Southern Region Battle of Britain class Locomotive no. 34081 “92 Squadron” will be in steam alongside No. “34027 Taw Valley” for the Severn Valley Railway’s Southern Sunset weekend which takes place on March 25th & 26th. The other Southern Region Battle of Britain class Pacific Locomotive normally at the Severn Valley Railway “No.34053 Sir Keith Park” is currently at Swanage Railway for their “Strictly Bulleid” event.
SR West Country Class 4-6-2 Pacific no 34027 Taw Valley was designed by Oliver Bulleid, CME of the Southern Railway (SR). Lighter in weight than their sister locomotives, the Merchant Navy class, they could be used on a wide variety of routes including in the south-west of England and the Kent coast. They were a mixed-traffic design, being used for both passenger and freight trains, and were rated 7P6F by British Railways. Originally built with innovative features including air-smoothed casings and chain-driven valve gear, many of the locomotives including 34027 were rebuilt by British Railways in the late 1950’s.
Taw Valley was built in 1946 at the SR’s Brighton Works and named after a river in Devon. It was originally allocated to Ramsgate where it entered service as SR number 21C127. The locomotive was re-numbered 34027 by BR following nationalisation. In 1947 Taw Valley moved to Exmouth Junction, working mainly in Devon and Cornwall, where it hauled named trains such as the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ and ‘Devon Belle’. In 1957, after being rebuilt, Taw Valley moved to the Southeast and worked commuter services from Brighton. Following transfer to Salisbury in 1963, Taw Valley was withdrawn from service by BR in August 1964 and towed to Barry Scrapyard. After being saved from Barry, Taw Valley’s restoration began elsewhere. The locomotive was moved to the SVR in August 1985 by her then owners, Bert Hitchen and Brian Cooke.
Restoration was completed in October 1987 when trial running began. The locomotive entered service in June 1998, with a formal re-naming ceremony taking place on 4 June. Following a loaded test run from Derby to Sheffield and back in May 1989, Taw Valley spent a good deal of time on the main line as well as on the SVR. This included regular excursions on the North Wales Coast Express in 1989 and 1990, and the Welsh Marches Express in 1991. In summer 1991, SVR News announced that Taw Valley was unlikely to return to the SVR after its current commitments. A brief return to the SVR took place between July and early September 1992 following which the locomotive again left the Railway.
By 2000, Taw Valley was working on the main line, appearing around the country as ‘Hogwarts Express’ to publicise the Harry Potter books. The locomotive arrived back on the SVR on 11 April 2001, having been put up for sale by Bert Hitchen and acquired by long-standing SVR member Phil Swallow. The boiler was re-stayed within this ticket during the summer of 1982. Main line running continued until May 2005. This included a number of rail tours in which the locomotive ran as sister locomotive 34045 Ottery St Mary. The locomotive also appeared in the Autumn Steam Gala of 2005 as 34036 Westward Ho, the last gala appearance before going out of ticket.
Taw Valley’s heavy overhaul began spring 2006 and Taw Valley re-entered service on 16 May 2015, hauling a “British Pullman” rail tour consisting of 12 coaches and a Class 67 diesel from Bewdley to Bridgnorth, and an SVR service from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster. Taw Valley is the only SVR steam locomotive, apart from 600 Gordon, equipped to work with air braked rolling stock. Taw Valley is currently in BR Green livery featuring the ‘Late Crest’. The coat of arms on her name plate were not carried in service.