The West Country class were one of Southern Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer OVS Bulleid’s idiosyncratic designs. They were classified as Mixed Traffic locomotives, mainly so that authorisation to build would be granted – these are essentially an express locomotive design. Originally all were built with “air smoothed casing” to facilitate cleaning through mechanical washers, they are often referred to as “spam cans” in their original form. They were essentially a lightweight version of the Merchant Navy class, (hence also being referred to as “light pacifics”) and required extensive welding in construction with steel fireboxes. Note also the Bulleid-Firth-Brown wheels which provide better support for the tyre that did not require balancing when in their original form and meant there was an absence of “hammer blow”.
Built in Brighton in 1946, this (originally numbered 21C126 and without a name), this locomotive would have originally looked a lot like classmate 21C123 Blackmoor Vale (that was built in the same batch) and very different to how this model looks (see comparison below). It would have been painted in the distinctive Southern malachite green colours and mounted with the Southern roundel on the smokebox. It had it’s Southern markings removed in 1948 when the rail network was nationalised under British Railways, but wasn’t renumbered 34026 until the following year when it had it’s cab modified.
It was repainted into Lined Brunswick Green in 1950, a livery it wore for the remainder of its British Railways career. It was named Yes Tor in 1955, three years before being rebuilt. The class in common with Bulleid’s Merchant Navy and identical Battle of Britain classes was in it’s an original form and expensive machine to maintain. The innovative features proved to be costly and unreliable. They also consumed more coal, water and oil than they should. These were becoming apparent in 1952 and there were grave concerns of the cost implications of a type that at the time were expected to last until 1987. For that reason, Jarvis worked on re-designing the locomotive’s, effectively “standardising” them. In 1954, the new designs were ready and were approved the following year.
Rebuilding the locomotive’s did fix many of the faults and reliability issues, however it also took away some of the benefits. They did not perform quite as well, the wheels required balancing and created hammer blow. They were heavier too – by 4 tons, which barred them working on North Devon and Cornwall routes. Not all of the class were rebuilt, as the business case for doing so was soon destroyed by the accelerated plans for dieselisation of the British Railways locomotive fleet. 34026’s rebuild in 1958 significantly altered the locomotive cosmetically and mechanically. As well as being rebuilt, it also received it’s cut down tender at the same time – the original having terrible corrosion. In 1959 34026 received it’s AWS equipment and speedo.
Yes Tor was withdrawn from service just 8 years after being rebuilt and was scrapped in 1966. During it’s lifetime, 34026 travelled 916,244 miles. However, that’s not quite the end of the story of this locomotive! In the summer of 1992 it was briefly recreated when classmate 34027 Taw Valley was renumbered and renamed 34026 Yes Tor.
This Hornby model is excellent, if a little unreliable (this version required the chassis dismantling and re-building due to a short-circuit. Click here for the model review. Links to other model of the week articles can be found in the Loco Model Page (click here to see more). Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow morning to open the next advent calendar too! Thanks for reading folks 🙂