Friday, 17 April 2015

34016 'Bodmin' Ex-Spam Can Steam Locomotive

Photo: Charles Moorhen

Battle of Britain Locomotive Still Battling

Belonging to a class of steam locomotives known as the West Country class, 34016 'Bodmin', seen here in preservation at Alton railway station on the Mid-Hants Railway also known as the 'Watercress Line', is as good today as she was when she hauled an endless succession of trains between London and Cornwall.

'Bodmin' was one of 110 locomotives, numbered 34001 to 34110, designed by O.V.Bulleid specifically for hauling passenger trains on the non-electrified main lines of the Southern Railway.

The first of the class, 34001 'Exeter', came out of Brighton Works brand-new in May 1945. Production of the class increased to the point that by November of the following year, 48 locomotives of the West Country class were in traffic. They quickly earned the nickname 'Spam Cans' from the trainspotting community due to the fact that the locomotives were encased in air-smoothing body panels.

  At the beginning, the West Country locomotives were given names associated with locations in south-west England such as cities, towns and popular tourist destinations. The first example of this naming being, 34001 'Exeter'.

In November 1946 the naming policy was changed. As more locomotives of the class began to be used around Kent, a decision was made to name a number of engines after aircraft, airfields, RAF squadrons and key personalities associated with the WW2 Battle of Britain. And although identical in every way, a new class of locomotive was born - the Battle of Britain class.

Photo: Charles Moorhen
34016 'Bodmin' saw sterling service over the years on Southern rails. On more than one occasion she headed the 'Man of Kent' train between Charing Cross station and Dover Marine station, such as on the 13th September 1958.

On the 11th April 1958, she was swarmed over by railway enthusiasts at the annual Eastleigh Works Open Day as she stood resplendent in her new 'rebuilt' condition which included the removal of her air-smoothing body panels, leaving her as she appears today.
By June 1964, after 19 years of service, she had been withdrawn.

With the last of the West Country/Battle of Britain class, 34110 '66Squadron', emerging new from Brighton Works in January 1951, the writing was on the wall for steam locomotion.
As a result, the majority of the West Country, Battle of Britain, and their sister the Merchant Navy classes, ended their days cut up in scrapyards.

Luckily, avoiding one of these scrapyards, 34016 'Bodmin', made the transition from main line British Railways duties to further duties in preservation.
At the time of writing, 'Bodmin' is out of service and stored at Carnforth.

34010 'Sidmouth' leaves Waterloo 28 June 1952   Photo: Brian Morrison


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