Service
Length 63ft 2¼"
Weight 57t
Tractive effort 21,250 lb
Pressure 200 lb/sq in

Steam Locomotives

4566 is a GWRGreat Western Railway ChurchwardGeorge Jackson Churchward, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Great Western Railway 1902-1922 4500 class 2-6-2T 'Small Prairie', one of a class of 175 small mixed traffic locomotives mainly used on branch lines. A further 100 CollettCharles Benjamin Collett, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Great Western Railway 1922-1941 4575 Class small prairies were also produced with larger side tanks giving increased water capacity. They used the 'Standard 5' GWRGreat Western Railway boiler and were rated Yellow C under the GWR system of power and weight classification and 4MTThe British Railways system of classifying steam locomotives by power using a number from 0, least powerful, to 9, most powerful, followed by either F for freight, P for Passenger or MT for Mixed Traffic. under the British Railways system.

Small prairies were a common sight on the Severn Valley Branch from the 1920s; the last use there being in 1961.[1] However, classmate 4555 and 1420 visited the branch with an SLS railtour as far as Alveley Sidings on 19 September 1965. Three members of the 4500 class and a further 11 of the 4575 class survive in preservation.

4566 was capable of pulling 8 coaches up Highley Bank from a standing start, but was generally restricted to 6 coaches or 200 tons due to its limited water capacity.[2] This resulted in its use in peak summer season usually being on services with shorter coaching sets such as dining trains, and also in periods spent on hire to other railways.

4566 in service

4566 was built in Swindon in 1924 to Lot No. 226 and spent most of its working life based at sheds in Devon and Cornwall.[3] It entered service in October 1924 at Newton Abbot,[4]from where it worked regularly on the Mortonhampstead and Kingswear branches.[note 1] In July 1927 it moved to Taunton from where it worked on the Minehead branch.[5][note 2]

During the early 1930s it was based at Swindon and Westbury, before moving to Bristol Bath Road in November 1935. From there it worked services to Cheddar and Wells, to Frome via Radstock, and on the Clevedon branch from Yatton.[5]

4566 was reallocated to Swindon in February 1938, mainly working out of the sub-sheds at Andover Junction and Chippenham (for the Calne branch). In the later years of the War, it was again based at Bristol.[5]

Post-War, the locomotive worked in the far south west, moving to Penzance in November 1946, from where it was a common sight working crowded holiday trains on the St. Erth to St. Ives branch and passenger services on the Gwinear Road to Helston branch, as well as freight traffic to Hayle Harbour.[5]

4566 was notable for being the last steam locomotive overhauled at Newton Abbot works, completed on 15 July 1960 and being ceremonially driven out of the works by the chairman of the local urban district council (a mainline diesel driver).[6] Two weeks later on 28 July 1960, 4566 was photographed entering Gwinear Road with a 2-coach Helston branch train.[7]

Services in the far south west area were dieselised in September 1961 and 4566 was transferred to Plymouth Laira depot,[5] probably intended for storage as it saw little work until being officially withdrawn from BRBritish Rail or British Railways service there in April 1962 having achieved 967,914 miles in service. It was stored for a further few months before being sold for scrap and arriving at Barry in August of that year.[8][1][9]

An original 4566 cabside numberplate resides in Helston Museum of Cornish Life link.

4566 in preservation

Restoration and first boiler ticket

4566 was selected by two S.V.R. members, David Rouse and Bob Sim, as the most suitable small prairie for preservation out of several examples of the type at BarryWoodham Brothers Scrapyard, Barry, South Wales. The source of many locomotives now in preservation., appearing in generally good order apart from missing footplate fittings.[6] It was only the 8th locomotive to leave BarryWoodham Brothers Scrapyard, Barry, South Wales. The source of many locomotives now in preservation.[note 3] and the first from there destined for the SVRSevern Valley Railway.[8]

4566 left BarryWoodham Brothers Scrapyard, Barry, South Wales. The source of many locomotives now in preservation. tagged on the back of a 'Warship' hauled banana train. It arrived at Bewdley by rail, diesel hauled, on 25 August 1970, with restoration beginning there shortly afterwards.[10] By the end of 1972 the boiler had been re-tubed and passed a hydraulic test. The complete bunker unit had been sent away to a railway engineering factory and returned with new platework. The side tanks were found to be thin in places and patching was carried out.[11] By the end of 1974 new boiler cladding plates had been cut and rolled at Bridgnorth Loco Works, using the existing badly rusted ones as patterns. The tanks and cab roof were refitted, and new ashpan built and fitted. Two new spectacle windows were remade and fitted in the front of the cab to replace those originally installed when built but later blanked out by BRBritish Rail or British Railways.[12]

