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October 2012
Underframe Overhaul
169 in GWR/BR service
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August 2019


We have today (1 August 2019) concluded an agreement whereby 5542 will be operated and maintained by the South Devon Railway for the next 30 years.  It means that the long term future of nit only our steam loco but also our other rolling stock currently located on the SDR will be maintained and, if necessary restored, using their resources.  The deal will see 5542 in particular guaranteed a long period of activity potentially on railways all around the country.  The agreement recognises our origins on the WSR and the input of many WSR supporters in its restoration.  We believe this secures the best possible future for Locomotive 5542 Ltd.


November 2015

Whilst the work at Buckfastleigh on W233W continues unabated we have, after 7 months of patiently waiting, at last had 169 returned to the undercover luxury of the Swindon shed at Williton. Today we started to tidy the remnants of 2 years of life in the sidings, and the carriage is now ready for a further onslaught.

Of course we haven't been idle during the ensuing period with work on seating, section two, and of course much work on 233. A work schedule will be established over the next few weeks to allow further steady progress over the weeks and months ahead. We hope to have lots of new work to show at next year's WSR Spring Gala.

March 2015

Don't forget to visit us at the West Somerset Railway Spring Gala. Our sales and information stand at Williton will be open on Saturday 28/3 and Sunday 29/3.  Do drop in where we will be happy to relieve you of your cash or donations of books etc, timber or tools!

October 2014

This year's annual Carriage Restoration Convention was excellently hosted by the Llangollen Railway and, as is now customary, 5542 Ltd were there along with around 50 other delegates from heritage railway groups and organisations from as far apart as Aberdeen and the Volks Electric Railway in Brighton. The programme of illustrated talks and demonstrations was centred on the Railway's carriage workshops located beside their running line some distance from Llangollen Station comprising an excellent three road covered workshop and extensive siding accommodation that allows them to undertake restoration of rolling stock for their own line and other owners. The income generated here and in the locomotive workshops is the force that drives the Railway forward. Predictably a major source of interest to us was the presence of Collett auto coaches 163, 167 and 174, close relatives but, as ever with GWR carriages, not quite identical twins of our own 169.

Tony displays components made for 233 and 169

Two members of the 169/233 team left the West Country long before dawn in time to set up a small display with illustrations and examples of what we have achieved. Tony Brooks was able to demonstrate that we can hold our heads high with the quality of our work at least equal to the work of professionals and fellow amateurs. In particular we were able to advise other groups on our success with the steam bending and lamination of structural timbers using epoxy resin adhesives. Whilst no longer alone in bringing these techniques to the heritage railway world from the construction and marine industries it is clear that we can be proud of our advanced mix of these modern techniques along with our high standard of more traditional work. Any doubts on this score were dispelled by the requests to undertake work for other projects. The speed of our renovation of 233 along with the unique history of the vehicle has helped to raise our profile as serious players.

Various displays and demonstrations took place over the weekend

Our thanks go to the Llangollen Railway for their friendly informal atmosphere and the varied programme with something for all, not forgetting the fine quality of the Ludlow Gold beer on the Saturday night Real Ale train where we delegates had our own reserved first class carriage.

Photos © Mike Dunse

April 2014

The lack of updates re work on 169 doesn't mean that there's no progress just that large quantities of "standard" wood components are rather mundane and not very photogenic!

January 2014

The fast-track restoration of Auto 233 has rather stolen the limelight but progress with Auto 169 has continued, work has recently been concentrating on the continued manufacture of seating components which might sound relatively mundane, however it has taken quite some time to gather all the necessary parts, but at last the process of gluing and assembly has now arrived and the start of a fairly major 'gluing up' operation is now underway. Progress in this area is only limited by the amount of long clamps available to us. We have quite a few but as the say 'you can never have too many' so if you have any that are 3ft long or more, that you don't need then please get in touch. Unfortunately they won't be available to sit on for a while as we will need to 'catch up' on the bodywork construction side but they will be available from stock when required.

