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Loco's Nameplates Come Home

(L to R) Bideford Railway Heritage Centre chairman Andrew Mills proudly shows off the Bideford nameplates with auctioneer Neil Booth - Credit: BRHC

Bideford Railway Heritage Centre, its volunteers and members, are celebrating after its bid to bring nameplates from a steam locomotive called ‘Bideford’ back to the town was successful. The heritage centre's bid at a recent Railwayana auction was successful, with the centre purchasing a set of nameplates and the only smoke box number plate from ‘our’ Bulleid Pacific 34019 for display in the town. The locomotive was named by the then mayor, William Chubb, at Bideford station in 1946. It was scrapped by British Railways in 1967, after pulling trains across the south of England, to places as far apart as Ramsgate and Padstow, but its nameplates were retained. Many other locations in the west country, such as Barnstaple, Torrington, Appledore and Westward Ho!, all have their nameplates but Bideford did not. Chairman Andrew Mills said: "A massive thanks to all who supported us, the Bideford Bridge Trust, private donors, big and small, it would not have been possible without you. It has been the culmination of a 25-year-old ambition for us, we even have one member who was present at the original naming ceremony!" The set of plates consist of a ‘Bideford’ plate, a town crest, a scroll saying ‘West Country Class’ and a plate with the locomotive's number on it. Curator Clive Fairchild explained: “Bideford was one of the few West Country towns that did not have its West Country Class nameplate and it had been our intention for many years to find one for the town, not only for BRHC but also for the benefit of the whole town.

More about Bideford

One of the Bulleid Battle of Britain Class 4-6-2 34072 257 Squadron

The Bulleid-designed locomotive was one of a class of 4-6-2 (Pacific) locomotives introduced on the Southern Railway. The class was designed as a lighter version of Bulleid's Merchant Navy class and featured air-smoothed casing, a high boiler pressure, multiple-jet blast pipe and chain-driven Bulleid valve gear.

The first batch of twenty locomotives was ordered in April 1941, although the changes in design to the Light Pacific arrangement meant that production was delayed until late 1944. Due to wartime contract work at Brighton works, the boilers were built under contract at the North British Locomotive Company. Before the first of the class had been delivered, the order was increased to thirty, with a second batch of ten ordered in September 1944. Deliveries from Brighton works began in May 1945 with prototype No. 21C101 Exeter, and proceeded at the rate of about two locomotives per month. The class was gradually run in on the Central Section until October 1945, when they were successfully trialled on Plymouth and Kentish services. By the time the first fifteen had entered traffic a further order of fifteen was placed, with these entering service between June and October 1946. From this batch onwards, traction was improved by the addition of steam sanding to the front driving wheel, with covers added to protect the motion from sand falling from the filler pipes.

Members of the Class like Bideford, which were originally built for use in the West of England were given "West Country" names (Nos 34001 - 34048) while those built later and built for the use on the Eastern Section of the Southern Railway were given Battle of Britain names, linked to those squadrons and people who had been involved in te battle of Britain over Southern England (34049 - 34110). There were no differences between the two, apart from the names.

Bideford left the works on the 31st December 1945 as Class WCBB No (SR) 21C119 but, in the 1948 Nationalisation renumbering, she became No 34019 . Like a number of other locomotives across British Railways, she was converted for a short time to oil-firing.

Her first shed was 72A Exmouth Junction and she was withdrawn from 70A Nine elms on the 31st March 1967 and taken to Cashmore's in South Wales where she was cut up on the 30th September 1967

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