The origins of the 56xx class locomotive lie not with the Great Western Railway at all, but with the numerous south Wales Railway companies that once served the coal mines of South Wales. One of the popular configurations of locomotives used there was the 0-6-2 configuration, which was discovered to confidently handle the sharp curves so prevalent in the area. One of the more typical examples was the M and R class locomotives of the Rhymney Railway, which were arguably the
original 'Taffy Tanks' of fame.(The 56xx class never had this title). Many other railways in the area used very similar machines from a multitude of different manufacturers, most notable among them being Stevenson, Manning Wardle and Beyer Peacock.
There are 9 survivors, most of which came from the famous Barry scrap yard. They prove popular, powerful performers on preserved Railway lines, and remind us of a time when the country to no small extent depended on South Wales coal.
Total production of the 56xx class numbered 200 machines, built mostly by the Great Western, but the last 50 in the 6650 - 6699 series were built by Armstrong Whitworth. These later had to be modified due to noisy brakes, but otherwise seem to have performed identically to Great Western built machines.
There was little visible external difference between any of the batches, though the most obvious was the use of taper buffers on the early series, later machines being fitted with parallel buffers. There were also weights fitted in at least some of the batches, presumably to stop derailments, and this has made it very difficult to determine exactly how much one of these machines weighed; there are at least five separate figures given depending upon the source. The specifications included are those cited by the Great Western Railway archive.
Routes Featuring the 56xx 0-6-2 Tank
Oxford to Paddington
Bath Green Park to Templecoombe
The Port Road
GWR wagons/vans Included with the 56xx Pack as follows:
6ton Fruit 'A' Van (Y.2)
8ton Cattle Wagon (W.5)-Cows, with sound-Goats, with sound
-Sheep, with sound-Empty
10ton Fruit 'B' Banana Van (Y.5)
10ton Covered Goods Van (V.4)
10ton Fish Van (S.2)
10ton Gunpowder 'Cone' Van (Z.2)
10ton Linoleum Wagon (O.7)-with Tarpaulin
10ton Open 'A' Goods Wagon-with Tarpaulin
10ton Ventilated 'Mink A' Van (V.16)
12ton China Clay Wagon (O.13)-with Clay
12ton Conflat 'A' Wagon (A.7)-with 3 wooden and 2 metal GWR containers
12ton Motor Car 'Mogo' Van (G.43)
13ton 3 plank Open Goods Wagon (O.35)-with Lumber-with Tarpaulin
13ton Open Goods Wagon (O.23)-with Gravel -with Bricks- with Tarpaulin
15ton 'Open C' Wagon-with Pipes -with Tarpaulin
[56xx] An introduction - 10 mins - Oxford to Paddington
This is a brief tutorial about the 56xx cylinder cocks and their correct usage and also a chance to freely try out any of the features of the locomotive.
[56xx] That's the ticket - 45 mins - Oxford to Paddington
Preserved locomotive 5605 is nearing the end of its 10 year boiler certification ticket. Based at the preserved West London Railway it needs to be taken to the Didcot Railway Centre for full servicing, during which it will also have its buffers replaced to the early tapered style and the logo on the
tanks will be updated to the early Great Western text rather than the current GWR version. Currently simmering quietly at Slough after travelling up from Windsor, you are timetabled to leave at 10.40am. Obviously you'll be dodging in and out of the standard day’s traffic; however it is a great chance to run at speed on the mainline.
[56xx] What a picture - 55 mins - Oxford to Paddington
Preserved 56xx class locomotive 5605 has been fully serviced at the Didcot Railway Centre, issued with a valid boiler certificate and had some cosmetic changes to better replicate a 1930’s era example. Your task today is to take the locomotive and a group of preserved wagons to a special exhibition at the newly opened Oxford Steam Museum. Despite running on the mainline, due to the nature of the consist you'll need to keep under 25mph. To add to the journey you'll be stopping off at a siding near Oxford for a photo opportunity for the press before continuing to the museum.
[56xx] Stock check - 70 mins - The Port Road
Due to a work order error a Welsh farmers prize "Welsh White" cows have ended up in a yard in Scotland! The owner is a friend of a member of the board of British Rail and this situation needs to be sorted out immediately. You've already made it as far as Dumfries and refuelled, now continue
the journey to Castle Douglas and retrieve the prize livestock. You'll need to move the local stock out of the way when you get there, and there are some empty wagons you can bring back to Wales as well. And do be careful, those cows are worth more than many years’ wages!
[56xx] Doing Your Part - 45 mins - Bath to Templecombe
It is 1942 and the world is at war. After the evacuation at Dunkirk, Britain averts invasion by a great victory in the air. However bombing raids are frequent and the country busies itself preparing for a re-entry to mainland Europe. The railways are key to the movement of equipment and troops
around Britain and many secret transfers take place. The Royal Ordnance Factory at Wrexham has tasked the Great Western Railway with transferring 3 wagons of vital experimental equipment to a hidden test facility in Somerset by direct transfer - there is to be no sitting around in sidings for this stock. Your task is to finish this highly important journey, which has stopped at Bath Green to take on water and coal. Get the equipment safely to Shepton Mallet from where it will be taken to the test facility. Time to do your bit for the war effort
[56xx] The Challenge - 70 mins - Bath to Templecombe
It started as a heated argument in a pub in a town bordering the ex-LMS and ex-GWR regions - "The Welsh tanks could NEVER make it up the gradients of the S&D with a decent load!". It soon became a bet, and then a challenge. Calls were made and rolling stock was moved. With top bosses being none the wiser it's all been arranged for 23rd June 1952. A Welsh 5600 class locomotive will attempt to pull 20 gravel wagons from Midford to Masbury up
the dreaded 1 in 50 inclines of the Somerset and Dorset. The fittest fireman is ready to crew and you are the top class driver tasked with upholding the good name of the Western Region. 20 ex-GWR wagons which are awaiting painting in BR livery are to be used and the LMS have provided a brake van with a local guard to oversee the challenge, who will be accompanied by the
manager of your shed to make sure there are no sneaky applications of the brake when it's not required. The locomotive is currently stopped at Midford and at 10.30 your challenge awaits.. do us proud!