October 2013

A few photos of our stand at Williton during the West Somerset Railway's Autumn Steam Gala.

June 2013

We have a few tickets remaining for our 'Special Train' on this coming Saturday evening 15/06/2013 on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. The train departs Toddington at 19.00 returning at about 22.00 There is full bar facilities available on board. If you wish to support us and our projects and would like an enjoyable evening travelling the whole of the GWSR please e mail chairman5542ltd(at) with your ticket requests. Numbers are limited and are on a 'First Come First Served' basis for a minimum donation of £10 per ticket.

7 June 2013

2nd Autotrailer purchased

The Directors of Locomotive 5542 Limited are pleased to announce that we have reached agreement to purchase former British Railways (WR) Autotrailer W233W.

The carriage which spent much of its B.R. working life in the West Country later became Test Car 1 at Derby Research Centre before being sold to the group which amongst other items owns and operates former SDJR loco 53809. The carriage has been modified during its life at Derby with amongst other things Dual Air/Vacuum Brakes, B4 bogies and Oleo Buffers being fitted. Internally it was also refitted for its use as a freight wagon test vehicle but does retain many of its original features. It is our intention to return it to operational use as soon as possible, and it will be mainly based at the South Devon Railway but will be available for hire when not required by them.

The purchase has been made possible by a generous loan from a member and the directors will now be launching an appeal for funds to allow a quick return to operational use.


5 June 2013

Four of Auto 169's Wednesday Gang answered Chris Austin's call for extra volunteers to work on the underframe of toplight 6705 on 5th June 2013. The task they took on was to reconnect the vacuum brake system to see if it worked, check it operating using test equipment and then finally to check the system for leaks.

Pictures show piston working for the first time since the mid 1960's

Brake cylinder of toplight 6705

Brake cylinder of toplight 6705

May 2013

April and May have seen more "behind the scenes" work making components, a seemingly endless task!

Some photos of them, the first four are showing the made up droplights sat in the prepared uprights waiting for the felt to finish the fitting before the droplights are glued and wedged. Completed droplights are stood up in front of the small section.

The others are showing the made up jig for making the tenons on the droplight top and bottom rails.

Progress is now being made on the next set of 3 uprights to facilitate the setting up of the next set of droplights. Also work has started on the making of 8 small partitions which go between and at each end of the forward/backward facing seats.


March 2013

Work recently has focused on making the droplights, several components for which were on view during the WSR's Spring Steam Gala.

The frame for testing drop lights set up inside 169.

A jig and a pile of components in progress for the drop lights.

Our chairman has a long wait if he's hoping for a ride!  All help of time and/or money to help us complete 169 is gratefully received.

More droplight components and jigs.

Another view of the test rig.

Template for cutting a channel for a droplight.

Set up and ready at the Spring Steam Gala.

January 2013

26 January

Not been much done by the midweek gang due to bad weather (and to much tea drinking!) but a few recent shots of continuing work on 5542 Ltd's van B752355.  We recently painted roof with bitumen to help with few leaks!!  Shot of doors open to aid drying out process and photo of vacuum brake piston and ring on bench dismantled to find the problem with the brake.

Vanfit with doors open

Vacuum brake cylinder and piston

8 January

A couple of photos to show progress on the 3 uprights which will form the runners for the first set of drop lights. The timber has been machined of all twists and warps and are now straight, true and square. The tenons have been cut square and true. The next step is to make up a small section to assemble the 3 uprights to continue the machining to accommodate the drop lights. The drop light manufacture will also be continued alongside this so each set of uprights will be matched with their respective drop lights.


December 2012

Work on 169 continues at Williton with our efforts now moved on the 'Section 2'.  Following the reassembly of the main structure at the recent WSR Autumn Gala we are now looking to address the finer points of that part of the vehicle.

The main challenge of this section will be the number of 'droplights' it contains.  A 'Mark 2' routing former has been developed over the past few weeks to allow us to tackle each main upright component in one go rather than having to attend to each one in 2 sessions. The picture shows the first use of the new box alongside the original one showing its greater capacity and other improvements.

