Bulleid WC/BB 'West Country' and
'Battle of Britain' class 4-6-2

In the closing months of World War II, in response to a need for a fast and powerful mixed traffic engine with wide route availability, the Southern Railway introduced a new class of Pacific locomotive, able to traverse the restricted Hastings line and the "Withered Arm", and also to relieve the Southern's war-weary locomotive stock that had made such an outstanding contribution to Britain's war effort. Design work had started in 1943 and, after considering and rejecting a 4-6-0, the "Light Pacific" was born, copying as closely as possible the Merchant Navy class design but with the objective of retaining the maximum possible power, whilst at the same time keeping the engines' weight to a ceiling of 86 tons, with an axle load of no more than 19 tons. The MNs' bogie, coupled wheels, axleboxes and motion were all retained with just the trailing wheels, cylinders and pistons reduced in size. The boiler and firebox were scaled down which, with further applications of welding, saved weight, whilst disposal time was shortened through improvements to the grate and ashpans.

The first member of the class was weighed at Brighton Works on VE day, was found to be within the estimated weight and emerged in June 1945 resplendent in pre-war Malachite livery - in sharp contrast to the prevailing starkness of the wartime overall black livery. The somewhat unfortunate class name of "Lightweight Pacific" was replaced by "West Country" with, subsequently, engines built for the south-east (though, as it turned out, not necessarily used there) named as "Battle of Britain". The initial order was for a bold 70 locomotives and the build was subsequently extended through and after nationalisation to a total of 110.

s21C149 Anti-Aircraft Command, at Exmouth Junction with the early 'S' prefix British Railways number, BRITISH RAILWAYS legend on the tender and still wearing the Southern roundel on her smokebox, which dates the photograoh as being between 13th March 1948 and 18th February 1949, during which time the loco was allocated to Salisbury shed.

photograph: A. E. Durrant/Mike Morant collection

34020 34020 Seaton, in early BR livery and on foreign territory, working over GWR metals from Exeter to Plymouth. The photograph is undated but as the loco was re-painted in the later BR livery during a general overhaul that began on 30th May 1950 it is obviously between 1948 and then. 34020 never carried the 'S' prefix.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

Nº34062 17 Squadron thunders through an unknown station, quite possibly Ashford, with what appears to be a boat train. The livery, together with the smokebox number and lack of any owner's name on the tender would suggest this photograph was taken circa 1949.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

34045 Nº34045 Ottery St Mary also in early BR livery but yet to attain a crest on the tender, photographed at Exeter Central.

photograph by Mike Morant

Nº34081 92 Squadron is one of many members of the class that survived into preservation. Here she is seen, with the 'Cycling Lion' crest on the tender, at Victoria.

photograph by Mike Morant

34004 One of the first batch of West Country locos of June 1945, Nº34004 Yeovil near Wilton in 1952.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

Nº34048 Crediton photographed in the early 1950s near South Croydon station. Note that the train consists of Stanier stock, nearly all in blood & custard livery, so may well be an inter-regional working.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

34069 Nº34069 Hawkinge running into Mortehoe & Woolacombe Station from Ilfracombe, with an up train. Some time during the 1950s.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

Nº34057 Biggin Hill at Brighton in 1957 getting ready to head a Brighton to Plymouth Train.

photograph by Michael Taylor (who was 13 years old when he took this photo on an old box camera.)


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This page was last updated 29 October 2011

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