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

These two classes have a popular following and we are fortunate that ten have been preserved or are awaiting restoration in their as-original condition (listed in their BR numbering): 34007 Wadebridge, 34023 Blackmore Vale, 34051 Winston Churchill, 34067 Tangmere, 34072 257 Squadron, 34070 Manston, 34073 249 Squadron, 34081 92 Squadron, 34092 City of Wells and 34105 Swanage. To clear up any confusion 21C123/34023 was originally named Blackmoor Vale but after 1950 ran as Blackmore Vale. Different maps show the actual place in either spelling! She is currently running on the Bluebell Railway as 21C123 in Southern Railway malachite green livery and as such is currently correctly named Blackmoor Vale, though for a time she ran on the Bluebell in BR livery as 34023 Blackmore Vale.
34051 All Battle of Britain class locos carried names of distinction but perhaps one of the best remembered is 34051 Winston Churchill which is part of the national collection at the NRM Seen here on 19th February 2000.

photograph by Colin Duff

21C123 Left: The imposing front of West Country class 21C123 Blackmoor Vale in Southern Railway condition, pictured on the Bluebell Railway.

photograph by Michael Taylor

Right: That of 34051 Winston Churchill in British Railways condition, at the NRM on 14th May 2002

photograph by Peter Richards

One of the features promoted by Bulleid for his "air smoothed" casing was that the engines could go through carriage washing equipment to save time and labour when cleaning the engines. This would seem to be something that was not generally done, although we have one account of the Clapham Junction carriage washing plant being used to clean them between 1963 and 1967. Apparently they were not cleaned right to the top of the sides! Here is a photograph of 34067 Tangmere going through the carriage washer at Littlehampton on 23rd September 2006.

This was, however, simply a shunt move through the washer - and it was a tight fit!

photograph by Adrian Lee

21C123 The restored 21C123 Blackmoor Vale setting back at Sheffield Park on the Bluebell Railway. The spelling was changed from Blackmoor to Blackmore in 1950 and the shield is a Bluebell addition. The locomotive was not fitted with one under SR/BR(S) ownership!

photograph by Michael Taylor

The major differences between the WC/BBs and the MNs were that the light Pacifics had their cylinder bore reduced by 1.625 inches but retaining the same 24 inch piston stroke, the fire grate area was reduced by 10.25 square feet, a boiler barrel only 1.5 inches shorter but the diameter at the front being 3.75 inches smaller and the evaporative and superheating surfaces were smaller by 13% and 33% respectively. The boiler pressure remained the same at 280 psi though as with the MNs this was subsequently reduced. The overall wheelbase was 1 foot 3 inches shorter and the overall weight in full working order 5.25 tons lighter. Tractive effort at 85% pressure was 31, 000 lb, less than that of the Lord Nelson class but the boiler proved more capable of sustained performance albeit at the cost of being heavy on coal.

To meet the restricted Hastings line loading gauge the first 70 locomotives were built with a 8 ft 6 in wide cab however there were problems with forward visibility due to the narrow cab front window. A modification was devised altering the flat fronted cab to a wedge shape which allowed a larger window, and this modification was incorporated from new from the 64th locomotive built. Since the class was never used on the Hastings line from the 71st locomotive a 9ft wide cab was applied. All locomotives with a flat fronted cab were subsequently modified.


photograph by Michael Taylor.

In 2000 the Bluebell's West Country class locomotive emerged after overhaul again
as 21C123 in Malachite livery. It is seen here working the 11am service from
Sheffield Park on Sunday 23rd September.

Top and tender view detail of Blackmoor Vale whilst working the 11am service from Sheffield Park on Sunday 23rd September 2000.

photograph by Michael Taylor

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21C123 21C123 departing Horsted Keynes for Kingscote on the afternoon of 21st July 2001.

photograph by Colin Duff

Blackmoor Vale working tender first into Horsted Keynes from Kingscote on 21st July 2001. This view gives a good sighting of the electric lights used for route indication after dark in place of the more normal oil lamps. Some members of classes other than the pacifics were so fitted, but why it wasn't introduced generally is a mystery. Presumably Marylebone didn't like it!

The hooded lamp in the middle is to illuminate the "business area" when coupling or uncoupling after dark. What a luxury provided by Mr Bulleid for the humble shunter.

Note that this photograph also shows in good detail the screw link coupling.

photograph by Colin Duff


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This page was last updated 4 July 2009

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