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Million-mile loco will be the star of the new schedules

 

Million-mile loco will be the star of the new schedules

ONE of South Devon Railway's stalwart steam engines has clocked up more than a million miles in service.

The makers of the former GWR steam engine 'Prairie' Tank 55xx No. 5526 probably never imagined it would top more than a million miles in service when it was built in 1928 in Swindon.

South Devon Railway general manager Dick Wood, who now looks after the aged engine, said: "My predecessor Richard Elliott had a hunch that the engine's mileage must be close to a million so we took a look at the records and the February figures showed that 5526 had indeed already run 1,004,792 miles. We look forward to many more miles on the rails with this wonderful 83-year-old engine."

There have been a number of destinations for the locomotive since it first came into service all those years ago and found its current resting place at the Buckfastleigh railway.

Initally, 5526 saw service all over the West Country in Cornwall, Devon, Wiltshire and Bristol before being withdrawn in 1962 and sold for scrap after working 968,577 miles.

The engine then languished in the scrapyard for another 23 years before being rescued by a group of steam enthusiasts who then set about restoring it in 1985.

After spending some time being worked on at another heritage railway, plus a return to Swindon for other work, the engine arrived at the South Devon Railway in 1993 for the completion of its restoration and has been back in service since 2003.

For the next few weekends in March, the engine will share the spotlight with the SDR's diesel 'Bubblecar' along the glorious spring scenery of the River Dart.

Now restored in British Railways' plain black livery, loco 5526 will be working the 'Auto-train' on Sundays March 6, 13 and 20.

The name 'Auto-train' comes from the way in which the driver operates the locomotive's controls 'automatically' from the end cab of the leading carriage, instead of from the engine, via a system of rods and cables.

Authentic 1950s passenger coaches complete the scene.

South Devon Railway will be running trains every day from Saturday, 26 March, until the end of October.

Mr Wood added: "I am sure when the locomotive was built, it was never expected to still be in service 83 years later, having done a million miles."

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