SEAMS News Archives

Winston Churchill

By Mark Tewkesbury

As I write this, it is 50 years to the day since this great man’s funeral. Having watched excerpts from that day, it stirred memories inside and a desire to research some more on the Internet and an interesting, if somewhat far fetched link found!

We are a nation of hoarders, so it comes as no surprise to find that various modes of transport used during the procession survive. The PLA research vessel Havengore still plies the Thames. The 1964 Austin Princess Hearse used to transfer the coffin from Havengore to the waiting train at Waterloo, now resides in America after fetching, at auction, an eye watering $3,000,000!!! Finally and quite surprisingly, the whole train used for the journey to Oxfordshire survives, scattered across the Isles.

The loco 34051 Winston Churchill was the first of the ‘Battle of Britain’ class and built at Brighton works in 1946. Of these, 8 were named after figures associated with the conflict. Surprisingly Churchill was the only person to turn down naming his locomotive.

The hearse van was a Southern luggage van no: S2464S and had been withdrawn from service in 1962. Modified and repainted in the Pullman colours to match the rest of the train, it was stored out of sight until it was needed, such was the preparation time for this event. Afterwards, the van was shipped to San Francisco, to form part of a display. In 2007 the vehicle was saved again and returned to the UK.

The Pullman cars used in the train have also been well travelled. Lydia and Isle of Thanet formed part of a goodwill trade train, which toured the States in 1969 with Flying Scotsman and then moving to a museum before finally being repatriated in 2006. Perseus is now part of the British ‘Orient Express’ train and Carina is now at the Bluebell Railway under restoration. Finally Car 208 now resides at a hotel in County Galway, Ireland minus its wheels.

With a surplus of stock to house, the newly formed National Railway Museum had to place many of its items into store. 34051 found a home at the disused Pullman carriage works at Preston Park. Between 1972 and 1976, the six locomotives stored there were dragged out yearly to attend the Brighton Station open day and I can remember attending the 1976 event.

It was finally moved to the NRM at York, still in its 1960’s condition. In 2012 with the looming 50th Anniversary, the loco returned south to the Mid Hants Railway and a full cosmetic restoration. Completed just in time for the opening event at York, together with a newly restored S2464S and Pullman Car Lydia, the ‘Churchill’s Final Journey’ display runs until May 3rd.

Now how is all this linked to Stationary Engines? Well back in the 80’s, following the NRM’s exit from Preston Park, the works was taken over by a preservation group. You know who joined them in 1986 but the Brighton Loco Works project failed to get very far, so eventually the building fell empty. Heavily vandalised and partially burnt down, the shed was demolished in 2008/9.

Whilst looking for photos of the Brighton Station open days, I happened on this website, which shows some of the interior of Preston Park Works as the building was cleared.

There in one of the photos was the remains of a Ruston-Hornsby 6PS starter engine! This had come off one of a pair of Ruston 165DS shunting locos from the nearby Beeding Cement Works, sadly both were cut up for scrap. So there you have it, a link, albeit tenuous with the great man.