34053 Sir Keith Park – Restoration

34053 arrived at Woodham's scrap yard in Barry during March 1966; it was to be 18 years before it moved on to the first step of its restoration. Charles Timms had bought the loco in 1979, but it was June or July 1984 before it left Barry en route for the former Hull Dairycoates depot, arriving in November (where was it for the intervening five months?). It was the 153rd loco out of a total of 213 rescued from Barry. Also purchased was the tender of 35006, though this was sold on to the Port Line project (which subsequently became Southern Locomotives Ltd) and this went to Swindon, not Hull. Incidentally, that tender ran with 34046 Braunton when that loco was first restored.

34053 at Barry   34053 at Barry

The tender refers to the B.S.Centre (the proposed Bournemouth Steam Centre involving the former Broadstone to Wimborne line) and the writing on the loco urges visitors to join the P & O Loco Society. Photo: Steve Williams

At first glance Sir Keith Park appears in reasonable condition considering its 15 years at Barry when this photo was taken in April 1981 by Steve Williams. The tender came from 35006 and was sold to the Port Line group before the loco left Barry.

The work at Hull was under the supervision of Tom Tighe. The bogie and pony truck were removed and sent to Swindon in February 1988 for work to be carried out using the former Swindon Works wheel lathe, and the boiler lifted from the frames for restoration. Several new parts were ordered and produced, mainly fabricated parts, such as running boards, smoke deflectors etc. Little work was done to the boiler or chassis at that time. Mr Timms died in 1992 and the loco was sold, together with available parts, to Dr John F Kennedy and moved to the Railway Age at Crewe during 1992 with a view to early restoration.

34053 at Hull   34053 at BL

Sir Keith Park at Hull. Photo: Grahame Spencer

Sir Keith Park and 34046 Braunton after arrival at Bishops Lydeard on the West Somerset Railway, early 1997. Photo: the late Dr Peter Thompson.

Things didn't work out as planned, and in 1995 the loco moved to Thingley Junction (west of Chippenham, where the Melksham line leaves the line to Bath). Passengers will have noticed a lonely looking steam engine, minus front bogie and pony truck, as they flashed by in an HST. Little work was done on '53 during this period, and ultimately it was sold to Jeremy Hosking for use as spare parts for Braunton and moved to Bishops Lydeard on the West Somerset Railway in January 1997.

It was moved by rail from Bishops Lydeard to Williton on 22nd February 1997. During the summer of 1997, the boiler tubes were removed to assess the boiler's suitability as a donor for Braunton, however it emerged that Braunton's own boiler was the better of the two.

34053 on WSR   34053 at Williton

The extraordinary sight of Sir Keith Park descending Castle Hill between Bishops Lydeard and Williton, sandwiched between a diesel shunter 08850 and a Toad brake van, date 22nd February 1997. A small fire was lit in the firebox for the last leg of the journey, so the loco appeared to be in steam! Photo: David Williams.

The low-loader delivers GWR 5542 to Williton, before loading Sir Keith Park for its journey to Sellindge. Photo: Keith Speller.

As Southern Locomotives was involved in contract work for Braunton we were given first refusal to purchase the locomotive when it was deemed surplus to requirements. A generous purchase price which included some parts which Braunton had not required, combined with an offer from one of our generous shareholders to subsidise the purchase, saw 34053 leave Williton on 22nd December 2000 to arrive at Sellindge on 28th December 2000. The transport company's invoice read, "the remains of Sir Keith Park".

We are indebted to several people for their assistance in completing this story and the photos shown above, including Michael Timms, Dr Kennedy, Steve Williams, Kieran Hardy, Grahame Spencer, David Williams, Keith Speller and Claire Sheppy. We would appreciate more photos of the loco during this period, particularly any of it at Crewe and Thingley Junction.

2001 - 2008 restoration by Southern Locomotives

This locomotive was purchased with the full knowledge that we might never have been able to restore it given our other commitments. However, such was the support for its restoration, mainly because Air Vice-Marshal Park played such a vital role in winning the Battle of Britain, that we decided to start work when Manston was completed.


The "remains of Sir Keith Park" arrive at Sellindge

Due to lack of space in our works at Herston the frames of the locomotive were transferred from storage at Sellindge to the workshops of South Coast Engineering at Portland. Over a period of several months they were completely overhauled and repainted and a new drag box built and fitted.

Meanwhile the driving wheels had been transferred, with Eddystone’s, to the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh for retyring, and the boiler was transferred to the LNWR Heritage Centre for overhaul.

In late 2008, after Manston’s departure, the frames were transferred from Portland to Herston Works, and it was decided to move the boiler to the West Somerset Railway for a heavy overhaul and the fitting of at least one new tubeplate.