We are also hoping to finish producing the main seating framework components during the coming months and to that end we have been producing the required blanks to allow us to complete the outstanding ones that will bring the total to 20. Once those have been shaped using the router table we will turn out attention to the main seat uprights. We will probably need to purchase some 36mm oak planks for these as we do not have suitable timber amongst our current stocks.

We intend to have a small sales and info stand at the Winter Steam Gala Weekend courtesy of our friends at the DEPG so do come and look us out. We might just have the book you never received from Father Christmas (or you might need to make space for your new acquisitions) so bring your surplus titles to keep our stock up.

All of us at Auto 169 and Locomotive 5542 wish you a Very Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year.


October 2012

There's so many photos of 169 on display at the WSR Autumn Steam Gala they've got their own page October 2012

In late October the midweek working party, in between drinking tea, put in some work on the Vanfit which is used as a store by Locomotive 5542 and is normally part of the WSR's Heritage Goods Train.  It had recently been shunted to an area where we could make a start on work on a vacuum brake problem - until rain stopped play.

Vanfit under repair

Vanfit under repair

September 2012


This week's mid-week working party has made more  progress in advance of the gala weekend with much of the floor and some seat partitions assembled and the handbrake and vacuum brake valve stand fitted.  To see 169 for yourself visit us at Williton during the Autumn Steam Gala on 6 & 7 October.

General view of Auto 169

A full view of 169 on 26/9 - really taking shape now!

Handbrake fitted

Handbrake fitted and partitions progressing.

Hand and vacuum brake fittings in place.

Handbrake pedestal and the pipe for the vacuum brake valve installed.

Progress with the floor

Progress with the floor.  Photos © Ian Grady


Preparation work on assembling the first part of 169 continued today and included adjustments to the drivers partition allowing it to fit more 'snugly' which in turn allowed the first two roof hoops to be fitted.

The second section was also trial fitted and although it will need full attention to all the fine detail during the coming months, it went together with very little effort considering it is some time since it was last assembled.  During recent months the components have not only been subject to the 'Williton Flood' a while back, but have also since dried out with all the potential twisting and splitting problems that go with that.

We now have assembled virtually half of the carriage for viewing at the WSR Autumn Gala (Saturday and Sunday 6 & 7 October) where we will be pleased to invite visitors on board to inspect our work to date. Our Fund Raising Book Stall will also be present.

Side view with '2nd section' trial assembled at far end.

Interior view showing partitions, roof hoops fitted, and some flooring in place.  Photos © John Wood


A landmark day for 169 at Williton today as we assembled the renewed/restored new framework on the underframes for the cab end of our autocoach.

Carefully positioning sections of the frames.

Progress by the end of the day.

Photos © Mike Dunse

August 2012

We are planning a big display of progress to date at the WSR Autumn Gala October 6/7th at Williton, but prior to that (and weather permitting), we will have a sales/display stand in the yard at Williton for the Late Summer Weekend event 1st/2nd September. Why not pop down, grab a book bargain and catch up on the latest 169/5542 news, or exercise your 'grey matter' at our Family Quiz Evening on Friday 14th September at Bishops Lydeard Village Hall - see below for further details.

Checking seats for fit

Checking seat components for fit against small partition.

Roof hoops

Cutting the tenons of the first two roof hoops to fit the cant rail, and fitting one to its metal support bar, followed by mortising them to receive the longitudinal spacers and grab rail supports.

Trial assembly

Trial fitting of the small partitions between the longitudinal and transverse seating areas.

