Built in 1952 by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn of Darlington, England, M5 entered service on 26 May 1952 and spent much of its life working trains in northern Tasmania. Due to the prior introduction of the X class diesel-electric locomotives, the M class were never allowed to reach their full potential, with steam locomotives hauling progressively fewer trains over time. Despite this, M5 lasted in service until 1971, mainly hauling suburban and special passenger trains.
Following the 1971 TGR centenary celebrations, when six of the ten M/MA class locomotives were operational, M5 was towed to Hobart and stored. In 1974 it was written off and donated to the Tasmanian Transport Museum Society, arriving at the museum in 1976, where it was cosmetically restored.
Following over 10 years of museum display, work commenced on restoration to working order. On 15 July 1995 M5 moved under its own power for the first time in 24 years. Since then, M5 has made many appearances on both main line trips and steam days on the museum site. Most longer distance trips have been within the Hobart suburban area, although trips to Launceston, New Norfolk, Parattah and Colebrook have also been run, as well as numerous on site running days
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