SR 34027 Taw Valley
SR West Country Class
Owned by Taw Valley Limited, and based a long way from its original home, 34027 Taw Valley is a Southern Railway mixed traffic locomotive, designed by Oliver Bulleid for routes to the Kent coast and south west of England, hauling named trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and Devon Belle. Originally numbered 21C127, it was built in April 1946 at the SR’s Brighton Works. As built, it had an air-smoothed casing and chain-driven valve gear, and a maximum boiler pressure of 280psi.
Lighter than the earlier Merchant Navy Class, Taw Valley was one of 110 light Pacifics built by the Southern Railway, divided into two very similar classes, Battle of Britain and West Country. Taw Valley is the latter, and like the Merchant Navy class, Taw Valley and its class members were referred to as ‘spam cans’ because of perceived similarities to that particular tinned item!
The class was not without its faults and many locos received modifications throughout their early working life. In 1957 a rebuilding programme began under BR, and 34027 was the second locomotive rebuilt at Eastleigh Works. The rebuild adopted many features from the BR Standard locomotive classes, removed the air-smoothed casing, reduced the boiler pressure to 250psi and replaced the original chain-driven valve gear with Walschaerts valve gear. This rebuild improved efficiency and solved many of the maintenance issues caused by the original design but increased the weight of the locomotive and reduced Taw Valley’s route availability. It was rated as 7P6F mixed traffic by British Railways.
Following rebuild, Taw Valley hauled commuter services in the south east before being withdrawn in 1964, whereupon it had the perverse fortune to be sent to Barry Scrapyard.
Sixteen years later in 1980, 34027 left Barry for preservation in private ownership. It became the first Southern Pacific to arrive at the SVR, where its restoration was completed in 1987. Performing excellently, Taw Valley was declared fit for mainline working and started a long mainline excursion career in the summer of 1989. It has been certified in preservation for 75mph mainline running and is a dual-braked locomotive.
In addition to mainline running, Taw Valley has appeared at many SVR galas, including a notable ‘full house’ appearance next to representatives from the LMS, LNER, GWR and BR!