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

"Without wishing to be pedantic,
I could class Britannia as merely an enlarged Atlantic.
For something really tarific
See a Bulleid Pacific."

HAV Bulleid

photograph: Mike Morant collection

A not-so-common shot, N°34047 Callington caught exactly side-on. The lack of nameplates says it is at the end of her career!

As originally built the Merchant Navy class and the Light Pacifics were a roaring success, particularly so in the 1948 locomotive trials when they showed a clean pair of heels (especially the Light Pacifics) to all opposition. It is true to say that the other regions called "foul" with some (minor) justification as, in the main, the trials were comparing economy and performance. The Southern engines could not compete on economy so their drivers were instructed to "go for it", and this they certainly did! Greeted with rapture on their introduction to traffic, by 1947 a couple of clouds had arrived on the horizon. Firstly, the locos were costing a lot in coal, water and oil and secondly maintenance, originally anticipated to be less than on traditional engines, was in reality rather more. These were not a problem for the drivers, of course, who were busy proving that the Southern had the best time-keeping of all the railways. The arrival of the Britannia Class 7MT Pacifics in 1951 only served to enhance the reputation of the Bulleids, which gave rise to the little ditty reproduced above! However, in 1952 the maintenance problems were growing. Bulleid's departure for Ireland had led to no effort being made to cure leakages from the oil baths, which were growing worse and, coupled with a general lowering of maintenance standards in order to cut costs, sloppy fault identifying and delayed attention to them, was causing serious and expensive damage. Three options were clear - the Railway could:
1. Do nothing.
2. Try to fix the problems without major modifications.
3. Replace troublesome parts by standard parts.
The task was given to Jarvis of the CM&EE Department at Brighton and he, understandably, opted for number three. By the end of 1954 he had finished the designs and drawings, which were put forward in January 1955, proposing to modify all 140 Pacifics over a six year period, for a cost of £760,000, which, it was estimated, would save an overall £2,051,400 by the locomotives' estimated scrapping date of 1987.

The decision to go ahead was taken in 1955 and modifying of both the MN and the WC/BBs proceeded. However to many, whilst this modifying corrected the erratic running, it also reduced the "sparkling" performance (at least when working well) of the locos. One big disadvantage was the necessity to add balance weights to the Bulleid-Firth-Brown wheels, thus removing one of their better characteristics - the total absence of any hammer blow. Another problem was increased weight which originally barred the modified LPs from working to North Devon or over Meldon Viaduct, west of Okehampton. (In July 1959 Meldon Viaduct had been strengthened and the modified locos were allowed to work to Plymouth, but they were still barred from the North Cornwall and North Devon lines. The first such working over Meldon Viaduct was on 14th July when N°34062 headed the 8:41a.m. Exeter-Plymouth stopping train and the 2:25p.m. return).
(For information and pictures of the Light Pacifics in their original form please follow this link to the SREmG Light Pacific picture pages.) However, unlike the MN class, not all were modified since the financial justification for converting a relatively new locomotive class was weakened with the decision to phase out steam traction far faster than originally proposed. In all 60 out of 110 were modified with the WC variants being modified in greater proportion than the BB ones - 43 out of 66 WC locos compared with 17 out of 44 BB. As with the engines in their original form the only differences between the modified WCs and BBs were the nameplates and scrolls/plaques.

The first loco to be modified was N°34005 Barnstaple in the summer of 1957 and the last N°34104 Bere Alston in May 1961. Modifying followed a similar programme to that employed on the MN class but all narrow cab locomotives had their cabs enlarged to 9 ft. The appearance of the modifieds resembled their contemporary BR standard design Pacifics but still retained many of Bulleid's features, the most obvious being the BFB wheels, the smokebox door and the cabs. Modifying also increased the weight in full working order by almost 4 tons which prevented them working to Barnstaple, Bude, Ilfracombe or Padstow. Some modifieds also obtained new 5250 gallon capacity tenders which were built on the underframes of the badly corroded originals.

eing relatively new locomotives these classes in their modified form lasted working front-line services until the end of steam. The first withdrawal was in 1964 and the final members of the class lasted until the end of Southern steam in 1967. As with the locomotives in their original form the modifieds are a popular class and again ten have either been preserved or are awaiting restoration: N°34010 Sidmouth, N°34016 Bodmin, N°34027 Taw Valley, N°34028 Eddystone, N°34039Boscastle, N°34046 Braunton, N°34053 Sir Keith Park, N°34058 Sir Frederick Pile, N°34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair and N°34101 Hartland.

