5526 was built at Swindon Works in May 1928 and cost the princely sum of £3,602 which included £737 for the boiler.
It was first based at St.Blazey Shed, and it was during this period that it was out-based at Bodmin for two months for the working of the branch to Weybridge. In November 1929 the engine was transferred to Exeter where it remained for two years.
For the next six years 5526 led a nomadic existence, being allocated to Plymouth (Millbay and Laira), Moorswater, Launceston and Newton Abbott before being sent to Laira for its first general overhaul on 26th January, 1935. During this overhaul the engine was fitted with its second boiler. 5526 was then transferred to its new shed at Truro on 6th June, 1935. 5526 settled to a day to day routine at Truro, for the next twenty-four years, where workings would have included branch services to Falmouth and Newquay (via both Chasewater and Par).
1959 saw the class pushed out of the West Country by the Diesel Multiple Units and 5526 was moved from Truro to Westbury in March of that year. Whilst at Westbury 5526 received its last heavy overhaul and, in fact, its last “Classified” overhaul, being stopped between 17th April and 5th June, 1959. During this overhaul it was fitted with its seventh and final boiler, which had been constructed in October 1947 for the sum of £1,087.
Its final years were spent on local passenger and goods workings to such locations as Swindon and Bristol (via Radstock). On 8th June, 1962, after travelling a total of 968,577 miles over a period of thirty-four years, it was withdrawn from service. 5526 was sold to the Woodham Brothers on 28th August, 1962 and was moved to their scrap yard in Barry in November of that year. Twenty-three years of exposure to the sea air, and the removal of many of her parts for other locomotives took its toll on 5526. It was finally reprieved in July 1985.
During 1984, three of the founder members of the group looked into the possibility of restoring one of the remaining locomotives at Woodham’s scrap yard on Barry Island. A survey conducted on a Small Prairie Tank Locomotive revealed a prime candidate for restoration, and thus the “Project 5526 Group” was formed.
In July 1985, locomotive 5526 was transported to Toddington on the Gloucester and Warwickshire Railway. By 1988 it was realised that many of the facilities needed to complete the engine were not available to the group at that time.
The engine was moved to Swindon Works Heritage Centre during April, 1988. Here, in No. 19 Shop (formerly the DMU Repair Shop) most of the machinery needed for the overhaul and repair of the locomotive was available. The corroded rear portion of the main frame was replaced, wheels re-profiled and the boiler stripped, surveyed and retubed (not expanded).
During this period two new riveted side tanks and a bunker were manufactured.
The locomotive was obliged to vacate the workshop in November, 1992 due to building development hindering access to the site.
Seeking a suitable operating base, the group finally moved 5526 to Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway. The locomotive currently enjoys the enthusiastic attention of group members and South Devon Railway staff in a well equipped workshop.
5526 is currently painted in BR black livery but is out of service and awaiting repairs after being taken out of service in March 2012 following the discovery of cracks in the firebox backhead. By the end of 2016 a replacement had been pressed and fitted at the South Devon Railways Buckfastleigh workshops.
It is planned to return 5526 to service on the South Devon Railway during 2017 when it will be in GWR livery. A fire was lit on the grate of the locomotive on 1st March 2017 and the boiler is was lifted back on the frames in March in order to allow the tank engine to be back in service in May 2017.
The locomotive will spend the period from March 2018 until January 2019 at the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway where it is planned that it will haul five coach trains up the 1 in 68 incline.
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