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PFP 5542 to Winchcombe not Minehead for 2012?

5542 at Buckfastleigh, 24 Jan 2012

The ‘Planet’s Favourite Prairie’, 5542, is not going back to the West Somerset Railway after its bottom end refurbishments this winter. It seems that this is due to there being insufficient work for it at the Somerset line. This will be disappointing for those of its supporters that are based around the WSR but good news for the GWSR, where the Steam Dept is very close to signing a deal hat will see it back in the Cotswolds from June this year.  5542 Chairman John Wood said, ‘”There are no signatures in the dotted line yet but we have little doubt that it will happen.”

I popped in at the Buckfastleigh engineering works on the South Devon Railway in Tuesday where 5542 is being overhauled and found it in a state of undress with its boler, cab, bunker removed and wheels out and a group of cheerful supporters hard at work, dealing with all those little jobs that the casual observer never notices but which can cause trouble when in service.

I was given a very friendly welcome by Ray Lee, who is supervising the overhaul who said they were very happy to be coming back to the GWSR this year. I asked him why they think 5542 is the ‘PFP’. Ray said, ‘Well, we just get great feedback wherever we go….we work hard to keep on top of all the maintenance jobs as they occur and we work closely with whoever is hiring the engine, so it makes for really good relationships.’

Look out for 5542 on trains from Winchcombe from June this year, where it will share duties with 2807, 7903 and newly reliveried LMS 8F No 8274. From August, GWSR staff are hoping that trains will be working the full 12 miles of railway from Cheltenham to Laverton, if the Chicken Curve slip has been restored by then.

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