During the modifying, two major changes occured. First the initial non self balanced crank was recognised to be too weak (one major crank failure occured) and was replaced by a much heavier self balanced crank and this upset the initial balancing. Correspondingly balancing weight should have been removed from the driving wheels. This seems not to have been possible, so the only other option was adding balance weights opposite to the initial position. This should in part explain why the locomotives became heavier.
It has been suggested that: The change from Bulleid chain drive to Walschaerts Valve gear made a significant difference in total weight.
Then there was another major change: in the initial design all three cylinders got their steam through piston valves designed by Bulleid with outside feed, all the movement of pistons of cylinders and valves being almost 120 apart (with a slight correction to compensate for inclination of inside cylinder). This is why all these movements balanced each other out. But the rebuilders changed the inside valve to inside feed which meant that the inside valve worked at 180° from initial position and angle settings were then 60°, 60°,240, (all three on the same side) thus totally upsetting the balancing of the slide valves and attached rods. This created a fore and aft movement of the locomotive. To minimise it proper balance weights had to be fitted to the wheels, but these additionnal weights (and not the previous ones) were responsible for hammerblow (dynamic augment).

How was it decided which engines were to be modified? The order of the work has often seemed to be random, but it was based on when an engine was due a full General Overhaul. By the time the programme was authorised a number of the earlier members of the class had already received their second GO, so Nos34002/6/7 etc. weren't modified as they didn't then become due for a further GO until the modifying programme had ceased. Depending on their allocation some locomotives had higher annual mileages so they would come in for a General Overhaul more quickly than those where mileages were low.
A General Overhaul would take around five weeks whether or not the locomotive was modified, so modifying took no more time than usual overhauls.
The three locomotives which never had their tenders cut down all came in for General Overhauls in the period between modifying batches in the late summer of 1959.
Despite the modifying programme, BR(S) hadn't given up on the original design, as witness the alterations to the smoke deflecting of two locomotives and the fitting of a Giesl Ejector to N°34064. The deflector experiments took place in the period between the modifying batches and the Giesl was fitted in September 1962, just nine months before the first withdrawal. It was the catastrophic changes brought about by Dr Beeching in 1963 that brought everything to a shuddering halt, but General Overhauls were well down in 1962 compared with previous years anyway.
Only N°34045 Ottery St Mary came in for overhaul whilst modifying was underway and avoided being modifyied, but then later returned and was modified.

Nos34043/11/65 had all been "altered" to some extent in 1952 and were overhauled but not modified in 1957, although any other locomotive coming in was modified. Eastleigh could handle two at one time, with a two week overlap. N°34080 escaped at the end of that year as it arrived ten days before N°34001's modifying was completed. N°34066 came in in February 1958 after the Lewisham disaster but wasn't due a General and as there were two engines being worked on at that time it returned to work repaired but not modified, although its tender was cut-down, the first Original to be so altered after the three 1952 ones.

Shortly after that N°34067 and N°34070 (the latter's tender receiving the left and right-facing later crests although it wasn't cut-down despite the fact that N°34067's was) escaped being denuded as the first five of the final series of MNs had taken up residence for modifying. Nos34110/063 appeared within a week of each other in June that year but the last MN was still in works and N°34028 was using the other slot. N°34045 had sported an unsuccessful spark arrestor since its General Overhaul a year earlier, (the last one to have a GO before modifying commenced), and was laid up for a month or so before getting an unscheduled General in July 1958 and being modified, taking eleven weeks instead of the normal six weeks. As a result N°34073 came in and was returned to service in original condition.

N°34068 was the next escapee, in December 1958, as N°34029 had come in four days earlier and was butchered. N°34083 came in the day after N°34039, so was spared. N°34075 also came in just after another engine and wasn't altered.

