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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

Birmingham Snow Hill - Grouping Period Locomotives: gwrbsh48

GWR 2-6-2T 'Large Prairie' No 5100, the founding member of the 51xx class, is station pilot when seen on the down through road at the North end of Snow Hill station

Great Western Railway 51xx class 2-6-2T (large prairie) No 5100 acting as station pilot on the down through main line at the North end of Snow Hill Station in the early 1930s. This locomotive was built at Swindon Works in September 1903 under lot 140. Originally numbered No 99 it was the prototype of a new class of powerful tank locomotives designed by Great Western Railway Chief Mechanical Engineer George Churchward. This single prototype was given a thorough trail over two years, before another thirty-nine locomotives of the 31xx class were ordered. The basic design was so successful, that eventually two hundred and ten large prairie locomotives were built.

Being a prototype No 99 differed slightly from the rest of the class in that the locomotive was built with a short coned standard No 2 boiler and straight topped side tanks with a capacity of 1,380 gallons. The boiler pressure was 195 lbs, which gave the same tractive effort at 85% of 23,690 lbs, but the smaller tanks meant a lighter maximum axle weight of only 17 tons. This restricted the locomotive to main lines and some branch lines (route colour Blue). No 99 was fitted with a standard No 2 long coned boiler in October 1910 and a superheated version of the long coned boiler in September 1912. No 99 was eventually renumbered in December 1912 as No 3100, but it was only in April 1929 that 2,000 gallon sloping top side tanks were fitted and when the locomotive re-emerged it was numbered No 5100.

The 31xx locomotives were mainly allocated to Newport Division and No 3100 was known to have been allocated at Newport shed (NPT) in both January 1921 and in May 1922. Following the weight redistribution and renumbering of the 31xx class, the 51xx locomotives were mainly found in the Wolverhampton Division and No 5100 was known to have been allocated at Tyseley shed (TYS) in both January 1934 and January 1938. No 5100 was withdrawn from Tyseley shed in May 1938, but the frames were given new front ends and the 2-6-2T locomotive rebuilt again with slightly smaller diameter wheels (5’6”) and a higher pressure boiler (225 lbs). This work was undertaken at Swindon Works under lot 320, with the rebuilt locomotive (No 8100) completed in October 1938 and allocated to Leamington shed (LMTN). No 8100 remained in service until October 1962, when it was withdrawn from Leamington shed (84D) to be scrapped immediately by Swindon works.