Although 34007 Wadebridge is currently the Watercress Line’s only operational Bulleid Pacific, it was one of three running at the Watercress Line Spring Steam Gala 2014. The event provided all three (currently) possible mechanical variations of Bulleid Pacific – unrebuilt light pacific, rebuilt light pacific and rebuilt Merchant Navy. Wadebridge is an example of an original unrebuilt Bulleid light pacific – a charismatic locomotive to start a series of blog posts looking at each of the stars of the gala.
34007 Wadebridge is a member of the West Country class – a type mechanically identical to the Battle of Britain class. Known as light pacific’s, they were a lighter version of the Merchant Navy class, built to operate on the Southern Railway’s lightly laid routes. Many of these routes were in the west of England, hence the naming of the type. Built in the summer of 1945, Wadebridge was completed in the condition (although in malachite green) that we see her in today. Air-smoothed casing, chain driven valve gear, Bulleid-Firth-Brown wheels and steam assisted reversing gear were some of the unusual features of the class. Typical of an unconventional design of Bulleid, the locomotive has extreme plus and negative points. The boiler is fantastic and the Bulleid-Firth-Brown wheels eliminate damaging hammer blow to the track. However the chain driven gear was encased in a bath of oil that would leak, which did not help the light locomotive’s tendency to slip. Maintenance was difficult and expensive, not helped by the air-smooth casing that earned the type the nickname “spam cans”. They also were inefficient and used lots of coal. For these reasons and other, many members of the class were rebuilt (such as another star of the gala, 34046 Braunton), but 34007 was not one of them.
Originally numbered 21C107, Wadebridge’s career began at Exmouth, then Nine Elms and finally at Salisbury where it was withdrawn in 1964. Rescued in 1981, the locomotive first went to the Plym Valley Railway before moving to the Bodmin and Wenford Railway, where it was too large. When the Mid Hants Railway bought a 73% shareholding in the Wadebridge locomotive trust ltd it relocated to the line and has been there ever since.
To find out more about this locomotive, it has a very good website (click here) that is well worth checking out. If you look at the picture above carefully, you may notice that Wadebridge’s tender is a slightly different shade of green to the locomotive. This is due to the tender actually belonging to fellow resident locomotive 35005 Canadian Pacific, the strip and inspection of which is the subject of Simon’s fantastic volunteer diaries (click here to read), who I had the pleasure of spending the day with.
Just a little reminder that the Mid Hants Railway are currently stripping 35005 Canadian Pacific down for assessment of works and costing in Eastleigh and before they can start restoring her we need to raise the funds. This is where we still need your help. As I have mentioned before the boiler work is alone expect to exceed £100,000 so anything you can give will be gratefully appreciated no matter how small you think it might be.
Both links take you to the Mid Hants Railway Website which is where you can find out more information on how you can help. Thank you.
Don’t Forget to check out the Brookes Castle – Volunteer Diary to catch up on the stripping down of Canadian Pacific at Eastleigh Works.