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.