The SR West Country and Battle of Britain classes, collectively known as Light Pacifics or informally as Spam Cans, are air-smoothed 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotives designed for the Southern Railway by its Chief Mechanical Engineer Oliver Bulleid. Incorporating a number of new developments in British steam locomotive technology, they were amongst the first British designs to use welding in the construction process, and to use steel fireboxes, which meant that components could be more easily constructed under wartime austerity and post-war economy.
They were designed to be lighter in weight than their sister locomotives, the Merchant Navy class, to permit use on a wider variety of routes, including in the south-west of England and the Kent coast. They were a mixed-traffic design, being equally adept at hauling passenger and freight trains, and were used on all types of services, frequently far below their capabilities. A total of 110 locomotives were constructed between 1945 and 1950, named after West Country resorts or Royal Air Force (RAF) and other subjects associated with the Battle of Britain.
Due to problems with some of the new features, such as the Bulleid chain-driven valve gear, sixty locomotives were rebuilt by British Railways during the late 1950s.The results were similar to the rebuilt Merchant Navy class.The classes operated until July 1967, when the last steam locomotives on the Southern Region were withdrawn. Although most were scrapped, twenty locomotives are preserved on heritage railways in Britain. The one shown is the 34081, also know as 92 Squadron.
November 10th, 2019
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