4555 COULD VISIT OTHER RAILWAYS AS DARTMOUTH SEEKS MORE STEAM
Plans to expand DsR’s locomotive fleet mean ‘small Prairie’ will have time to spare.
GWR ‘Small Prairie’ No. 4555 could make its first visits to other preserved lines once its overhaul at the Dartmouth Steam Railway is complete. Since entering preservation at the Dart Valley Railway in 1965, the Churchward 2‑6‑2T has only ever operated on the Buckfastleigh‑ Totnes and Paignton‑Kingswear lines ‑ its sole forays elsewhere being for open days at BR depots, such as Laira in Plymouth. But with business increasing, the DSR is now looking to expand its locomotive fleet ‑ meaning that No. 4555, which is expected to return to steam by the end of this year, could be released for hire. It would become available after one of the railway’s GWR 2‑8‑0Ts, ‘42XX’ No. 4277 ‘Hercules’ (now in its last season before overhaul) and ‘5205’ No. 5239 ‘Goliath’ (awaiting overhaul at Churston) has been returned to steam. In a reversal of the normal situation for such small locomotives, No. 4555 is needed for the DSR’s peak summer timetable, when two seven‑coach trains are in operation ‑ but will be of less use during the off‑peak period, when only one train is running, but can be strengthened to ten or 11 vehicles to cater for party bookings. Says DSR boilersmith Rory Edwards: “Traffic has grown in the last few years, and the increased length of our summer two‑train service means we need four operational engines.” With plans to expand the railway’s engineering department (see story below) he adds: “Our aim in a few years is to have a much larger pool of engines that we can rotate on hire to other railways. The number of more high‑profile locomotives that are out of ticket, or have almost certain futures in museums, is of great interest to us, and either to buy outright, or make agreements to fund their overhauls, are the lines we want to head down.” To supplement the current operational stud of No. 4277 and ‘Manor’ No. 7827 Lydham Manor ‑ plus newly overhauled BR ‘4MT’ 4‑6‑0 No. 75014 ‘Braveheart’ ‑ a series of guest locomotives have been hired in recent years,
including No. 7820 Dinmore Manor and ‘4575’ 2-6-2T No. 5542. Lined up for a ten-year stint on the DSR is Peter Best’s USA Transportation Corps ‘S160’ 2-8-0 No. 2253 (SR447), which will now take up its duties for the 2018 season, because its overhaul will not be completed this year as was originally hoped. ●● For the latest progress on No. 4555, see ‘The Roster’, pages 32-35.