The West Somerset Railway’s Spring Steam Gala will take place between April 27th and 30th but the first of the quartet of “guest” locomotives booked to appear at the event is already in Somerset having arrived during the fourth week in March.
It is Great Western Railway “Large Prairie” tank engine number 5199 which is normally based on the Llangollen Railway in Wales. 5199 was built at Swindon in 1934 and spent most of its mainline working life on the suburban trains in the West Midlands around Birmingham (Snow Hill) and Wolverhampton (Low Level). In 1963 it was moved to Gloucester and after withdrawal from there 5199 went to Woodham Brothers scrapyard in Barry, South Wales. The locomotive spent two decades there until in 1985 it was rescued for preservation by its current owners the 5199 Project Group. Restoration was completed in 2003 and the current visit will be its second to the West Somerset.
In Great Western and British Railway’s days the “Large Prairies” were to be found regularly on trains between Taunton and Minehead, and also on the closed branch line between Taunton and Yeovil Pen Mill. Members of the class based at Taunton also worked main line stopping trains to Bristol and Exeter as well as assisting heavier trains on the climb to Whiteball Summit. One of 5199’s class mates number 4110 was purchased by the WSR in 2016. It spent time based at Taunton in the early 1960’s but has never been overhauled since withdrawal in 1965. The West Somerset is fund raising towards its restoration and return to working life.
More information about the Spring Steam Gala (including discounted rover ticket sales) can be seen at www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk. Or call 01643 704996.