The restoration was completed in time for the locomotive to enter service on 5 July 1975, the inaugural trip from Bewdley to Bridgnorth being an evening special train double headed with 46521 to mark the 10th anniversary of the formation of the SVRSevern Valley Railway.[13] The locomotive initially proved very reliable, recording 3,310 miles in just 5 months including 1,410 miles in 22 days during August.[14] Over the following winter the locomotive was fitted with steam heating.[15]

The following year 4566 was used in filming of Walt Disney's live action film Candleshoe,[16] with the locomotive also appearing in the 1977 TV movie Silver Blaze. In summer 1977 the SVRSevern Valley Railway celebrated the Royal Silver Jubilee week by running two named trains, 'The Silver Jubilee' with 4566 and the GWRGreat Western Railway set, and 'The Elizabethan' with various LMSLondon Midland & Scottish Railway locomotives and the LMSLondon Midland & Scottish Railway set.[17] That year the locomotive recorded 4,410 miles, the highest mileage of those used.[18]

During 1979 4566 was repainted from BRBritish Rail or British Railways livery into GWRGreat Western Railway livery and temporarily numbered 4506 for filming the Edwardian era episodes of God's Wonderful Railway.[19] By late 1979 4566 had suffered a crack in the drag box and was also suffering from leaking boiler tubes,[20], leading to the locomotive being withdrawn for overhaul mid-way into its first 'ten year ticket'.

Overhaul and second boiler ticket

The next 4 years were spent in storage. Having reached the front of the overhaul queue, work began in early 1984.[21] The cylinders were re-bored and new pistons manufactured. A new buffer beam was manufactured and fitted;[22] as were a new bunker, new side tanks and new slide bars.[23] The overhaul was eventually completed with a return to steam in June 1986.[24] The locomotive received a quick repaint into BRBritish Rail or British Railways lined green livery, as last out-shopped from Newton Abbot works, in time for the final week of the 1986 season.[25]

On 26 March 1987 4566 towed 3205, the SVRSevern Valley Railway’s first locomotive in preservation, from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster to be transferred to a low loader when 3205 left the railway. The following month 4566 failed on Easter Sunday with a blow in the firebox. Two boilersmiths spent a morning inside the firebox where a lot of hammering achieved a successful repair.[26]

In 1987, 4566 appeared in the BBC TV movie Miss Marple: 4:50 from Paddington. It made another made another TV appearance in Hannay, in an unlikely combination with four LNERLondon & North Eastern Railway coaches.[27] From 30 April to 2 May 1988 it appeared at Port Sunlight for a Vintage Rail and Public Transport weekend celebrating 100 years of soap making at Levers. Top and tailing with LMSLondon Midland & Scottish Railway 'Jinty' No. 7298 it operated Wirral Transport Users Association 'Port Sunlight Centenary Trains' between Port Sunlight (where a temporary platform was built), Lubrizol Junction and Bromborough Margarine Works (Stork margarine works).[28][29] Summer 1988 was spent on hire to the Gwili Railway, where the locomotive was steamed between 30 June and 30 August covering over 1,000 miles.[30]

Two years later, Sunday 13 May 1990 saw the then-normal summertime Table C timetable in use, requiring 5 steam locomotives. The SVRSevern Valley Railway achieved a rare ‘full house’ by rostering GWRGreat Western Railway 4566 along with SR 34027 Taw Valley, LMS 46443, LNERLondon & North Eastern Railway 3442 The Great Marquess and BR Standard 75069.[31]

Over winter 1990-91, 4566 received a quick topcoat repaint and re-varnish in anticipation of a period on hire to the Kent and East Sussex Railway.[32] In the event this did not take place; however 46443 failed with a burst tube while on hire to the Llangollen Railway and 4566 took its place for the rest of summer 1991.[33] This swap was evidently successfully as a repeat visit by 4566 took place the following year.[34]

Early 1993 was spent receiving a re-tube and a new chimney for which a pattern was created,[35] with the locomotive returning to service in August. In Spring 1994 4566 spent a second summer on hire to the Gwili Railway.[36]

The last full year of this ticket, 1995, began with a photography special day on 2 April organised by the owning 4566 Group. The locomotive then spent April to October on hire to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway.[37] It was hoped that the 'ticket' could be extended until May 1996 to enable a final appearance at the April Spring Gala, but 4566 was withdrawn for overhaul having been declared a failure just before the event[38].

