'Small Prairie' to join SVR Spring Gala

24 February 2023
Only member of the original 4500 class in service set to be a popular attraction at the event on April 14-16.

The three-day Gala has a GWR-theme, which means 4555 will fit in well alongside already-announced visitor 4079 Pendennis Castle, the SVR-based 4930 Hagley Hall, 7812 Erlestoke Manor and GWR Pannier tank 7714, freshly painted into BR livery.

Other members of the home fleet will also appear, including SR 34027 Taw Valley, freshly repainted into ‘wartime black’ livery. The SVR is still in negotiations with a number of owners for a third guest locomotive for its spring event.

Seventy-five of the original 4500s were produced at Swindon between 1906 and 1924, and 4555 was one of the last batch to be built. It has the distinction of having never been sold for scrap, thanks to its sale in 1965 by British Railways to preservationists who first ran it on the Dart Valley Railway. Designed as a small, mixed-traffic locomotive, it’s well suited to hauling trains along a branch line such as the Severn Valley.

GWR 4555 pictured at Cranmore Station on the East Somerset Railway, credit Martin Creese

GWR 4555 at Cranmore Station on the East Somerset Railway. MARTIN CREESE

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“We’re delighted that 4555’s owners, the Dartmouth Steam & River Boat Company, have agreed to it coming to our Gala,” said Duncan Ballard, the SVR’s head of steam locomotive engineering.

“It’s been on hire at the East Somerset Railway for the past three years, and now that their Large Prairie 4110 looks set to return to service, the Small Prairie can come to us.

“I think it’s going to be popular with our footplate crews, because the SVR is already home to another of the class, 4566. This particular locomotive was withdrawn from service in 2017, but it’s worth spending some time viewing it at The Engine House, Highley where it’s now on static display, pending overhaul.”

Tickets, including money-saving multi-day rovers, for the SVR’s Spring Steam Gala are available at its website. Special excursion tickets are also now on sale, for three round trips hauled by 4079 Pendennis Castle on Thursday April 13, the day before the Spring Steam Gala., with a 10% discount for those who’ve bought Gala tickets, too.


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