BR Class 52 D1015 Western Champion

Built 

1963

Built by

BR Swindon Works

Length

68ft

Weight

108t

Status

Active

‘Western Champion’ was built at Swindon Works and completed in January 1963. It entered service painted in the unique golden ochre livery, allocated to Cardiff, Canton (88A) and subsequently to London, Old Oak Common (81A) 3/63, Cardiff, Canton 6/63, London, Old Oak Common 9/63, Plymouth, Laira (84A) 2/64, Swansea, Landore (87E) 11/68 and finally returning to Plymouth, Laira 10/71.

It received two livery changes in British Railways ownership; the first in November 1965 saw the loco repainted from golden ochre to maroon with standard yellow warning panels. In November 1968 the livery changed to BR blue with full yellow ends. Conversion to dual braking was also completed during this works visit. Both of these changes were carried out at Swindon Works.

On 30th January 1965, ‘Western Champion’ was rostered for the return working of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral train, returning mourners from Handborough station near Oxford to Paddington. The un-rebuilt Battle of Britain class locomotive 34051 ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ had worked the funeral train from London, Waterloo to Handborough.

The loco’s last works overhaul was undertaken between May 4th and October 6th 1972, with only five more Westerns passing through Swindon for intermediate repair before repairs ceased.

It was withdrawn from traffic on December 13, 1976 due to derailment damage sustained at Castle Cary five days earlier, having amassed 1,296,000 miles in service.

The loco was subsequently purchased for preservation by the Diesel Traction Group in derelict condition from Swindon Works in January 1980, where it had been taken for scrapping in January 1977. It was the last of seven class 52 diesel hydraulic locomotives to enter preservation. The loco remained at Swindon where a full and thorough overhaul was commenced, continuing at Old Oak Common depot in West London where the loco had moved to in 1990 after the closure of Swindon Works. The overhaul to main line standard was completed in 2000, and the loco moved to the SVR on February 20th 2001. Mileage accumulation began, working under its own power for the first time in preservation on March 11th with four return test runs from Kidderminster to Bewdley, with 50035 as insurance. It worked its first passenger train in preservation as part of this process on May 5th 2001.

‘Western Champion’ successfully returned to the main line on February 23rd 2002 working Pathfinders’ ‘Western Pathfinder’ tour from Paddington to Gloucester via Bristol and return to Paddington. It’s currently the only Western class 52 certified for main line operation.

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