419 was built in 1907 at a cost of £1,627 and like most of 439 class locomotives it was constructed at the CR company’s St Rollox works in Glasgow.
CR419 subsequently became LMS 15189 in 1923 on Grouping and 55189 under British Railways following the nationalisation of the railways in 1948.
When the LMS railway standardised on the vacuum brake system, it did not remove the air brake equipment from locomotives which were themselves braked by air. As a result, the rhythmic thumping of the air pump remains characteristic of this locomotive.
Locomotives of this type were used everywhere on the Caledonian system, and no.419 was variously shedded at Polmadie, Lockerbie, Ardrossan and Edinburgh Dalry Road. The locomotive was at Polmadie from 1952 to 1959, where work included suburban passenger traffic and station pilot duties at Glasgow Central. From then until withdrawal in December 1962, the locomotive was at Carstairs.
During its time at Polmadie 55189 acquired a stovepipe chimney, which the Scottish Railway Preservation Society (SRPS) later replaced with a Caledonian example from a sister engine destined for the scrapheap.
55189 was withdrawn from British Railways service in 1962. As the last example of the class, it held great appeal for the then recently-formed Scottish Railway Preservation Society. The asking price of £750 proved difficult to raise and only a generous donation by Worcestershire farmer Mr W.E.C. Watkinson secured it for posterity.
In April 1965, after restoration at Cowlairs Works and now once again in Caledonian Railway livery, 419 was delivered to the society’s Falkirk Depot. Its first public steaming in preservation was in the autumn of 1971. Since then it has carried the SRPS flag at open days, celebrations and railway events all over Britain, including the Stockton & Darlington 150th anniversary cavalcade in 1975.
Over the winter of 1981/82, the locomotive was re-tubed and new side tanks were fitted. The opportunity was taken to overhaul various components, including the Westinghouse brake system.
In April 1982 it went by road from the SRPS depot in Falkirk to the Bluebell Railway in Sussex, as part of the line’s centenary celebrations. It arrived back at at Bo’ness in March 1983.
The locomotive came out of service during the later part of the 2009 running season due to its boiler certificate expiry. The engine was painted in BR black as BR 55189 for a series of photo charters run before withdrawal from service. The engine is now dismantled with boiler away to Ian Riley’s workshops at Bury where it was steam tested in September 2014.
New axle boxes for the driving wheels have been cast again after the first batch were stolen and have been put out for machining. Apart from the driving axle boxes needing to be replaced the engine is in sound mechanical condition and should be back in service soon.
In August 2016 the locomotive was rewheeled again . The boiler will be placed back on the frames when the work on the boiler has been completed by Ian Riley at Bury.
It was planned to have the locomotive operating again in late 2017 or early 2018. During November 2017 the boiler was returned to the frames and a new smokebox was ready to fit.
It had been expected to steam again in March or April 2018 but this was later scheduled to November 2018.
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