Historic Steam Locomotive, named after the man, that helped fight the Battle of Britain, Air Vice Marshal ‘Sir Keith Park’, to move to the Spa Valley Railway later this year!
The Spa Valley Railway is delighted to announce, in partnership with Southern Locomotives Limited, re-built Bulleid Light Pacific No. 34053 ‘Sir Keith Park’ is to move to Tunbridge Wells West later this year, initially for undercover storage during the Winter months but with a view to steaming in late 2020 or early 2021!
Built-in January 1947 at Brighton Works, the 4-6-2 will be the first ‘Bulleid Pacific’ and the largest steam engine to visit the restored Spa Valley Railway since the end of Southern Steam in July 1967 and will take up residence in the only remaining London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Engine Shed still in use for its intended purpose, 75F.
34053 was named on 19th September 1947 by Air Vice Marshal Park and the move of the locomotive to Kent coincides with the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, fought in the skies over Britain, including Kent itself, between July and October 1940.
Promoted to the rank of Air Vice Marshal, Keith Park became Commander of 11 Group RAF, in April 1940, 11 Group being responsible for the fighter defence of London and Southeast England. He became known as the ‘Defender of London’ and during the Battle of Britain his command faced the brunt of the attack from the Luftwaffe.
In March 1966, 34053 was withdrawn from active service and like many steam locomotives went to Barry Scrapyard, South Wales, and was bought privately in 1979, leaving Barry Island in 1984. The locomotive was then purchased by Southern Locomotives Limited in 2000 and was progressively restored by a dedicated team between 2000 and 2012, the locomotive first steamed in public service at the Severn Valley Railway in August 2012.
The Spa Valley Railway would like to express its gratitude to Southern Locomotives Limited for approaching the railway and offering 34053 to us. The move of the Bulleid from Tysley (where it is currently) will take place following some repair work and a steam test. The road move to Tunbridge Wells West is being privately funded away from the Spa Valley Railway and will not impact on any finances of the Kent-based heritage line.
34053 WILL steam at Tunbridge Wells West and operate on Spa Valley Railway passenger trains following a period of crew familiarisation once the railway has re-opened following the COVID-19 period of closure. You may well, therefore, see ‘Sir Keith Park’ operating up and down through the High Weald prior to entering public service!
Jonnie Pay, Commercial Manager says “We were thrilled to receive a request from Southern Locomotive Limited to bring ‘Sir Keith Park’ to the Spa Valley Railway, initially for Winter storage but will also see time in active service, it didn’t take us long to make our minds up! I very much look forward to seeing the Bulleid in action, especially on a route that was often frequented by this glamourous machine back in the days of steam. Being able to host a Battle of Britain class locomotive is certainly an achievement and shows our continued dedication to the future of steam at the Spa Valley Railway.”
Matt Dives, Steam Engineering Assistant says “When I was approached by one of our volunteers, who is also a shareholder of Southern Locomotives, about the prospect of bringing a Bulleid Pacific to 75F I immediately contacted the rest of the Management Team. Following on from the visit of BR Standard 4MT 80078 earlier this year, the arrival of ‘Sir Keith Park’ will certainly be a huge motivational boost for the dedicated team of volunteers that work in the shed, after the recent lengthy period of downtime. Everyone is very excited and I hope our visitors will be too!”