GWR 5600 Class

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Great Western Railway 5600 class[1]
Aberbeeg Locomotive Depot '5600' class geograph-2942234-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg
6685 at Aberbeeg locomotive depot in April 1951.
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
DesignerCharles B. Collett
Order number228, 235, 244, 252, 255
Serial numberAW: 938–987
Build date1924–1928
Total produced200
 • Whyte0-6-2T
 • UICC1′ h2t
Gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Driver dia.4 ft 7+12 in (1.410 m)
Trailing dia.3 ft 8 in (1.118 m)
Loco weight5600: 68 long tons 12 cwt (153,700 lb or 69.7 t)
6600: 69 long tons 7 cwt (155,300 lb or 70.5 t)
Fuel typeCoal
Fuel capacity3.75 long tons (3.81 t; 4.20 short tons)
Water cap.1,900 imp gal (8,600 l; 2,300 US gal)
BoilerGWR Standard No. 2[2]
Boiler pressure200 psi (1.38 MPa)
CylindersTwo, inside
Cylinder size18 in × 26 in (457 mm × 660 mm)
Valve gearStephenson's
Valve typepiston valves
Performance figures
Tractive effort25,800 lbf (115 kN)
OperatorsGreat Western Railway;
British Railways
Power classGWR: D
Numbers5600–5699, 6600–6699
Axle load classRed
Disposition9 preserved, remainder scrapped

The GWR 5600 Class is a class of 0-6-2T steam locomotive built between 1924 and 1928. They were designed by Charles Collett for the Great Western Railway (GWR), and were introduced into traffic in 1924. After the 1923 grouping, Swindon inherited a large and variable collection of locomotives from historic Welsh railway companies, which did not fit into their standardisation programme. GWR boiler inspectors arrived en masse and either condemned the original locomotives or had them rebuilt. The systematic destruction of many examples of locomotives, most still in serviceable condition, followed, but various were worked alongside 5600 Class.

Two hundred GWR 5600 Class replacement locomotives were built and remained in service until withdrawn by British Railways between 1962 and 1965. Nine of the class have survived into preservation.

Background: Welsh 0-6-2T types[edit]

The railways of South Wales seem to have had a particular liking for the 0-6-2T type. This was because the nature of the work they undertook demanded high adhesive weight, plenty of power with good braking ability, but no need for outright speed, nor large tanks or bunker as the distances from pit to port were short. The 0-6-2 configuration was discovered to confidently handle the sharp curves so prevalent in the area. These Welsh locomotives were taken over by the GWR at the Grouping in 1922, as follows:[3]

Railway Quantity GWR numbers
Alexandra (Newport and South Wales) Docks and Railway 4 190–2, 663
Barry Railway 72 193–201/3/4/6–214, 223–235/8, 240–277
Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil Junction Railway (B&M) 18 11, 21, 332, 504, 698, 888, 1084, 1113, 1372–5, 1668/70/4/7/92, 1833
Cardiff Railway 13 151–163
Neath and Brecon Railway 5 1114/7, 1277, 1327/71
Port Talbot Railway and Docks Company 7 183–189
Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway 19 164–182
Rhymney Railway 101 30–44, 46–91, 97–101, 105–110/2–5/7–9, 122/7/9/30/1/3–145/7–150
Taff Vale Railway (TVR) 209 236, 278–302, 310/1/3–5/7–321/4, 333/5/7, 343–9, 351/2/6/7, 360–2/4–8, 370–391/3/4/7–9, 401–4/6/8–421/3–435/7–455, 462/6, 471–496/8–503/5–8, 511/3/5/6, 520, 552, 560/7, 573, 577–593/5–600/2/3

Some were rebuilt with GWR taper boilers. In 1946, all of the surviving B&M locomotives and several TVR locomotives were allotted new numbers, which were applied between 1946 and 1950 (although some were withdrawn before the new number could be applied). A number of them passed into British Railways (BR) ownership in 1948, including (with some gaps in numbering):

  • Alexandra (Newport and South Wales) Docks and Railway, BR number 190
  • Barry Railway, BR numbers 198–277
  • Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil Junction Railway, BR numbers 422-436
  • Cardiff Railway, BR number 155
  • Port Talbot Railway and Docks, BR number 184
  • Rhymney Railway, BR numbers 30-83
  • Taff Vale Railway, BR numbers 200–411

Of the Taff Vale Railway, many engines continued to operate up to the 1950s, but today only two locomotives survived, TVR 'O1' No.28, the last-surviving Welsh-built engine, and TVR 'O2' No.85.

For further information on these pre-grouping locomotives see Locomotives of the Great Western Railway.