34053 boiler

The boiler spent most of 2009 in the yard at Williton before it was moved to Swanage to be repaired at Herston works. Photo: Robert Bester, taken 2nd October 2009

The rear tubeplate was ordered and delivered to the West Somerset, however it was then decided to move the boiler back to Herston, where it arrived in December 2009, and repairs started shortly afterwards.

The driving wheel axleboxes were white-metalled and machined, and the driving wheels returned from Devon, rewheeling of the frames took place on 25 November 2009. Rewheeling Sir Keith Park

34053 wheels   34053 rewheeling APMW

Driving wheels ready to be mounted under Sir Keith Park in November 2009. Photo (c) N Thompson.

Rewheeling Sir Keith Park, November 2009 Photo (c) Andrew PM Wright

The trailing truck wheels and the front bogie were installed, although the latter is actually Eddystone's. 34053's was overhauled and is now running with 34028. With the reinstatement of the running plates, the mechanical lubricators can be fitted and the huge job of reinstalling all the pipework can commence.


This year Sir Keith Park has made rapid progress, with components being fitted almost daily. Following significant support from our shareholders we have now accumulated virtually a full set of motion; the coupling rods were reinstalled on 19 January 2010; connecting rods, etc, will follow in the next few weeks.

The running boards are almost complete, new cylinder and valve liners were fitted, the slide bars are in place. The main springs were mounted on 18th March.

34053 general view   34053 coupling rods

A general view of work on Sir Keith Park in January 2010. The cylinders have new linings and the studs await the covers. The running boards are installed.

Preparing the coupling rods to be fitted. January 2010.

34053 boiler repairs   34053 coupling rods

Boiler repairs viewed from the firebox, between the thermic syphons in March 2010.

SLL Chairman Geoff Thompson steadies the left hand piston as it is lifted into position. March 2010.

Much more remains to be done, most obviously the boiler repairs. The plan is to have the loco complete and ready to steam in late spring 2011 to see some service during this year.

New Tender

The new tender frames were riveted in late 2008 and work on our second new build tender progressed well during 2009. The new wheels were delivered and fitted to the frames in December 2010, along with the springs and dozens of other essential parts. The tender tank has been built and mounted on the frames (see Latest News).

34053 new tender   34053 new tender welding

The frames for Sir Keith Park's new tender are now complete. Jan 2010

Fabricating the vertical frames of the new tender tank. Nov 2009

The final furlong

Withdrawn in 1965, and over 30 years since it was first bought for preservation, 34053 Sir Keith Park is on the final leg of its restoration. There is still a lot of work to do, including painstaking work to restore the front boiler tubeplate and replace the rear one. The loco will hopefully be ready to steam in autumn 2011 and return to service in 2012, after a break of 48 years.

34053 at Woking   34053 in March 2010

34053 Sir Keith Park enters Woking with an up train in its last years of service. There's not too long to wait before the loco steams again. Photo (c) Mike Esau

Sir Keith Park in Herston works on 18th March 2010 - starting to look like a loco again.

In the 1960's Sir Keith Park was a forgotten figure living quietly in New Zealand; today his statue stands in Waterloo Place, and his role in those few crucial weeks of 1940 is properly recognised. The locomotive is sure to attract much attention and will be a fine tribute to the man whose name it carries.

Restoration completed

The restoration of Sir Keith Park was completed in May 2012 and the loco travelled by low-loader to the Severn Valley Railway. After some weeks of testing and adjustments it entered passenger service in August 2012. It remained there until January 2018 when it returned to Swanage.

34053 at SVR

47 years after it was withdrawn from BR service 34053 Sir Keith Park is seen running on the Severn Valley Railway. It's a superb piece of engineering, and a worthy memorial to a great man. The restoration cost 773,000, and a shot like this is worth every penny. Photo (c) Robert Falconer

Sir Keith Park recommissioning event - Saturday, 31st August 2013

SKP aircrew   34053

Three aircrew who served during the Battle of Britain attended the recommissioning of 34053 Sir Keith Park. From the left: Flying Officer Ken Wilkinson, Wing Commander Dick Summers and Squadron Leader Tony Pickering. Photo (c) Bob Sweet

After the recommissioning ceremony, and the fly-past by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, the train headed back to Kidderminster with the New Zealand High Commissioner on the footplate. Photo (c) Phil Gosling

The event has come and gone, and a memorable day was enjoyed by all. Here is a link to the Welcome Pack which may be of interest.