Friday 14th September 2012 sees the first of what we hope will become an annual Quiz Evening. It is being held at Bishops Lydeard Village Hall and all are welcome to join in. Please see attached poster for all the details. Teams can be any number up to 6, However if you would like to join in, but can't get a full team together we will make up some teams on the night. Just let us know if you want to be included. The cost £5 per head to include a light buffet and some prizes for the top teams. Please bring your own drinks. Surplus funds will go towards restoration of GWR Autotrailer 169.
Please let me know if you would like to come along for a Friendly and Fun evening, by email as soon as possible but by 9th September at the latest.
Why not get a team together from your group or department?
The quiz will cover a full range of subjects so Everyone can join in. It will be 'hosted' by 'Quiz Guru' Magda Davies and her assistant(s)

Please register your team by phoning Magda on 01823 354515 or John 07712 072100 or e mail before 10/09/2012

July 2012

Working party on Wednesday 11 July 2012 collected from store previously cut and shaped timber for the 2nd (mid body) section. This was checked and stacked on the almost complete frame ready to be profiled, routered and finished.

Mid body section frames ready for finishing.

On 7 July a working party carried out a trial assembly of the driving end body framing, the collection of pieces of wood suddenly became identifiable as part of a carriage!

May 2012

On 30 May the working party finally moved the remaining section of bodywork back on end of chassis where it belongs.

Body section in place on auto 169

The working party on 23 May continued efforts to move remaining coach luggage/ brake part of the body back to the original position, we did not quite achieve that goal so another working party is required - please get in touch if you'd like to help.

Moving the body section back

Luggage area nearly back in position.

We had a busy working party on 16 May tightening up nuts and fitting split pins to chassis end bogie /brake gear before moving remaining section of bodywork back.

Recent progress at 169 unit 7 by Tony Brooks on down side front section re-doing joints and rebating and shaping uprights

April 2012

Work continues to progress, on Wednesday 11 April our working party re-worked  and rebuilt several window sections after skills and manufacturing methods improved.

On the same day painting of final sections of the Underframe continued.

Window sections for Auto 169

Painting the underframe of Auto 169

Photos © Ian Grady

March 2012

Work is continuing on producing components for the wooden framework, though the stock of them is steadily increasing there seems to be little to show for our efforts as one piece looks much like the other 20 of that part!

Underfame and bogies of auto 169 at Williton.

The underframe on its bogies with the luggage end body sat on rollers on it in the Swindon Shed at Williton on 17 March 2012.

The driving end of auto 169 in the workshop at Williton.

The driving end frame is in our industrial unit and is largely completed.

Body side framing for auto 169.

A section of bodyside framing being assembled - top nearest the camera, drivers door jam nearest the wall.

Components of auto 169's body framework.

The other side of the driving end frame, an internal partition and a jig for making components.


















Jigs for cutting corners and making chamfers.

Two jigs used in making components, furthest from camera for cutting the corners the other for cutting the correct 15° chamfer to the inner edges.


















Old and new components for 169.

A selection of old and new components on display at the WSR Spring Steam Gala.

Luggage end of 169.

Draw gear and guards hand brake at the luggage end of Auto 169.

Photos© Steve Huddy

December 2011

Despite all the activity on the loco work continues on the 'Auto' with steady progress on the wood sections and more seat components being produced.

Metal support brackets for the wooden framework have also been produced and galvanised.  We hope to expose the last section of the frames shortly to allow completion of that work, and just for good measure the 12 ton stores van will be visiting Williton over the winter months for a re paint. Many thanks to all who help us at Williton.

November 2011

Work continues on the Luggage end Bogie which is now virtually completed and refitted.

Some joinery work continues although progress has temporarily slowed to allow us to concentrate on getting the major work on the loco boiler to get fully underway.

October 2011

Work on 169 continues steadily with the Luggage End bogie now nearing completion and should be refitted soon.

The joinery side also  make steady progress although we are a little disappointed that we were unable to get some of the bodywork assembled for public show during the Autumn Gala (although where we would have been located it might have been another logistics nightmare).  However, we have run another successful fund raising weekend in the Williton yard and our thanks to Ray and team for allowing us space and the 'Gods' for at last allowing the sun to shine on a WSR Gala.