When the GWR took over the Welsh valley lines, they discovered that the Welsh locomotive crews liked their 0-6-2T locomotives. Rather than a new design the 5600 Class was a "Swindonised" version of the Rhymney Railway M class and R class locomotives. The 1904 M class (and the similar 1909 R class) were successful designs ideally suited to hauling heavy coal trains a relatively short distance.

The 5600 Class was specially designed for work in South Wales, replacing the elderly, worn-out locomotives that had been 'inherited' in 1923, when the smaller railway companies were forcibly merged into the GWR at The Grouping. Contrary to this trend, the Rhymney Railway's more modern 0-6-2s were in generally good order and had proved successful. Thus they became the blueprint for the 56xx.[4][5]

The first of five R class locos was re-boilered by the GWR in 1926 and a single M class was upgraded in 1930. In this form, both were visually almost indistinguishable from the 5600 Class.


The design of the 5600 Class followed Great Western Railway practice as far as possible, by utilising many standardised parts. Included in Churchward's innovations was a Standard Number 2 boiler which was suitable for the 5600 Class, and the M and R class Rhymney locomotives, complete with the traditional brass GWR safety valve casing and copper-capped chimney.

They were substantial sized tank engines, 37 feet 6 inches in length and weighing 62 tons. The side tanks were capable of holding 1900 gallons of water. The high domed cab, bunker and tanks were closely related to the 31xx and 42xx classes. One hundred of the class were built at the GWR workshops in Swindon from 1924 to 1927.

While they were powerful machines, the 5600s were very unpopular with footplate crews at the time. They were beset by numerous failures, the most common of which was hot axle boxes.[6] They lacked the wider tolerances in their boxes that the original Welsh company locomotives had. They also had the tendency to derail, so those driving them preferred them in reverse, where the pony truck was able to guide them around tight curves. When the first batch were hastily recalled back to Swindon, Collett faced criticism from the Director of Caerphilly Works in building such a locomotive unsuited to the lines they were meant to work on.[7]

In 1927 another 100 similar engines were constructed – these were slightly heavier and numbered in the 66xx series. Nos 6600–6649 were Swindon-built in 1927–1928, but due to the pressure of work 6650–6699 were built by Armstrong Whitworth in 1928. This resulted in some minor design differences from the Swindon locomotives, most visible were additional balance weights fitted inside the driving wheels webs opposite the crank pin to remedy the faults. When the Welsh railwaymen discovered that the new GWR 5700 Class 0-6-0 pannier tank (introduced 1929) was even more suitable for the same work – being shorter and lighter, with roughly the same (slightly lower) tractive effort – no further Class 56xx/66xx locos were built.[8]

The 5600 Class had the distinction of being the only locomotive of 0-6-2 wheel arrangement built new by the GWR. Nevertheless, there were just over 400 locos with that wheel arrangement in service from 1940 to 1945, demonstrating the large number acquired in 1923.

Table of orders and numbers[9]
Year Quantity Lot No. Locomotive numbers Notes
1924–25 50 228 5600–5649
1926–27 50 235 5650–5699
1927–28 30 244 6600–6629
1928 20 252 6630–6649
1928 50 255 6650–6699 Armstrong-Whitworth works nos. 938–987


  • Locomotive weight:


6614 with a coal train at Newport

A fall in the South Wales coal trade in the 1930s saw many of the class re-allocated to other parts of the system. Due to the stability of the design, many drivers would typically operate the 56xx class down the Welsh valleys in reverse (bunker first). The placement of the trailing wheels helped the engine enter the curves better than if operated in the other direction. Typically, during operation, when pulling a heavy load the tanks were operated bunker first, and then smokebox first on the return trips up the valleys.[11]

All the 56xx/66xx locomotives passed into British Railways ownership at nationalisation in 1948, and all remained in service until 1962, at which time they were withdrawn from service quite rapidly, with the onset of diesel traction on BR gaining momentum. All had been retired by 1965.


Withdrawn engines at Swindon

Withdrawn from 1962 to 1966, with nos. 5605 and 6697 being the last to go.


6619 in BR Black, Weybourne

Several ended up in Woodham Brothers' scrapyard in Barry, South Wales, with eight of the nine preserved engines saved from Barry. The majority of the class in preservation were built at Swindon Works, three of them: 6686, 6695 & 6697 being built by Armstrong Whitworth.

As the locomotives were operated mainly in South Wales, some railfans know the Class by the nickname "Taffy Tank";[12][13] 'Taffy' being a derogatory term for someone of Welsh descent. However, the 56xx class never had this title officially, whereas the more typical examples of the Rhymney Railway's M and R classes they replaced, were arguably the original 'Taffy Tanks' of fame.

As of 2017, six members of the class have run in preservation, with three engines currently in operation, 5668 undergoing restoration from scrapyard condition at the Kent and East Sussex Railway, 6634 and 6686 both awaiting restoration from scrapyard condition at Peak Rail and the Barry Tourist Railway respectively, and 6697 on static display at Didcot Railway Centre.