34053 ran for five years on the Severn Valley during which time we had two Driving & Firing events for shareholders, and featured in many photos and videos. However during August it was announced that Sir Keith Park would be leaving the SVR at the end of 2017 and would enter service at Swanage in 2018. The background to this was that a long term hire agreement at Swanage was preferable to the shorter terms available at SVR, and the overhaul of the loco at Swanage would be more assured and viable than if it stayed at SVR. The loco was in regular service at SVR up to when it left, including the "Santas" and some farewell trips. It also made visits to the Great Central Railway Autumn Steam Gala and then to the Llangollen Railway Autumn Steam Gala.


The Severn Valley is one of few heritage railways which can operate 8-coach trains, a load worthy of a Light Pacific. Photo: John Oates


34053 left Bridgnorth on 10th January and was delivered to Herston works on 13th for several weeks of attention. It left Herston Works on 6th March 2018 and entered service on 23rd March to take part in the Swanage Railway Spring Gala. It ran in regular service until a damaged crown was detected in an axle box and it was taken out of service on 3rd June.

34053 boiler

Sir Keith Park and 257 Squadron both took part in Swanage Railway's Strictly Bulleid gala. Photo: Nathan Au

It moved on 30th June to South Devon Railway Engineering Ltd at Buckfastleigh, who had offered us access to their wheeldrop. Bob Bevis and Pete Pickering and a couple of volunteers worked there from 2nd - 6th July. The suspect axle box taken out and the bearing surfaces replaced, though it looked like some work on the inside big end would be needed. The knock did not go away and all of its driving axle boxes needed to be examined, so it travelled to Tyseley on Wednesday 13th December. A team of SLL volunteers visited Tyseley in the following week to strip the brake gear, sanders, springs, etc. We also planned to examine/repair the bogie and pony truck while they were accessible, with the intention that the loco would be fit to run in the 2019 season.


The work over-ran. New crowns were cast and machined and ready for pressing into the axle boxes, to be followed by white-metalling. SKP was behind three or four other locomotives in the queue to use the wheel lathe, and until the journals had been profiled the axle boxes couldn't be machined to size.

34053 boiler

SKP returned to Tyseley for examination of the axle boxes and alignment of the driving wheels.

All of the axle boxes, journals and bearings were overhauled and the driving wheels were re-installed early in August. Examination of the front bogie revealed that there were 23 loose rivets which needed to be replaced. The axle boxes were also overhauled. The bogie and pony truck were refitted on 16th August. The brake gear and sanders were refitted and the loco returned to Swanage in September.

While it was at Tyseley it ran at the Open Days on 28-29th September, the first time a Bulleid has been run at Tyseley in recent years. The loco returned to Swanage early in October, in time for the Swanage Autumn Steam Gala, while the tender stayed at Tyseley to be used with Manston next year. The result is that Sir Keith Park will run with Manston's tender until well into 2020. The tender is a 'narrow' version, though that is protoypically correct as some rebuilt Light Pacifics did run with the narrower tender design.


34053 spent several months under contract at Tyseley in 2019 when its axle boxes and bearings were overhauled. When it resumed work at Swanage in October it became apparent that one or more bearings were running warmer than would be expected, and there was still a noticable 'knock'. After some weeks of 'running in' the issue had not gone away, so we agreed with Tyseley for the loco to be examined and adjustments or repairs made if required. The only way to examine the bearings is to drop the wheels out. It transpired that wear of the leading set of driving wheels was uneven, and one wheel had worn more than the other five. This meant that all three wheels sets needed a trip to the lathe to be reprofiled. This work was completed early in March but the subsequent lock-down meant that the loco remained at Tyseley.

34053 boiler

The axle boxes were re-aligned and the tyres re-profiled.

This 'nicely' coincided with Lock Down, and Swanage Railway understandably decided they couldn't unload and store the loco which was clearly not going to be used for several months, if at all in that year. At the time steam services on heritage railways were like hens' teeth in 2020, hence the plan to move SKP to Tunbridge Wells West where it could be stored undercover in a secure loco shed for the winter. Incidentally another railway made a similar kind offer with a view to using the loco in 2021, demonstrating that even when times are hard Big Green Locos with an interesting name are commercially attractive. SKP's tender needed attention to the brackets that support several of its springs, which was completed at Tyseley before the loco went to 75F.

Many will have seen pictures of Sir Keith Park operating on the Spa Valley Railway on its first weekend out, soon after arrival at Tunbridge Wells West. However, there haven't been many published of its second outing after staff at 75F had given it the Spa Valley treatment - it looked almost as good as the day it left Herston Works, which after nine years service proved what a fantastic job was made of it by the late and much missed Ron Bennett, along with the other regulars who paint the locomotives to perfection.


