92 SQUADRON, Nº34081
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN LOCOMOTIVE SOCIETY
Registered Charity Nº299140

A BRIEF HISTORY OF 34081 92 SQUADRON

Designed by O.V.S.Bulleid, C.M.E. of the Southern Railway from 1937 - 1949 whose first new design was the 'Merchant Navy' class in 1941. Later asked to reduce overall weight, the 'lightweight' West Country & Battle of Britain class was of a similar appearance but some 12 tons lighter at 86 tons giving a 90% route availability. Mechanically and externally both classes were very similar. Valve gear was chain driven and located in an oil bath between the chassis members and designed to operate in a similar manner to the sump on a motor car. All 30 Merchant Navies were later rebuilt, together with many West Country/Battle of Britain pacifics, however 34081 was to remain in her original as-built form.
 
92 Squadron
Above: 34081 pictured on shed at Wansford, NVR, in ex-works condition
immediately after successfully completing its loaded test run on 19th May 1998.
 
One of 110 Bulleid 'mixed traffic' light pacifics, the term 'mixed traffic' was used when Bulleid requested their original construction during World War 2 as the Government was not permitting 'express passenger locomotive' designs to be built.

21st June 1945. First West Country locomotive appeared. (21C101 Exeter).

9th December 1946. First Battle of Britain locomotive appeared. (21C149 Anti-Aircraft Command)

At Southampton, 194810th September 1948. 34081 was released to traffic becoming the 101st Bulleid Pacific to be completed, being initially allocated to Ramsgate shed. She is thought to have hauled many prestigious expresses such as the 'Thanet Belle', 'The Man of Kent', the 'Night Ferry' and the 'Golden Arrow' as well as on more mundane commuter trains. Out-shopped in Malachite Green livery with three horizontal 'sunshine' yellow stripes but bearing no name plates as many of the class ran for several months. pr in some cases years, before being named.

April 1950. 34081 was repainted into Brunswick Green at Brighton Works and had her 92 Squadronname plates fitted for the first time, although she never had an official naming ceremony. Named after the famous Spitfire Squadron that was based at Biggin Hill in Kent during the Battle of Britain with combat mainly fought in the skies above Kent, Surrey and Sussex which is why 43 members of this class of locomotive were dedicated to either RAF airfields, squadrons or personnel. Rendered redundant upon completion of the Kent coast electrification scheme along with many other members of the class, 34081 was sent in
September 1957 to Exmouth Junction shed with around 165,000 miles to her credit. Here she was employed on services in Devon & Cornwall, including the famous 'Atlantic Coast Express', and on the occasional service to London.

June 1964. On the takeover of Exmouth Junction by the Western Region and impending dieselisation, 34081 was transferred Eastleigh shed where she worked for few short months on the Bournemouth line.

August 1964. Withdrawn from service on 16th August and stored at Eastleigh shed awaiting disposal. Her final mileage was 741,511.

2nd April 1965. Taken in convoy with 34058, 34067 & 34073 to Dai Woodham's scrap yard at Barry, South Wales. The convoy traversed the Somerset & Dorset line being hauled 34006. Strange to say of all these locomotives only 34006 was eventually scrapped!

At Barry IslandAt Barry Island
The state of the engine when photographed by Colin Skears during 1972 or 3

1973. The Battle of Britain Locomotive Preservation Society (as it was then called) was formed.

Arriving at Peterborough27th September 1973. 34081 purchased by the Society for £3,500 + 10% vat. The tender was acquired from 34028 as the original had been despatched to Briton Ferry Steel Works for use as an ingot carrier. 34028 was also subsequently purchased and restored to run on the Swanage Railway, the tender being built at Ashford works circa late 1945.

