Battle of Britain Class 4-6-2 No 34053 Sir Keith Park
Class Introduced: 1945
Designer: Mr OVS Bulleid CBE
Built: 1947 - Brighton Works, Southern Railway (SR)
Rebuilt: 1958 - Eastleigh Works, British Railways (BR)
Total Number Built: 60 (of 110 in class)
Numbers Carried: 21C153, 34053
British Railways (BR) Power Classification: 7P6F
Throughout their careers the Pacifics were primarily divided in to those that remained in their original form, most noticeably with air smoothed casing, and those that were rebuilt (as opposed to the artificial grouping of West Country and Battle of Britain).
No 34053 Sir Keith Park achieved higher utilisation in her original form, having run 529,129 miles since new - she was withdrawn in October 1965 with a final mileage of 825,317 (296,188 rebuilt).
As was the fate of so many, No 34053 was towed to Barry, Wales, in March 1966 though her arrival was delayed by several months due to a bridge strike at Chandler's Ford, Hampshire, caused by connecting rods protruding from her tender.
The journey to preservation and return to traffic was protracted and arduous, commencing in 1979 when purchased by Mr Charles Timms. No 34053 was the 153rd locomotive of 213 to be rescued and left for the former Hull Dairycoates depot.
Numerous owners and moves followed, however the catalyst for restoration occurred in February 1997 whilst at the West Somerset Railway - a new boiler was sought for No 34046 Braunton and No 34053 was deemed a plausible donor. She was moved by rail from Bishops Lydeard to Williton for assessment, however, her boiler was deemed to be in a worse state and subsequently dismissed.
As Southern Locomotives Ltd (SLL) were involved in contract work for Braunton, the organisation was offered first refusal to purchase No 34053 as she was deemed surplus to requirements. A generous purchase price was agreed, with considerable assistance by a shareholder, and she left Somerset in December 2000 for Sellindge, Kent - the transport company's invoice simply read "the remains of Sir Keith Park".
The locomotive was purchased with the understanding that she may never be restored given the commitments of the SLL and enormity of the task ahead, however, such was the support due to the vital role of Air Vice-Marshal Park in the Battle of Britain it was decided to commence overhaul when No 34070 Manston was completed.
No 34053's eventual restoration was completed in May 2012, forty-seven years after withdrawal by British Railways (BR) at a cost of £773,000. It was originally intended for her to join the Swanage Railway however as they already had fellow SLL-based engines No 34028 Eddystone and No 34070 Manston it was decided to relocate her to the Severn Valley Railway where she entered service in August 2012. On 31st August 2013 a naming ceremony was held at Bridgnorth to re-dedicate the locomotive in honour of Sir Keith Park; the locomotive re-commissioned by the New Zealand High Commissioner Sir Lockwood Smith. No 34053 has since given reliable service at the Severn Valley Railway and Swanage Railway, before laterly sharing a home with the Spa Valley Railway and Nuthatch Line.