Icons of Steam in February (on my brithday as it happened) announced that its rebuilt West Country class 34046 Braunton would be returning to steam as long last classmate 34052 Lord Dowding. This technically means she will become a member of the Battle of Britain class with Lord Dowding being named after the Second World War Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshall. Icons of Steam have decided to specially renamed the engine to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Built in December 1946, Lord Dowding was one of the first members of the ‘Battle of Britain’ class. Identical in all but name to the ‘West Country’ class, the Southern Railway decided to name the class after squadrons, airfields, commanders and aircraft that had participated in the Battle of Britain. Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding was an officer in the Royal Air Force. He served as a fighter pilot in the First World War and in the Second World War was the Commanding Officer of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. He was credited for playing a key role in the defeating Hitler’s plan to invade Britain.
The locomotive like all Bulleid’s were originally built with ‘air-smoothed’ casing, we see Lord Dowding today as she was after being rebuilt in September 1958, with outside Walschaerts valve gear and with pipework fully exposed. During her career Lord Dowding was used on both passenger and freight trains across the Southern region before being retired in July 1967, one of the last steam engines to be retired by British Railways. After retirement she was sent to Barry Scrapyard in South Wales where she was, sadly, not saved for preservation. Icons of Steam are now delighted to offer Lord Dowding a second incarnation, particularly now in memory of ‘The Few’.
Today saw Lord Dowding haul her first trip with Icons of Steam and Crystal Palace FC co-owner Jeremy Hosking organising this special journey taking Crystal Palace to their last away game of the season at Southampton and featured Alan Pardew (Crystal Palace Manager) and the squad travelling back to London onboard the train. Return tickets were priced around £200 per person and sold out within hours of going on sale! What this also meant was I had the opportunity to get a photo I have been trying to do for years photographing a steam locomotive on the viaduct on the approach to Fareham. This is a location I have always wanted to try but because of work commitments, cancelled trips and bad weather I have never really had the chance until today and I am sure you’ll agree they turned out quite well.
Thanks for reading