Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

Braunton the Locomotive


BRAUNTON is a ‘Bulleid Pacific’ design express passenger engine, a member of the ‘West Country’ Class. Mr OVS Bulleid was the Chief Mechanical Engineer to the Southern Railway in the 1930s and he was answering a call for a new, modern, powerful steam locomotive to help replace the ageing locomotive fleet at that time.

Naming Locomotives

Many members of this class were named after towns on or near the Southern Railway system in the west of England. It was one of a class of 110 locomotives, numbered 34001 - 34110. These were powerful engines, capable of speeds in excess of 100mph. 

A brand new Braunton, 1947BRAUNTON was built in 1946 at Brighton Works, initially carrying the SR number 21C146 and entering service in an ‘air smoothed’ form, incorporating many innovative engineering techniques and developments of the time, such as electric welding and a unique internal chain drive assembly providing power to the wheels.

Bearing a number, but as yet no name, the loco was first allocated to Exmouth Junction Shed. During this period it would have been seen on the Barnstaple to Ilfracombe line passing through the town of Braunton after which it was later named.

Nationalisation

Braunton passing Boscombe station, 1958In 1948, the railway system in Britain was nationalised, becoming British Railways. Renumbering of locos took place at this time, with BRAUNTON receiving the number 34046. The loco was officially named BRAUNTON in January 1949. Some of the class were named at a ceremony at their ‘home’ town stations, but BRAUNTON was not, the nameplates being applied without ceremony at Eastleigh Works.

In 1951 it was re-allocated to Salisbury and then Brighton, working services between London, Brighton, Salisbury, Exeter, Plymouth and Ilfracombe.

Redesign

Due to perceived problems by British Railways affecting availability and ease of maintenance, BRAUNTON, along with other members of the class was extensively redesigned at Eastleigh in January 1959, losing the air-smoothed casing and the internal chain drive.

Braunton, running behind another West Country, 1959After rebuilding, BRAUNTON was transferred to Bournemouth Shed and ran services mostly between Waterloo and Weymouth and also over the Somerset and Dorset line between Bath and Bournemouth. During the loco’s career it hauled many prestigious named trains such as the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’, the ‘Pines Express’ and on one occasion in 1959, a Royal Train to Portland.

Withdrawn from Service

Braunton in the weeds, 1996BRAUNTON was withdrawn from service in late 1965, 2 years before the end of steam on the Southern Region, after accumulating 779,210 miles. From 1966 until 1988 the locomotive lay rotting in Dai Woodham’s Scrapyard, Barry, South Wales. It was rescued and moved to Brighton where an abortive attempt was made to restore the loco, by now in a deplorable state with many parts missing, to running condition.

Restoration

In 1996 it was purchased initially by the West Somerset Railway Association (and latterly sold on to a private individual who has funded the restoration) and moved to the Association’s engineering base at Williton on the West Somerset Railway. Thereafter followed a long restoration which is only now reaching it’s conclusion. The few original parts to survive ie. the boiler, frames and wheels have been refurbished and many new parts have been manufactured from the original engineering drawings. Surviving parts from other members of the class have also been sourced and fitted to the loco.

Braunton in steam in 2007Over 100 people have contributed to the restoration, which has involved a mixture of volunteer and paid work, under the leadership of Gareth Winter at Williton. In July 2007, the locomotive was steamed for the first time since 1965. After successfully passing all the insurance exams required by law, BRAUNTON commenced running-in trials on the West Somerset Railway during August. Work on the loco has continued throughout the winter and an official launch is planned for 2008, after which it will enter service on the West Somerset Railway. Also, the loco has been restored to a standard which will allow it to work on the main line network once again, hauling excursions throughout the land.

Braunton CrestThe station and railway line that ran through Braunton was closed in 1975, so although BRAUNTON can never visit its namesake home town again, it will proudly carry the name and town crest of Braunton wherever it goes.    

Keith Speller, BRAUNTON PROJECT, January 2008
c/o Swindon Shed, Williton Railway Station, West Somerset Railway, TA4 4RQ

Launch

When it came to the big day, the sense of excitement at Bishops Lydeard Station was palpable, as the locomotive was officially unveiled and launched into passenger service.  24 September 2008 was a monumental day in the story of this fantastic engine and it looks stunning, with super-shiny paintwork.  You can keep up with Braunton the locomotive and find out how to purchase tickets for travel behind her, at The West Somerset Railway web-site.

Request for Information

PS. If any one reading this has any records or photographs of this loco at any point in it’s career (especially a photo of BRAUNTON at Braunton, something we don’t yet have), we would be very grateful to hear from you in order that your information may be added to our extensive and ever growing BRAUNTON historical archive. Please contact me at keithspeller876@aol.com or telephone me on 07971628767.

For more information about the restoration of Braunton and other locomotives, see The West Somerset Restoration web-site.


 
explore braunton, the most biodiverse parish in england - a north devon aonb project