The following table lists the preserved locomotives:

Number Builder Built Withdrawn Working Life Current Location Current Status Notes
5619 Swindon Works March 1925 June 1964 39 Years, 3 months Telford Steam Railway In Service In BR unlined Black, owned by the Telford Steam Railway
5637 Swindon Works September 1925 June 1964 38 Years, 9 months Swindon & Cricklade Railway Awaiting overhaul In BR lined Green, owned by the 5637 Steam Loco Group. The loco moved back to Blunsdon just before the lockdown and is awaiting overhaul.
5643 Swindon Works October 1925 July 1963 37 Years, 9 months East Lancashire Railway In Service In BR lined Green, owned by the Furness Railway Trust. Based at the Ribble Steam Railway but currently out on loan.
5668 Swindon Works June 1926 September 1964 38 Years, 3 months Kent & East Sussex Railway Awaiting Restoration Privately owned. Asbestos stripped in readiness for a boiler lift
6619 Swindon Works January 1928 March 1963 35 Years, 1 month Kent & East Sussex Railway Awaiting Overhaul. In BR unlined Black. Owned by 6619 Ltd. Boiler Ticket Expired 1 January 2015.
6634 Swindon Works August 1928 June 1964 35 Years, 8 months Peak Rail Under Restoration Owned by Pete Waterman. Restoration was to be undertaken by the SVR but never commenced, moved to Rowsley in Nov 2017.
6686 Armstrong Whitworth October 1928 June 1964 35 Years, 6 months Barry Tourist Railway Under Restoration Owned by the Vale of Glamorgan Council as part of the Barry Ten
6695 Armstrong Whitworth October 1928 July 1964 35 Years, 9 months Swindon & Cricklade Railway Undergoing Overhaul In BR lined Green, formerly based at Swanage Railway. Under overhaul and repairs at WSR after low loader incident where the trailer collapsed but now on the Swindon & Cricklade for the completion of this work.
6697 Armstrong Whitworth October 1928 May 1966 37 Years, 7 months Didcot Railway Centre On Static Display In GWR unlined Green, only member of the Class not to go through Woodham Brothers' scrapyard


  1. ^ a b c Casserley, H.C. (1960) [1955]. The Observer's Book of Railway Locomotives of Britain (Revised ed.). Frederick Warne. p. 56.
  2. ^ Champ, Jim (2018). An Introduction to Great Western Locomotive Development. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Transport. p. 320. ISBN 978-1-4738-7784-9. OCLC 1029234106. OL 26953051M.
  3. ^ Allcock, N.J.; Davies, F.K.; le Fleming, H.M.; Maskelyne, J.N.; Reed, P.J.T.; Tabor, F.J. (June 1951). White, D.E. (ed.). The Locomotives of the Great Western Railway, part one: Preliminary Survey. Kenilworth: RCTS. p. 16 & table I (facing p. 17). ISBN 0-901115-17-7. OCLC 650412984.
  4. ^ Duggan, Jamie (30 October 2018). "GWR 56XX Class steam locomotives - Class Information". RailAdvent. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  5. ^ Maidment, David (2020). Great Western, 0-6-2 Tank Classes: Absorbed and Swindon Designed Classes. Pen and Sword Transport. ISBN 978-1-5267-5205-5. OCLC 1137744949.
  6. ^ "5600 0-6-0T GWR Collett 5600- 5699 & 6600 – 6699". Preserved British Steam Locomotives.
  7. ^ Gillam, Peter (2013). "GWR 5600 Class" (PDF).
  8. ^ "(unknown)" (PDF). Steam Powered. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)[dead link]
  9. ^ Allcock et al. (1968), pp. 34–35.
  10. ^ le Fleming, H.M. (April 1958). White, D.E. (ed.). Part 5: Six-coupled Tank Engines. The Locomotives of the Great Western Railway. RCTS. p. E75.
  11. ^ Haresnape, Brian (1978). Collett & Hawksworth Locomotives: A Pictorial History. Shepperton: Ian Allan. p. 38. ISBN 0-7110-0869-8.
  12. ^ Morgan, Keith (17 February 2002). "Latest progress on GWR Taffy Tank No. 6695 at Herston Works, Swanage". Swanage Railway News Gallery. Swanage Railway. p. 118. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  13. ^ "Saved loco pulls passengers again". BBC News Online. 13 February 2006. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  • Allcock, N. J.; Davies, F. K.; le Fleming, H. M.; Maskelyne, J. N.; Reed, P. J. T.; Tabor, F. J. (1968) [1951]. White, D. E. (ed.). The Locomotives of the Great Western Railway, part one: Preliminary Survey. Kenilworth: RCTS.

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