The 45xx and 4575 classes were favourites for branch line work over most of the Great Western Railway territory. Devon and Cornwall were no exceptions and virtually all the branch lines in the two counties saw engines of one or other of the two types right up until the end of steam on British Railways (Western Region), or in many cases, until the closure of the lines in question. The branch line from Totnes to Ashburton – today’s South Devon Railway – was no exception. Here the 45xx class were used for the freight traffic.
5526 was completed at Swindon Factory in May 1928 at a cost of £3694, including the boiler. She spent almost her whole life in the west country having been shedded at St Blazey, Bodmin, Exeter, Plymouth Millbay, Laira and Truro, ending her main line days at Westbury in June 1962 when she was sold for scrap to Woodhams in Barry after travelling in the region of 900,000 miles.
In the early days of preservation, sister engine 4555 was the first locomotive to arrive on the line in preservation days in 1965 and was a regular performer on the line after it was re-opened. Later, 4555 was joined by 4588. These two engines are now on the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway.
5526 was rescued from Barry scrapyard in 1985, going first to Swindon where restoration started, before being purchased by SDR based 5526 Ltd who moved her to Buckfastleigh where restoration was completed.
5526, one of 14 members of the class to survive, is currently painted in Great Western green livery.
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