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

As with the Merchant Navy class despite their failings these locomotives were capable of impressive performances due in part to the steaming capacity of the boiler which was capable of a sustained high output. Their wide route availability meant they were useful engines that could traverse most of the system. Three WC locos took part in the 1948 locomotive exchanges and being driven by expert crews put up some outstanding performances albeit with a high coal consumption. Two WC class engines were experimentally converted to oil burning but were rapidly converted back to coal burning when the experiment was cancelled.

When in 1955 authority was given for modifyding half of the MN Pacifics it was also given for 15 light Pacifics. However unlike the MN class not all were modified since the financial justification for converting a relatively new locomotive class was weak especially with the end of steam already in sight. In all 60 out of 110 were modified with the WC class being modified in greater proportion than the BB class - 43 out of 66 WC locos compared with 17 out of 44 BB. For information and pictures of modified light pacifics please follow the link below to the modified light pacific pages. So a good quantity of air-smoothed examples did survive working useful lives until the end of steam and working on the "Withered Arm" in particular since the heavier weight of the modified excluded them from working north of Meldon Junction to Bude and Padstow or to North Devon.

34064 Fighter Command was one of two locomotives on British Railways to be fitted with Dr Giesl's Oblong Ejector. The Lemaître five nozzle blastpipe as fitted to the light pacifics did not work that efficiently with a spark arrester, so the seven nozzel Giesl spark arresting arrangement was tried in August 1962, and proved to be a great success. The increased exhaust velocity of the Giesl ejector was found to greatly improve smoke lifting and a leaflet to BR drivers at the time proclaimed, "The Giesl Oblong Ejector may be considered as the ultimate solution to the exhaust problem on steam locomotives combining, as it does, the best of theory and practice...". In 1963 a scheme was drawn up to convert a further twenty locomotives but by this time steam was already doomed and the project did not go ahead

As fitted to Nº34064 the Giesl Ejector was not easy to see, but this photograph does show it! Nº34092 City of Wells was subsequently also fitted with a Giesl Ejector in preservation, though it was later removed.

photograph: Mike Morant collection


The first withdrawals were in 1963 with the final members of the class lasting until the end of Southern steam in 1967.

34007 Another photograph of Wadebridge, this time at Nine Elms on 21st February 1965, less than eight months before withdrawal. At this time she was shedded at Salisbury.

photograph by Ray Soper

Original condition West Country Nº34105 Swanage on the withdrawn line, but still displaying nameplates, at Eastleigh mpd. Swanage was to have a better fate that some of her companions on the withdrawn line.

photograph by Keith Harwood

34033 Not so lucky original spamcan Chard on Eastleigh mpd in 1965. Withdrawn 19th December 1965 she was cut up the following May.

photograph by Keith Harwood

Nº34038 Lynton at Barnes on a Goods Working on 29th June 1965.

photograph by Ray Soper

34038 Three quarter rear view of Nº34038.

photograph by Ray Soper

Nº34074 46 Squadron at Cowley Bridge Junction with a train for the Ilfracombe line.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

34076 Nº34076 41 Squadron photographed at Oxford having arrived with the Pines Express on 7th July 1965, long after the train had been re-routed away from the Somerset & Dorset route.

photograph by Ray Soper

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This page was last updated 23 October 2010

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