5637 was built in the GWR workshops at Swindon in1925 and spent its entire working life in the South Wales area and initially went into service at Cardiff Cathay sheds. In November of 1925 it was reallocated to Barry and three years later in October 1928 it moved to Abercynon where it remained for a while.
BR motive power depot allocations since 1948.
It was withdrawn from service at Barry in June 1964 having done almost 800,000 miles. On withdrawal it was cleaned and placed in protective storage while it was based at the Barry depot. This proved fortunate for 5637 as it was obviously much more convenient to send the engine to Woodham Brothers scrapyard in Barry rather than a scrapyard where it would have been quickly cut up.
During its working life it underwent overhauls and repairs at a variety of workshops including Swindon, Caerphilly and Stafford Road.
5637 is believed to be the first class 5600 locomotive to be used for passenger service, recorded as having taken the 6:50pm train from Barry Island to Cardiff Riverside on 24 May 1926, less than a year after it entered service.
5637 was sold to Wodhams and moved to the scrapyard in September 1964 and remained there for almost ten years.It was bought by Birmingham Railway Museum in August 1974 and taken by rail (on its own wheels) to Tyseley. Although it was purchased with a view to preservation, no restoration work was carried out on 5637 and it continued to languish in a siding at Tyseley for another seven years.
The GW Steam Loco Fund was formed in the late 1970s by members of the Swindon & Cricklade Railway to locate and acquire a Swindon built Great Western locomotive to operate on the Swindon & Crickade Railway. It was originally intended to obtain a small Prairie tank but one could not be found and 5637 was available as it was no longer part of the plans of Birmingham Railway Museum.
Thamesdown Borough Council, at that time the local authority for the Swindon area, were prevailed upon to purchase 5637 by members of the Steam Loco Fund. The local authority agreed to fund the £8,000 purchhase price and the £1,500 cost of road transport with the option of the group buying it when it had raised sufficient funds. 5637 arrived at the Swindon & Cricklade Railway site at Blundsdon in April 1982.
The GW Steam Loco Fund was then reconstituted as the 5637 Steam Locomotive Group which began raising money to buy the locomotive from the Thamesdown Borough Council which was achieved in May 1989 at a cost of £13,688 plus VAT being the original purchase price plus interest.
After arriving at Blundsdon 5637 was quickly stripped and dismantled to its component parts. The temporary engine shed which was built to house 5637 was blown down in gales which meant that most of the restoration work was undertaken without any workshop facilities or protection from the elements.
When the locomotive arrived from Tyseley it was discovered that all of the non-ferous fittings were missing along with many other items, such as the motion, valve rods and piston rings. However, there was little work required on the running gear because of the quality of its last overhaul shortly before withdrawal.
Various parts from other GWR engines were discovered to have been used on 5637 including the boiler from 5633, the regulator from 3024, the regulator stuffing box from 1160, the crossheads from 2251 and axlebox from 6697.
5637 was initially steamed and underwent running in tests in March 1998 so that sixteen years after arriving at Blunsdon entered service on the Swindon & Cricklade Railway. The cost of restoring 5637 to a state where it could be steamed was estimated to be around £800,000. It was decided at this time that it was better to utilise 5637 in service rather than restore 5637 to its original condition which was thought could take a few more years.
The Swindon & Cricklade Railway had not grown to the extent that was originally envisaged and the railway authorities decided that they could not afford to run 5637 regularly as it was more expensive to operate than the small industrial locomotives that were running on the line. At this time the East Somerset Railway were desperately short of motive power to haul trains up the steep gradients on the line. The 5637 Steam Locomotive Group therefore decided to hire 5637 to the East Somerset Railway for the foreseeable future. The locomotive was transferred to the East Somerset Railway in July 1998where it completed its running in. It was then finally restored to 1925 Great Western livery in 1999.
When 5637 was first restored it was fitted with a GWR type ejector, which was fine for two coaches on the Swindon & Cricklade Railway but not for coping with five coaches on the East Somerset Railway. As a result the East Somerset Railway had to fit a twenty one inch ejector. There have been attempts to replace this with a GWR type ejector but this has not proved to be possible. Not only does 5637 look wrong with the ejector fitted but it also obscures the driver’s view ahead.
5637 has worked more or less continuously at the East Somerset Railway but in 2002 following the failure of a number of boiler tubes the boiler was retubed and the engine repainted into British Railways black with an early crest to meet the East Somerset Railway requirements.
In 2003 it was discovered that the safety valve casting was defective with leaks and cracks and unfit for use. Safety valves were lent to 5637 by the 6695 Group and then the 2807 Group. A new safety valve was eventually purchased from the Severn Valley Railway.
Though based on the East Somerset Railway, 5637 has visited a number of othe railways including the Severn valley Railway, Barrow Hill, the West Somerset Railway, the Llangollen Railway and the Mid Hants Railway. Whilst returning from the Mid Hants Railway in September 2004 when 5637 was being unloaded from the lorry trailer the rear right hand driving wheel dropped by about two inches. This might not sound much but unfortunately the axle load at that point is nineteen tons and the shock load shattered the main spring and was transferred into the firebox where around twenty steel stays then sheared off on the steel plate side. The repairs took nearly six months to complete and cost in the region of £30,000 which was claimed on the transport company’s insurance.
The boiler certificate expired in 2007 and over the next three years 5637 underwent a complete overhaul. It has now returned to service in its original livery on the East Somerset Railway with a boiler certificate which expires in 2020.
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