Today we look at one of two 56xx/66xx class models to be found Locoyard fleet. The model is of Mainline origin but has been improved to look a little better and represent 6619. As with all previous model of the week blog posts, we will look at the history of the prototype.
C.B Collett’s powerful 56xx 0-6-2T class were developed immediately after the grouping of 1923 to provide a standard GWR design to replace the various, variable locomotives inherited from the Welsh Railway companies. They were designed to haul heavy coal loads in the Welsh Valleys. The 0-6-2T configuration was ideal, providing power and good braking ability, but no need for a long range or high top speed. Interestingly, the locomotive’s origins can be traced back to the Rhymney Railway M class and R class of 1904 and 1909 – the 56xx effectively being a re-boilered version. Indeed one M class and five R class locomotives were upgraded to 56xx configuration. The boiler is fitted further forward than on most locomotives and the over-hang gives the class it’s distinctive appearance.
The 66xx was a slightly heavier version of the 56xx and built a little later. 6619 was one of the Swindon built batch of 66xx and completed in 1928 (a later batch of the class were built by Armstrong Whitworth). It spent it’s career working in Wales, being based in Barry at grouping in 1948 and was still there when withdrawn in 1963.
Although very powerful – rated 5MT by British Railways – the 56/66xx class were not especially popular in service. Their axelboxes tended to overheat and they also derailed easily. Crews would run them bunker-first so that the rear pony truck could guide the locomotives through corners and points. The class were effectively superseded by the 57xx pannier tank class that did not have these failings. However, in preservation their slow speed and power make them ideal. 6619 was rescued from Barry scrapyard in relatively good condition – the difficult to get to inside motion hadn’t been removed and the boiler required little work. It found a new home at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) and restored between 1979 and 1984. At first 6619 was a regular performer on the NYMR and as a result has appeared many times in the TV series Heartbeat! However, as the line was extended, the locomotive’s short range handicapped it. It visited other railways, particularly the Kent and East Sussex Railway (K&ESR) which was fitting seeing as some volunteers from that railway had inputted into the restoration of the locomotive.
The K&ESR found 6619 to be an ideal machine for pulling heavy trains up it’s very steep gradients. It is no wonder that the railway eventually bought 6619 and it is now a regular on the famous preserved light railway (click here to see it in steam at Tenterden Town in 2013 and click here to see it 2014).
Don’t forget the history of many other locomotive prototypes of the locoyard model fleet can be found by clicking on the “Prototype Info” links on the Loco Models page (click here for more). Thanks for reading 🙂