At the end of March 1959 N°34062 was the last of the first batch of 30 modifications, so all other engines coming in for General Overhauls for the rest of 1959 were merely overhauled, although most had their tenders cut down (except*). They were Nos34035 (which had its cowling modified), 34041/49 (also modified cowling)/51/54/66/69/72*/74*/76/78*/79/81/86. Eastleigh then spent the summer of 1959 rebuilding the last ten MNs

There was no escaping the strippers in 1960 as all 24 engines in for General Overhauls that year were modified, probably because they'd upped the ante and could do four at once now, and the last six were the first of the 1961 General Overhauls. The first one after the programme was completed was N°34020, which entered Eastleigh Works on 7th April 1961, some three weeks after the last modified, N°34104. Another 16 had Generals that year but none was modified, and one (N°34084) was overhauled for the Western Region. Just five had General Overhauls in 1962 and that was it for the Originals. Eastleigh overhauled seven Modifieds in 1963/4, the other 53 never having a General Overhaul at all.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
If there is a larger version, rclicking on the 'F' key will display it. Clicking again will close the window.
  • 34021
     
    WC N°34021 Dartmoor was modified during November and December 1957.
    Originally N°21C121, she was renumbered as s21C121 in March 1948, then to N°34021 in July 1948 but still carried the number s21C121 on her front. She was repainted in BR livery in May 1950.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34049
    Brookwood
    BoB N°34090 Sir Eustace Missenden, Southern Railway at Brookwood during 1959.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • 34008
    East Croydon
    WC N°34008 Padstow arriving at East Croydon in charge of the 6:10pm from Victoria.
    The 6.10 from Victoria was the heaviest commuter train on the Oxted line. It was described as "infamous" or something similar by R H N Hardy when writing of his experiences as shedmaster at Stewarts Lane (and elsewhere), because it was such a heavy train and tightly timed over a difficult route (the Oxted line is uphill most of the way from South Croydon to beyond Woldingham). It ran from Victoria to Brighton via Oxted and Eridge and conveyed a Tunbridge Wells portion that was detached at Oxted. Running fast from East Croydon to Oxted, it was invariably worked by a Brighton pacific that came up on a balancing working earlier in the day. If anything other than a pacific were rostered it used to run very late!
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 34087
    Willesden Jn
    BoB N°34087 145 Squadron off home territory at Willesden Junction on on 13th August 1961.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • 34037
    Slipping
    The LPs and MNs were renowned for slipping when in the hands of an inexperienced or careless driver, or when making a difficult start such as on a grade with a sharp curvature. Here N°34037 Clovelly can be seen slipping badly when re-starting after coaling at Nine Elms. Slipping can be very dangerous if not brought quickly under control, both to the crew and the locomotive. After being modified engines weren't quite so prone to slipping as when in the original condition as they were not so "free and easy" on starting.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • 34096
    Nine Elms

     
    WC N°34096 Trevone on the turntable at Nine Elms on 15th August 1964.
    Photograph: The Paul Plowman Photo CD Collection.
  • 34072
    Eastleigh
    BoB N°34072 257 Squadron with the Bournemouth Belle at Eastleigh on 23rd August 1964.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34101
    Raynes Park
    WC N°34101 Hartland runs through the centre tracks at Raynes Park with a Waterloo to Bournemouth West express formed of Bulleid coaches on 26 September 1964. The platforms at Raynes Park are "staggered" with the up platform on the other side of the station footbridge.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 34039
    Eastleigh
    WC N°34039 Boscastle and spamcan N°34038 Lynton head one way whilst 34016 Bodmin is busy going the other. Interestingly, all three engines are running in reverse gear and two of them live on in preservation. Photographed at Eastleigh on 1st November 1964.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34009
    Oxford
    WC N°34009 Lyme Regis being turned at Oxford. She was there to work the Pines Express that, after being re-routed from the Somerset and Dorset route, always had a Southern pacific to and from Oxford.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34018
    Oxford
    Another light pacific photographed at Oxford was this one, WC N° 34018 Axminster, on 16th October 1965.
    Photograph by John Bradbeer.
  • 34001
    Weymouth
    The class prototype, WC N° 34001 Exeter, is seen here at Weymouth on 21st June 1966.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34088
    Clapham Jn
    BoB N°34088 213 Squadron, minus nameplates, heads a goods working through Clapham Junction during 1966.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34100
    Datchet
    WC N°34100 Appledore was running tender-first at Datchet, and following Standard Class 3 2-6-0 N°77014, of the LCGB "South West Suburban" Tour on 5 February 1967.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 34013
    Shawford
    WC N°N°34013 Okehampton entering Shawford station with the 12:30pm service from Waterloo to Bournemouth on 11th February 1967.
    Photograph by Trevor Tupper.
  • 34034
    Waterloo
    WC N°34034 Honiton with nameplates already removed at Waterloo on 25th May 1967.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34013
    Fishersgate
    WC N°34013 Okehampton at Fishergate Halt on an RCTS Special.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 34036
    Clapham Jn
    WC N°34036 Westward Ho running into Clapham Junction. The missing nameplate tells it is shortly before withdrawal.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34037
    Nine Elms
    WC N°34037 Clovelly negotiates the turntable road at Nine Elms.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34033
    Clapham Common
    WC N°34044 Woolacombe running light engine through Clapham Common. As with so many of the class towards the end of steam, the nameplate is missing.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 34013
    Eastleigh
    WC N°34013 Okehampton at Eastleigh devoid of nameplates and smokebox number plate.
    Photograph by Tony Woodward.
  • 34004
    Bournemouth
    WCs N°34004 Yeovil, N°34047 Callington and N°34104 Bere Alston on shed at Bournemouth.
    Photograph by Tony Woodward.
  • 34050
     
