'BRAUNTON’ : BR 34046 (‘LORD DOWDING’ : 34052)
WEST COUNTRY CLASS (BATTLE OF BRITAIN CLASS) : 4-6-2
A member of the Southern Railway’s West Country Class, ‘Braunton’ is now operating as Battle of Britain Class ‘Lord Dowding’, and was built as a powerful light-weight locomotive to haul passenger trains from London to the West Country.
‘Braunton’ originally looked very different from the way she appears today. She was built with an ‘air-smoothed’ casing, to increase the aesthetic appeal at a time when streamlining was all the rage. The West Country and Battle of Britain Classes were among the first British designs to use welding in the construction process and featured a unique chain driven valve gear hidden inside the locomotive. They were built as ‘light’ engines, weighing just 86 tons, so they could run over smaller railways in Cornwall and Devon, while still being able to pull express passenger trains like the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ at high speed.
‘Braunton’ was finally withdrawn from traffic in late 1965 and was sent to Barry scrapyard where she was to languish for many years; it was not until the early 2000’s that her overhaul started. In 2007 she returned to steam for the first time since the 1960s and, some five years later she returned to the mainline in August 2013. She is currently based at Crewe or out on the wider rail network.
Photo by: Ian Bowskill