6th November 1976. 34081 departed Barry scrapyard by low loader and arrived at the Peterborough factory of British Sugar the following day where she was unloaded on 8th November into their St Botolph's sidings, becoming the 86th engine to escape Dai Woodhams yard. It was originally planned to restore 34081 at the Dean Forest Railway, but negotiations broke down and the subsequent request to overhaul her at the Nene Valley was successful. Towed by a Barclay 0-4-0ST along the NVR to Wansford, she had to traverse a short section of the Fletton Loop to access the NVR from St Botolph's Sidings to Orton Mere.

Aug 1977. Cab removed and sent to a specialist repair firm in Letchworth.

January 1978. In thick snow, the boiler was lifted out. It was found to be in excellent condition, only needing a thorough clean out, a full set of new tubes and super-heater elements. 34081 also required new injectors, which were bundled together as a bulk purchase with those for 34072 257 Squadron. The oil bath sump was also sold to 34072 to enable them to restore her by their anniversary deadline in 1990, with a new one made later for 34081.

March 1982. The driving wheels were sent to Swindon for axle box refurbishment and for new tyres to be made. (British Steel had to make 13 tyres before getting 6 accurate enough to make a full set). With all non-ferrous items having been removed at Barry, new ones had to be made and the Society was kept busy sourcing drawings. A spare set of coupling rods were purchased from the Mid-Hants Railway which had originally been fitted to 21C102 Salisbury.

Late 1984. Driving wheels reunited with the refurbished frames.

24th November 1985. Boiler (weight 27 tons) lifted back in to frames.

1989. New Connecting Rods were forged by John Hesketh & Sons of Bury, and machined by North West engineering for £12,000. The original 1.24 inch pitch chains for the valve gear were no longer made in that size, so 1.00 inch chain had to be utilised, which also necessitated manufacturing new sprockets.

1990. Driving wheels removed again as the BR mechanical inspector reported that there was too much of a gap fore and aft, and that it was not acceptable, especially if the Society was contemplating main line work in the future. It had been assumed that Swindon knew the correct measurements and had the necessary skills! The drag box was refurbished at BR's Wolverton works.

Re-wheeled again28th April 1991. Driving wheels reunited with the frames, again. As there is no wheel drop facility at Wansford, the locomotive was lifted (by the steam crane) by its front end some eleven feet from the ground to enable the wheel sets to be rolled in underneath.

12th December 1997. First full static steam test on boiler, which it passed with flying colours.

Christmas 1997. Thieves stole many of the non ferrous fittings from our store. The total replacement value was £6,250 and the inaugural first steaming was delayed because of this. However, thanks to the generosity of fellow Bulleid owners loaning parts whilst new ones were made, 34081 was able to commence trial running in March 1998.

9th March 1998. 34081 moved under her own power for the first time in 34 years. Alan Whenman, the society's CME, was on the regulator whilst Charlie Young made sure there was enough steam.

23rd May 1998. 34081 departs from Wansford at 11.30 a.m. with the her first revenue earning passenger train. The driver this time was Charlie Young, promoted from firemanon on this occasion.

12th September 1998. Officially named 92 Squadron by Pete Waterman and rededicated at 10.00 a.m. with Oliver Bulleid (a grandson of the designer) present. The estimated total cost of restoration was £130,000 - £150,000. If the value of volunteer labour is taken in to account, the total would be in excess of £250,000.


