There’s only one GWR locomotive versatile enough to pull not only our new ‘B-Set’ coaches but also our expanding range of GWR wagons: the wonderful ‘Small Prairie’ 2-6-2T.

The GWR’s legendary engineer George Jackson Churchward settled on the ‘Prairie’ or 2-6-2 wheel arrangement for a medium sized, main line tank engine in 1903. Could a smaller version of prototype No. 99 be suitable for branch lines? There was only one way to find out.

No. 115 was built in 1904 and deemed a success. It was followed by ten more in 1905/1906 and they eventually became the ‘44XX’ class.

Good though the ‘44s’ were, they were hampered by their 4ft 1 1/2in diameter driving wheels. From 1906, they were built with 4ft 7 1/2in diameter driving wheels and this became the famous ‘45XX’ class, forever known as the ‘Small Prairie’.

Churchward’s successor, Charles Collett, made some tweaks to the design, the most noticeable being the larger tanks fitted to the final 100, built in 1927-1929. These became the ‘4575’ class.

The ‘Small Prairie’ family was a huge success story. They could found all over the GWR network, handling everything from a couple of ‘Autocoaches’ to heavy trains full of holiday makers to even taking quite lengthy goods trains over the South Devon banks.

BR withdrew the last of the non-standard ‘44XXs’ by the end of 1955 but the last ‘45XX’/‘4575s’ nearly made it to the very end of Western Region steam, being not condemned in December 1964. Happily, 14 ‘Small Prairies’ have been preserved and one, No. 5521, has broke new ground for the class by not only running on London Underground metals but as far afield as Poland and Hungary!

Rapido Trains UK is delighted to add the ‘Small Prairie’ to our growing range of ‘OO’ gauge locomotives. We plan to not only bring you ‘45XX’ and ‘4575’ versions to the very highest standards demanded by ‘OO’ gauge modellers but also, for the very first time, the ‘44XX’ too.

This project is in the very early stages and liveries and prices are yet to be confirmed.

We’d like to thank Mark Sealey from Peak Rail, the Waterman Heritage Trust and Kenny Felstead for their help in developing this exciting range of models.

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