A donation of a large quantity of tools and timber has topped up our supplies and we now have a quantity of surplus hand tools, including carving and turning chisels of all sizes and vintage wooden planes of various and interesting types. If anyone is interested in that side of carpentry or wants something to restore and perhaps put on display, please get in touch as I'm sure we can supply something suitable for a small donation to our funds.

August 2011

Since the last report progress has continued in all areas with the trial fitting and drilling of the main timbers and frame to accept the bolts that hold the carriage body to the chassis. The process of ensuring the body sits central on the frames is quite involved especially when trying to use a mix of original and new parts.

After almost 2 days of deliberation we (I) came to the conclusion that the original body was possibly half an inch 'lopsided'. The 'midweek' gang, who number 8 workers on some days, have managed to liberate the 'luggage end' bogie to allow that to be given the the clean down and repaint treatment over the next few months. This also shows no obvious signs of needing any major attention at this stage. 

In the joinery shop the wooden construction of second cab door has now reached completion until trial fitting can take place. Other fine tuning work continues on the front saloon section and we shall soon be turning our attention to the driving cab windows. News from Chard is that Laurie believes he can complete the last(40th) of the turned seat legs before disappearing completely under a sea of shavings! One small wood turning job required on the loco and he can then put his feet up.

June 2011

Despite a few Bank Holiday weekends recently we have still made some good progress, with recent attention turned to some trial assembly of the flooring sections at the driving end of the carriage. To enable this we have had to join the first two main side timbers using long bolts with tapered heads screwed through the scarfed joints into threaded holes in a galvanised steel plate.  Once the process was mastered we made steady progress and completed both sides in a day.

We are now ready to sort out drilling the timbers and fitting them to the chassis.

Other work has continued on  the chassis trial fitting some of the auto operating support brackets. Wood work progresses in our workshop with work on sides, door and seat components. Some of the roof timbers steamed during the latter part of last year have received the attention of our 'Glue Guru' and we now have 4 completed with a further 4 to finish. Then just a further 6 sets to bend and glue at some stage.

Off site our turner continues to make steady progress with about half of the seat legs completed.

We hope to have the front of the cab completed later in the year and will be looking to purchase the first of the required glass. At present we are 'holding our breath' on the cost of such glass and would be pleased to hear of any suitable suppliers or any willing sponsors!

April 2011

A very successful Spring Gala saw many visitors to our display at Williton with lots of interest in our project. A good sum was raised for funds boosted by the generous donations of good quality and historic railway items. Thank you.

Progress continues in all areas with the Drivers end bogie almost complete and just awaiting an inspection by our engineer prior to refitting.  Wood shavings are being created by the bag load both at Williton and at our specialist wood turning depot where seat legs and spindles are in bulk production by one of our (I suspect) more senior active volunteers.

March 2011 update

Work on the Drivers End bogie has progressed well and the pictures below show the bogie repaint nearing completion.


Above  Bogie cleaned and almost completed     Pictures © John Wood       Above  Axlebox cover, Anyone know what the 161 No means?

Many thanks to all our visitors to Williton over the Spring Gala weekends. There were many interesting discussions and a goodly sum was raised for our funds.

March 2011

Following  a long wait the chassis of our carriage finally returned to the Williton shed in late January. 

Advantage of the limited stay was immediately taken when the drivers end bogie was removed to allow it to be fully

cleaned and repainted.  With work being undertaken on up to 3 days each week by an enlarged workforce good progress is being made and because there is no major engineering work required we hope to have it ready to refit either before or just after the WSR Spring Gala.




Above images © Ian Grady

Meanwhile in the joinery shop progress is being made on the  main bodywork and also production of seating components


Above images © John Wood


January 2011

The first work of the New Year saw the final major components thicknessed down to finished size and the 'attenton to detail' of the first section of the side of the coach is now nearing completion.

All moulding around windows and toplights is now finished  and the 'infill' panels are fitted.

The picture below shows the latest situation with toplight window frames also in situ.

Frame of part of carriage side.

Please help us to continue our restoration of this historic Great Western Railway Autotrailer

Download a Donation or Standing Order form and return it to us today to help us continue to progress.



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