We'd been in talks with the Spa Valley Railway regarding Norman and we were offered the 75F loco shed as a covered home for SKP over the winter in exchange for a few running days. This seemed a win-win for both parties. As 2020 moved on it became clear that Swanage Railway wouldn't be needing 257 Squadron, Manston, Eddystone, and Sir Keith Park, so the temporary move became long term by default.


SKP's move to the Spa Valley was a big step for the line and SLL.

The arrival of a working Bulleid in Kent has had a very positive affect on the Spa Valley with far higher takings over some weekends than in 2019, which given the circumstances is extraordinary. A chain of improbable events led to Sir Keith Park residing in Kent rather than Dorset. A low-loader was already ordered to take it from Tyseley to Swanage in March, when lock-down obliged the railway to cancel the move.

To quote one of the railway's directors, "I have never seen so many smiling faces before at the Spa Valley Railway as I have done over the past five days when Sir Keith Park came to life and by Thursday afternoon had steamed through the High Weald. I admit I had a lump in my throat on the first run of the Saturday through High Rocks and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up - the moment was something I can't really describe other than awesome! The atmosphere around the whole railway was something I'd never experienced before with just happiness from everyone I saw and spoke to."

For a couple of weeks the loco took on the identity of 34095 Brentor on behalf of Mr Phil Brentor and members of his family. Subsequently its appearance was converted as per Warner Bros' instructions prior to its Polar Express duties; the front number plate and nameplates were removed and the cabside numbers and roundel on the tender covered for the duration.

SKP also gained a Scottish look with a suitable shed plate and blue front number plate to match two visiting Caledonian Railway locos. It then reverted to its true ID with its nameplates and new crests. Sunday 15th May was SKP's last day in service, and its final runs over the weekend were well patronised.


After withdrawal 34053 moved to Swanage and took Manston's place in Herston Works. It was stripped and readied for its transfer to for its boiler swap. This was originally planned to be done at Weybourne, however the logistic of this turned out to be too complex.

34053 boiler

SKP returned to Swanage when its boiler ticket ended. It was stripped and moved to Tyseley for the boiler swap. Photo: Dave Ensor

34053 was withdrawn from service in February 2022 when its boiler ticket expired. It was stored for a while at Corfe Castle before being moved to Herston to be stripped. A fast-track overhaul had been planned and to make this possible work had already started on the overhaul of the boiler which previous ran with Sidmouth.

This was sent to the Weybourne works of the North Norfolk Railway. That boiler had lain near Bridgnorth station for some years, where it had served as part of work on 34027 Taw Valley. Boiler repairs are generally the most time consuming and costly part of an overhaul, so by preparing a boiler while the loco is still operating might reduced the overhaul time to a couple of years. In BR days spare boilers were available to speed the turnround in a workshop.

34053 boiler

Before moving to Tyseley the loco was a heavy haulage participant at the 2022 Great Dorset Steam Fair, where it was out-paced by a King Arthur! Photo: Nick Thompson


After some delays the work on the boiler at Weybourne was complete. We settled on two moves; the loco went from Swanage to Tyseley and the new boiler went from Weybourne to Tyseley, and the plan was to lift one boiler and replace it with the other would be done by one large crane on just one day. Things turned out well and all of the lifting was done within the day.

Meanwhile much work which was planned to be done after the locomotive returned to Herston has already been completed. The brake rigging has been overhauled by Neville Crook and Charles Bernstein. All the new brake pins were manufactured in Herston and grease nipples have been added - not standard Bulleid practice, but an excellent idea to prevent wear.


34053 boiler

The smoke box from SKP was separated from its boiler and will be re-used with the new (ex-Sidmouth) boiler. SLL volunteers cleaned it up and repainted it. Photo: Nick Thompson

34053 with its new boiler moved to Herston in February, and the work to get it running by June began. The ex-SKP now Sidmouth boiler remains at Tyseley. The first step is to inspect it fully to determine what work is required. It will need a new front tube sheet but should otherwise be in fair condition as it was running well with SKP until the ticket expired.

34053 boiler

The cab required a major overhaul. Photo: Dave Ensor

Inevitably Covid-19 dashed the intended schedule and the boiler overhauled at Weybourne did not arrive at Tyseley until November 2023. After the crane had done the boiler switch the smokebox was fitted to SKP and the superheater header and steam pipes were tested in January 2024. The loco returned to Herston on 21st February 2024. It's hoped to include the loco in the Swanage Railway Strictly Bulleid 2 Gala, in June 2024.

34053 boiler

With its new boiler in place 34053 remained at Tyseley for several weeks while the smokebox was fitted and the steam pipes and superheater header were steam tested. Photo: Malcolm Garner