34072 257 Squadron – Preservation Service
Since its restoration in 1990, 257 Squadron has operated on a number of preserved railways but it has not yet been possible to operate the locomotive on the main line again.
Following the guest appearance at Folkestone, 257 Squadron was taken by road to the Bluebell Railway where it took part in their Battle of Britain celebrations as well as operating service trains and a special train for the shareholders who had made its restoration possible. However Port Line had been withdrawn due to cracks in the firebox so it was not possible to have both our engines in steam at the same time.
In the autumn, 257 Squadron was moved to the Swanage Railway where it operated until May 1991. Whilst at Swanage it was used for footplate experience courses as well as regular service trains.
North Yorkshire Moors
The summer of 1991 saw the locomotive working on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway giving it a line on which it would be fully tested. 257 Squadron proved itself to be more than capable of tackling the fierce gradients on this railway and it gained a good reputation amongst the footplate crews. Another visitor to the NYMR during the summer of 1991 was another Bulleid Pacific, 34027 Taw Valley, a rebuilt West Country class and the pair provided an interesting comparison.
257 Squadron at Grosmont on the North York Moors Railway in 1991
East Lancashire Railway and the Severn Valley Railway
Following its successful summer on the NYMR the locomotive was moved to the East Lancashire Railway for the winter of 1991/2 where it once more gave a good account of itself. A notable visitor to the footplate in February 1992 was the then Prime Minister, John Major, who was on a visit to the new Manchester Metro.
During the spring of 1992, 257 Squadron paid an eight week visit to the Severn Valley Railway which included starring in their Spring Gala. The locomotive then returned to the East Lancs Railway for the summer of 1992. An urgent request from the North York Moors Railway in June 1992 resulted in another visit to this railway as they wanted a celebrity locomotive for their Gala.
In October 1992, 257 Squadron moved to the Swanage Railway, initially to be used for Clive Groome's 'Firing and Driving' courses until Easter 1993. At the time the railway was suffering some financial problems and it seemed unlikely that they could afford to hire and operate the locomotive but by the spring of 1993 matters had improved and an agreement was reached with the Railway to operate 257 Squadron for that summer. It proved a highly successful attraction, particularly to the enthusiast as Bulleid Light Pacifics were regular performers on the Swanage branch, and the locomotive has continued to operate at Swanage.
34072 leaving Corfe Castle Station in March 2002
Some 12 years and 4 months after returning to traffic, 257 Squadron was finally withdrawn with serious firebox problems in January 2003. No other locomotive in preservation has operated for so long in one continuous spell and it was a tribute to the team and volunteers who restored it that its first career in preservation was so successful.
After several years open storage 257 Squadron was moved into Herston works, awaiting its turn for overhaul. With the completion of Sir Keith Park in 2012 work on 257 Squadron began in earnest. Major boiler repairs have extended the time needed to complete the overhaul, and the loco is now expected to re-enter service in 2016.