From re-entering traffic in May 1998 until the late summer of 2003, 34081 was a mainstay of the NVR locomotive fleet. Following a very successful visit to the Bluebell Railway in October 1998, she returned to the Nene Valley and in the November she was fitted with air brake control gear and operated the NVR Santa Specials. The 1999 season saw her run exclusively on the NVR but two further visits were made to the Bluebell in October 2000 and July 2001. On each occasion she was paired with the Bluebell's own West Country 4-6-2 Nº21C123 Blackmoor Vale. These double headers saw some of the biggest crowds ever to visit the Bluebell. After a brief return to the NVR, she headed north in September 2001 for a visit to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway,but required attention over the winter period at the NYMR and not returning to the NVR until May 2002. 92 Squadron mastered the 1 in 49 gradients of this line in fine style and was an extremely popular addition to the NYMR's Wartime Weekend and Spring Gala. 34081 departed the Nene Valley once again in September 2003, this time bound for the Mid Hants Railway. After starring in their autumn gala 34081 was withdrawn from traffic with leaking firebox stays. After being stopped with leaking firebox stays during their autumn gala, 34081 was transported to Blue Circle's works at Cliffe in Kent for repairs which were successfully completed by Chatham Steam working with Society volunteers. Upon completion of repairs, 34081 moved onto the North Norfolk Railway and entered service there until further repairs were found necessary in 2006. Emerging in BR Brunswick Green livery in April 2007, 34081 was a star turn at Betton Grange Society's first 'Steam Steel and Stars' event held on the Llangollen Railway that month, followed by attending the Swanage Railway's 'End of Southern Steam 40th Anniversary' gala in the July. On return to the North Norfolk Railway she briefly adopted the guise long lost sister 34057 Biggin Hill for the September gala before reverting to 92 Squadron.

Four BulleidsOctober 2007. Returning once again to the Bluebell Railway, this time for its 'Giants of Steam' festival with four working Bulleid pacifics show, alongside 34081 were the Bluebell's own 21C123 Blackmoor Vale, 34028 Eddystone and the oldest (1945) preserved Bulleid light pacific, 34007 Wadebridge. 34081 returned to the NNR where she worked until 21 May 2008 when she failed a much-delayed boiler inspection. The Committee decided that it was not worthwhile patching up the boiler only for an extension to possibly be refused and so it was decided a 10-year heavy overhaul would be carried out. It was hoped this overhaul would have started in the autumn of 2008 and so the Society commenced a Heritage Lottery grant, however, a generous benefactor provided the sum of £50,000 and 34081 subsequently moved back to the Nene Valley Railway in May 2010 where the overhaul began in June of that year. Society and NVR volunteers overhauled the tender and locomotive while Chatham Steam overhauled the boiler which returned to the NVR in November 2013, being steam-tested out the frames in June 2015 before being reunited with the frames in the October. With 34081 largely complete, a warming fire was lit in the firebox on 12th December 2016 with a full test the next day including moving under her own steam. 34081 returned to service on the NVR on 25 February 2017.


92 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Formed in September 1917 at London Colney and operated from several airfields in England before departing for France in July 1918 where it again flew from many airfields until being disbanded at Eil on 7th August 1919. The Squadron was reformed at Tangmere on 10th October 1939 and flew from most of the famous airfields in south east England, including Croydon, Hornchurch, Manston, Gravesend and two spells from Biggin Hill during the height of the Battle of Britain. During emergencies their Spitfires called at other Stations such as Detling, West Malling, Hawkinge and Kenley. By April 1942 they were at Fayid in Egypt and changed to many other airfields on an almost monthly basis. As the 2nd WW progressed so they were there in the thick of it moving through Europe. Finally at Zeltweg in Austria, on 30th December 1946, they were disbanded again, having the distinction of being the highest scoring Squadron of all time with 317 enemy aircraft destroyed. It was again reformed at Acklington in January 1947, this time flying Meteor Jets and progressing through F86 Sabres, Hunters, Lightnings and Phantoms until finally the British Aerospace Hawk, whilst at the same time moving to many other airfields such as Duxford, Leconfield, Gutersloh, Akrotiri and finally Chivenor where they were disbanded again on 28th September 1994. Then in June 2009 the Tactics and Training Wing of the Air Warfare Centre at RAF Waddington became 92 Squadron.
The Battle of Britain Locomotive Society would like to invite you to join our society. As a member you will be allowed to work on the engine (in a suitable capacity of your own choice) and have reasonable access to the foot plate whenever possible.

See more pictures of 34081 in our Photograph Gallery

Page updated on Sunday, 8 July 2018

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