    BoB N°34050 Royal Observer Corps with an Ian Allan excursion. If you look carefully you can just see that there is the Royal Observer Corps emblem under the cabside number.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • 34093
    Bimcombe
    A nameless WC N°34093 Saunton photographed drifting down Bincombe bank on a very sad day indeed - 9th July 1967 - the very last day of Southern Steam.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.

Preserved Engines

These two classes have a popular following and we are fortunate that ten have been preserved or are awaiting restoration in their modified condition (listed in their BR numbering): 34010 Sidmouth, 34016 Bodmin, 34027 Taw Valley, 34028 Eddystone, 34039 Boscastle, 34046 Braunton, 34053 Sir Keith Park, 34058 Sir Frederick Pile, 34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair and 34101 Hartland.
  • Modified
    Tender
    Although this photograph was taken against harsh light the side top detail of the modified tender behind Taw Valley can be seen. Pictured at London Bridge 1999.
    Photograph by Jonathan Hall.
  • 34039
    Rothley
    Southern rolling stock in preservation is now not only to be found in the south of England! In fact the Great Central Railway and the North York Moors Railway have creditable collections of SR locos. Here N°34039 Boscastle - one of the West Country class locos never to have carried a crest - departs Rothley station on the GCR.
    Photograph by Graeme Pettit.
  • 34016
    Ropley
    WC N°34016 Bodmin has long been based on the Mid-Hants Railway. She is seen here departing Ropley towards Medstead & Four Marks sometime during the early 1980s.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 34016
    MHR
    With steam swirling in the frosty atmosphere WC N°34016 Bodmin is working tender first out of Alton towards Medstead & Four Marks on a Santa Special on the 6th December 1987.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 34016
    Yeovil Jn
    WC N°34016 Bodmin with the Mid-Hants "Green Train" at Yeovil Junction during 2000.
    Photograph by Chris Osment.
  • 34059
    Sheffield Park
    BoB N°34059 Sir Archibald Sinclair was restored at the Bluebell Railway, returning to traffic in 2009 and working its first public trains on Saturday 25th April.
    Here 34059 is seen in the loco yard at Sheffield Park alongside SECR C Class N°592 on 16th August 2009.
    Photograph by Neil Walkling.
  • 34059
    Sheffield Park
    Here BoB N°34059 is drawing the stock for a Sheffiled Park departure out of the "Newick" siding on 16th August 2009, during the Railway's Vintage Transport Weekend.
    Photograph by Neil Walkling.
  • 34059
    Horsted Keynes
    Now leaving Hortsed Keynes station, BoB N°34059 Sir Archibald and the same train are heading off for Kingscote station. The restoration earned the Bulleid Society the 2009 Southern Railways Group "Denys Fletcher" award, an award previously given to the Maunsell Society for 1638 in 2006 and Wadebridge (34007) Locomotive Ltd for its locomotive in 2007.
    Photograph by Neil Walkling.
  • 34039
    GCR
    WC N°34039 Boscastle as one of the Southern locos in bits distributed all around the Loughborough Works of the Great Central Railway. This is the first of a series of pictures taken on 28th June 2003, starting with the stripped cab interior.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 34039
    GCR
    The firebox and boiler are in place but unclad.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 34039
    GCR
    The left hand trailing driver and most of the motion but minus cylinder.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 34039
    GCR
    The smokebox door, smoke deflectors and part of the chimney stored outside the shed. One assumes that where all the disparate parts are located is well listed otherwise come re-assembly there will be a great hunt-round
    Photograph by Colin Duff.

This page was last updated 9 July 2020

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