34039 Boscastle (SR 21C139 & BR 34039)

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Locomotive 21C139 was built in 1946 at the Southern Railways works in Brighton and entered traffic on in full Southern malachite green livery. It was based at Stewarts Lane shed working trains principally from London Victoria station to the Kent coast resorts of Margate and Ramsgate and the ports of Folkestone and Dover. 21C139 received the name Boscastle some time between 1947 and 1948. After nationalisation in 1948 Boscastle received the number 34039 and between July and September became the regular engine on the prestigious Golden Arrow Pullman train.

In October 1948 it moved to Brighton shed, and began working to such places as Salisbury, Bournemouth and Southampton. Other duties included late night trains, parcels trains from Brighton to London, returning on the early newspaper train from London Bridge. Boscastle became the first West Country class locomotive to carry the new standard British Railways passenger green livery in August, 1949.

In 1951 Brighton’s allocation of West Country’s were dispersed elsewhere and Boscastle was chosen, along with two others for trials on the Eastern Region in May. Based a Stratford shed (London) they worked services from Liverpool Street to Cambridge, Norwich and Harwich. During this time Boscastle visited Bury St Edmunds (where it was too long for the 50′ turntable) and Doncaster, presumably on a special working. The trial was not a great success due to the crews’ unfamiliarity with this type of locomotive and the problems of getting fitters and spare parts across London when they required attention.

Boscastle returned to Brighton in June 1952 and settled down to a relatively quiet life. The schedules of the cross-country trains were not particularly demanding and Brighton’s West only really tested by summer Saturday trainloads. In, 1958 Boscastle was due for a heavy general overhaul and was sent to Eastleigh works for rebuilding at the same time. This was completed in 1959.

Shortly after, 34039 was allocated to Bournemouth shed in February 1959 and from there, worked on the main line between Waterloo, Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth. Regular duties included the tightly – timed two hour express trains to Waterloo, while also taking its turn on named trains such as the Bournemouth Belle and the Royal Wessex. Another Bournemouth duty in summer included the Pines Express, a through train to Manchester which started its journey over the steeply graded Somerset and Dorset line to Bath. Boscastle became the first Rebuilt West Country to run on the Somerset and Dorset in 1959, hauling the up Pines Express and saw regular use on that line while at Bournemouth shed. In September 1962 Boscastle was transferred to Eastleigh shed.

Many of the duties at Eastleigh involved working semi-fast trains to Bournemouth and London, with occasional work such as Friday evening relief trains and summer Saturday holiday extras supplementing the usual service. Eastleigh shed also provided locomotives for the heavy Ocean Liner Special trains running between Southampton and Waterloo. The trains ran in groups of three to five to coincide with the arrival of the liners at Southampton Docks.

One of Boscastle’s more unusual trips took place in 1963, hauling a football special to Birmingham, when Southampton FC were playing Manchester United at Villa Park in the FA Cup semi-final. Several trains ran from Hampshire stations that day, the locomotives being serviced and stabled at Tyseley for the return run.

Progressive modernisation of British Railways brought about the first withdrawals of the West Country class in 1963. Boscastle was withdrawn in May 1965, when it was due for overhaul, after running some 745,000 miles in its 19 year working life. It was subsequently stored at Eastleigh shed until sold for scrap to Woodham Brother of Barry in South Wales in September of that year.

Boscastle had been quietly deteriorating in the scrapyard until 1972, when quite by chance, its fortunes changed. In 1970 group of enthusiasts, whose aim was to preserve a section of the Great Central main line, established a base at Loughborough Central Station and in 1971 formed Main Line Steam Trust Ltd. A member of that group, saw in an issue of Railway World, a list of 200 ex BR steam locomotives at Barry scrapyard and recognising several old favourites amongst them, conceived the idea of purchasing a West Country for use on the preserved Great Central. On a visit to Barry scrapyard with four friends, he was advised that Boscastle was in the best condition and so in 1972 James Tawse purchased the locomotive outright for £3,250 in November 1972. Boscastle finally left the Barry scrapyard in January 1973 and moved to the Great Central Railway, being the first ex BR main line locomotive on the preserved line.

Five days after arriving at Loughborough 2,500 visitors attended the opening of Loughborough Central Station.

Restoration began the following year at Loughborough but took far longer than anyone had anticipated. Funding the restoration proved too much for the owner and in 1986 he formed the Boscastle Locomotive Syndicate to widen the ownership. A further six years of work ensued before the first fire was lit in the boiler, with the team’s efforts finally bearing fruit in November 1992 when Boscastle moved for the first time under its own power. After a formal launch in 1993 the locomotive settled down to work, proving a popular addition to the GCR fleet.

Towards the end of 1996 the locomotive’s firebox started to give trouble, after a period out of traffic for repairs, the locomotive returned to service but further trouble was experienced both with boiler tubes and eventually the firebox. Having completed 30,000 miles in service in June 2000 the decision was taken to withdraw Boscastle from traffic pending a full overhaul.

To fund the second restoration Boscastle Locomotive Ltd was formed in 2005 with the sole purpose of putting the locomotive back in working order and maintaining it in that state. The private limited company was formed as a more effective way of raising money for the locomotive.

The boiler required specialist repairs which included cutting out and replacement of large sections of the firebox plating.  A full time contractor was engaged to work on the rest of the locomotive. The locomotives tender has now also returned to the GCR and will also require extensive work to bring it back up to the required standard.

At the beginning of 2012 the locomotive has started to be re-assembled after being stripped down to its component parts.  The frames have now been re-wheeled and the brake gear has been re-fitted.  The work is now concentrating on the mass of copper pipework that makes up the lubrication system and the locomotives cylinders and valve gear.

By June 2017 work was nearing a stage where the boiler could be sent to the South Devon Railway for overhaul.

The boiler was sent to the South Devon Railway Engineering for overhaul in early 2018 and reached the head of the overhaul queue there towards the end of the year. The overhauled boiler was returned to the Great Central Railway by December 2019.

It is thought the locomotive could be back in steam in 2022. By the end of 2021 it was thought that 2023 might be a more realistic target.

In July 2022 it was reported that 80 parts for the locomotive worth £50,000 had been stolen from a container at Loughborough.

Home BaseCurrent StatusOwner
Great Central RailwayUnder overhaulBoscastle Locomotive Ltd
34039 Boscastle at Cambridge. Presumably whilst based at Stratford between May 1951 and March 1952
34039 Boscastle nearing Eastleigh with a train trom Weymouth to Waterloo – February 1962
34039 Boscastle at Bournemouth – June 1963
34039 Boscastle passing Didcot with a freight from the Oxford line – May 1964
34039 Boscastle at Easleigh in the 1960s. Presumably in store between being withdrawn in May 1965 and September 1965 when it was moved to Barry
34039 Boscastle in Woodham's scrapyard at Barry - October 1968
34039 Boscastle in Woodham’s scrapyard at Barry – October 1968
34039 Boscastle on the Great Central Railway – 1996
34039 Boscastle under overhaul at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – January 2013
34039 Boscastle under overhaul at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – January 2016
34039 Boscastle under overhaul at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – January 2019

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