5542 is a very popular engine full of character, known to many as the “Sweet sixteen” (sum of its digits) or the PFP (Planet’s favourite prairie) it is a regular runner to the GWSR, as well as many other lines including the South Devon Railway and the West Somerset Railway. Somehow I managed to not see a lot of this little locomotive when I had my proper camera, so most of these pictures have come off my phone, which isn’t brilliant, but does the job anyway.
The ‘4575’ class of locomotive was the final development by C. Collett of Churchward’s 44xx way back from 1904. 5542 was constructed 1928 after a number of modifications were made to the class, including the characteristic slope topped tanks, larger wheels and outside steam pipes. They were built for light passenger work on small branch lines throughout the GWR system, also working freights too. Some were fitted with an auto-gear allowing them to operate push-pull services with auto-coaches. 5542 was not originally fitted with an auto-gear, but one has been added in preservation, mostly used on the South Devon railway where they have a number of suitable coaches.
Withdrawn in 1961, surprise surprise, it ended up at Barry, where it was saved by the West Somerset Railway Association in 1976, thanks to a loan from the affiliated company. However, in 1979 the railway was strapped for cash and 5542 was sold along with her classmate (which is now at the dean forest railway). A group of Volunteers formed the 5542 fund to buy the locomotive and restored it to operational status by 2002. It visited the GWSR a number of times during her first ticket, and after a swift overhaul in 2012 is currently based on the railway, although she still makes regular trips elsewhere, notably the South Devon Railway where the locomotive’s auto-gear is more regularly used.