Overhaul and third boiler ticket

4566 was then stored at Bewdley awaiting overhaul. In 1998 an SVRA Wolverhampton Branch raffle helped raise money towards the cost of new driving wheel tyres which would be required.[39] Over the next eight years some preliminary work was carried out there by the 4566 Group.[40] In July 2004 4566's new tyres arrived[41] and shortly afterwards the locomotive was moved to Bridgnorth for the overhaul proper to begin. Within weeks 4566 had been dismantled and the boiler moved to the boiler shop.[42]

As part of the overhaul the 4566 Group reinstated the original ChurchwardGeorge Jackson Churchward, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Great Western Railway 1902-1922 style tapered buffers. These were cast using new patterns made by Gordon Woodruff at Bridgnorth. The locomotive had been re-wheeled by December 2005 and the overhaul was completed in late 2006; a test run from Bridgnorth to Bewdley taking place on 29 November.[43] Pictures of the overhaul can be seen on GW(SVR)A website 4566 Overhaul page. The locomotive re-entered service in early 2007 in GWRGreat Western Railway green ‘Great Western’ livery, operating a charter special for photographers on Monday 5 March 2007.[44]

In May 2007, 4566 was used on a steam-hauled revenue earning freight charter, taking a load of pipes to Trimpley Reservoir for Severn Trent Water. Following the lengthy closure of the railway for repairs to the 2007 Storm Damage, partial reopening of services between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade was achieved on Saturday 9 February 2008, with 4566 working the first of five return trips.[45]

At the end of 2011 4566 was described as "running OK but showing signs of the increasing mileage and time since last repair".[46] On examination, the left hand driving horn blocks were found to be loose due to cracks in the frame. These had to be ground out and welded up before the blocks could be refitted and the locomotive returned to traffic.[47] During the Victorian Weekend event on 19-20 May 2012 which celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the SVRSevern Valley Railway,[note 4] 4566 hauled the Royal Train carrying ‘Queen Victoria’ from Bewdley to Bridgnorth.[48]

In early 2014 4566 was repainted in BRBritish Rail or British Railways black livery with the early 'cycling lion' crest.[49] November 2016 marked 4566’s last gala appearance at the November 'Season Finale'. On 2 January 2017 4566 retired from service at the end of the boiler's '10-year ticket'.

On 20 June 2018 4566 was moved from storage in Kidderminster Carriage Shed to be put on display in The Engine House at Highley.

At the end of 2019, 4566 had recorded a total of 112,000 miles in preservation on the SVRSevern Valley Railway. The reported total may include mileage on hire to other railways.[50]

For many years the locomotive's owners, the 4566 Group, did not have a website or presence on social media. In 2022 a group of supporters, many of whom are also associated with the Friends of 4930 Hagley Hall, formed The 4566 Preservation Group "dedicated to the care and restoration of the locomotive", to raise funds for its overhaul. A launch at the 2023 Spring Steam Gala with a sales stand at Kidderminster, "Our first gala stand for many years", raised £500. On 23 May 2023 it became a Charitable incorporated organisation, charity number 1203207, Company number CE032373, with 8 trustees. It has also set up a Facebook page and website.

See also


  1. The Kingswear branch is now preserved as the Dartmouth Steam Railway.
  2. The Minehead branch is now preserved as the West Somerset Railway.
  3. 4566 was the first GWRGreat Western Railway tank engine to leave BarryWoodham Brothers Scrapyard, Barry, South Wales. The source of many locomotives now in preservation.. It was preceded by five tender engines (3 GWRGreat Western Railway, one LMSLondon Midland & Scottish Railway and one SRSouthern Railway) and two LMSLondon Midland & Scottish Railway 'Jinties'.
  4. On 1 February 2012, the actual anniversary, the line was closed for repairs to Bewdley Tunnel


  1. 1.0 1.1 SVRSevern Valley Railway Stock Book 9th Edition
  2. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 184
  3. 'Happy birthday dear 4566',, 19 June 2015 (Retrieved 3 January 2019)
  4. BR Database
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Warren (1988) p. 77.
  6. 6.0 6.1 SVRSevern Valley Railway News 15
  7. Photo reproduced in SVRSevern Valley Railway News 46
  8. 8.0 8.1 The BarryWoodham Brothers Scrapyard, Barry, South Wales. The source of many locomotives now in preservation. Story, Beckett & Hardingham (2010)
  9. The Great Western Archive (Retrieved 27 January 2015)
  10. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 18
  11. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 26
  12. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 34
  13. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 36
  14. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 38
  15. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 39
  16. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 42
  17. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 45
  18. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 46
  19. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 52
  20. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 53-54
  21. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 72
  22. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 74
  23. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 79
  24. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 81
  25. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 82
  26. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 85
  27. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 86
  28. Flikr
  29. 'Wirral Transport Users Association Port Sunlight Centenary Trains', Six Bells Junction
  30. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 94
  31. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 97
  32. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 98
  33. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 101, 102
  34. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 102
  35. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 107
  36. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 110,112
  37. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 114,115
  38. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 118-119
  39. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 128,129
  40. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 139
  41. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 149
  42. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 148
  43. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 156
  44. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 157
  45. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 160
  46. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 176
  47. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 177
  48. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 177,178
  49. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 185
  50. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 210, SVRSevern Valley Railway-based Steam Locomotive Mileage 2017-2019, Duncan Ballard