34053 Sir Keith Park (SR 21C153 & BR 34053)

34053 large.jpg

Sir Keith Park (A New Zealander Sir Keith Park was Air Chief Marshal in Second World War. He was in operational command during two of the most significant air battles in the European theatre in the Second World War, helping to win the Battle of Britain and the Battle of Malta.) was built at Brighton Works in 1947, and allocated to Salisbury MPD as number 21C153. It spent a considerable time on loan to Stewarts Lane depot, where it was recorded hauling the heavy Continental boat expresses, including the Golden Arrow on many occasions. Following brief spells at Nine Elms and Exmouth Junction, it returned to Salisbury in 1951 working over the entire South Western network

In 1958 the locomotive was rebuilt and its air smoothed casing was removed. It returned to Salisbury motive power depot. A final transfer in February 1960 saw it operating out of Bournemouth depot and many times it traversed the Somerset & Dorset at the head of the Pines Express.

34053 was withdrawn in October 1965 and towed to Barry scrap yard in South Wales the following March. Its arrival was delayed by several weeks, as there were some connecting rods in 34053’s tender which struck a bridge near Chandler’s Ford. The convoy of locomotives were left at the east siding of Romsey station for several weeks. After its eventual arrival at Barry it somehow avoided the cutter’s torch for a further 20 years.

Charles Timms bought the locomotive in 1979, but it was not until June 1984 that it left Barry en route to the former Hull Dairycoates depot. At first glance Sir Keith Park appeared in reasonable condition considering its lengthy stay at Barry. The tender came from 35006 Peninsular & Oriental and was sold to the Port Line group before the locomotive left Barry.

At Hull the bogie and pony truck were removed and sent to Swindon in 1988 for work to be carried out using the former Swindon Works wheel lathe, and the boiler lifted from the frames for restoration. Several new parts were ordered and produced, mainly fabricated parts, such as running boards, smoke deflectors etc. Little work was done to the boiler or chassis at that time. The owner died in 1992 and the locomotive was sold, together with available parts, to Dr John F Kennedy and moved to the Railway Age at Crewe during 1992 with a view to early restoration.

Things didn’t work out as planned, and in 1995 the locomotive moved to Thingley Junction (west of Chippenham, where the Melksham line leaves the line to Bath). Passengers will have noticed a lonely looking steam engine, minus front bogie and pony truck, as they flashed by in an HST. Little work was done on 34053 during this period, and ultimately it was sold to Jeremy Hosking for use as spare parts for 34046 Braunton and moved to Bishops Lydeard on the West Somerset Railway in 1997.

It was moved by rail from Bishops Lydeard to Williton in February 1997. During the summer of 1997, the boiler tubes were removed to assess the boiler’s suitability as a donor for Braunton, however it emerged that Braunton’s own boiler was the better of the two.

As Southern Locomotives Limited (SLL) was involved in contract work for Braunton SLL were given first refusal to purchase the locomotive when it was deemed surplus to requirements. A generous purchase price which included some parts which Braunton had not required, combined with an offer from one of our generous shareholders to subsidise the purchase, saw 34053 leave Williton and move to Sellindge in December 2000.

The locomotive was purchased with the full knowledge that SLL might never have been able to restore it given other commitments. However, such was the support for its restoration, mainly because Air Vice-Marshal Park played such a vital role in winning the Battle of Britain, that it was decided to start work when Manston was completed.

Due to lack of space in the works at Herston the frames of the locomotive were transferred from storage at Sellindge to the workshops of South Coast Engineering at Portland. Over a period of several months they were completely overhauled and repainted and a new drag box built and fitted.

Meanwhile the driving wheels had been transferred to the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh for retyring, and the boiler was transferred to the LNWR Heritage Centre for overhaul.

In late 2008, after 34070 Manston’s departure, the frames were transferred from Portland to Herston Works, and it was decided to move the boiler to the West Somerset Railway for a heavy overhaul and the fitting of at least one new tubeplate.

In 2009 the rear tubeplate was ordered and delivered to the West Somerset, however it was then decided to move the boiler back to Herston and repairs started shortly afterwards. The driving wheel axleboxes were white-metalled and machined, and the driving wheels returned from Devon, rewheeling of the frames took place in 2009.

The trailing truck wheels and the front bogie were installed, although the latter is actually Eddystone’s. 34053’s was overhauled and is now running with 34028. With the reinstatement of the running plates, the mechanical lubricators were fitted and the huge job of reinstalling all the pipework commenced.

In 2010 rapid progress was made, with components being fitted almost daily. Following significant support from the shareholders virtually a full set of motion had be accumulated and the coupling rods and connecting rods were reinstalled.

The new tender frames were riveted in late 2008 and the new tender was completed in 2010.

The restoration of Sir Keith Park was completed in May 2012, at a cost of £773,000, and the locomotive travelled by low-loader to the Severn Valley Railway where it was hired out to. The deal to run the locomotive on the SVR was negotiated as there were already two working Bullied Pacifics at the Swanage Railway.

After some weeks of testing and adjustments it entered passenger service on the SVR in August 2012.

In January 2018 the locomotive moved to the Swanage Railway where it is now based.

After having some problems with the middle connecting rod big end the locomotive was back in service in October 2018. This was aided by the use of the coupling rod from classmate 34028 Eddystone.

Home Base Current Status Owner
Swanage Railway Operational Southern Locomotives Limited
34053 at Bewdley-2013.jpg 34053 Sir Keith Park at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway-2013
34053 at Loughborough-2016.jpg 34053 Sir Keith Park at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway-2016
34053 at Oxenhope-2016.jpg 34053 Sir Keith Park at Oxenhope on the Keighley Worth Valley Railway-2016
34053 small.jpg 34053 Sir Keith Park at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway-2017

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