Lord Dowding

Built in 1946, Lord Dowding was one of over a hundred of such a class built originally for the Southern Railway and latterly British Railways. The engine is actually Braunton in disguise, having been specially renamed to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

  • Icons Of Steam

Lord Dowding's inaugural train The Eagles Express. The first steam hauled football special train in decades, this service ran from London to Southampton for the Cup Final match between Crystal Palace and Southampton.

19 Years
service
61 Years
of age
75 Miles
Per Hour
91 Tons of
engine

Commemorating the Battle of Britain

Lord Dowding

To commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain we specially renamed our West Country Class, No.34046 Braunton as classmate No.34052 Lord Dowding, in honour of Air Chief Marshal Dowding, who led Fighter Command during the battle.

West Country and Battle of Britain

Entering service

Built in December 1946, Lord Dowding was one of the first members of the Battle of Britain class. Identical in all but name to the West Country class, the Southern Railway decided to name the class after the squadrons, airfields, commanders and aircraft of the Battle of Britain.

The locomotives were designed to work some of the fastest services on the southern region, yet be lighter than the Merchant Navy Class, enabling them to travel further into the West Country with seaside holiday services such as the Atlantic Coast Express.

Air Chief Marshal

Who was Lord Dowding?

Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding was an officer in the Royal Air Force. He served as a fighter pilot in the First World War and in the Second World War was the Commanding Officer of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. He was credited for playing a key role in the defeating Hitler's plan to invade Britain.

British Railways

Entering service

Originally built with 'air-smoothed' casing, giving a streamlined appearance that was all the rage during the 1930s, British Railways decided to undertake a program to rebuild the Merchant Navy, West Country and Battle of Britain Classes. This involved removing the streamlined casing and the unique Bulleid design chain driven valve gear, replaced with a more conventional Walschaerts design.

The final days

Retirement

We see Lord Dowding today as the locomotive was after being rebuilt in September 1958, with outside Walschaerts valve gear and with pipework fully exposed. During the loco’s 21 year career Lord Dowding was used on both passenger and freight trains across the Southern Region. The engine was retired in July 1967, one of the last steam engines to be retired by British Railways. After retirement Lord Dowding was sent to Cashmores Scrapyard. The loco was, sadly, not saved for preservation and was cut up in February 1968.

Photography courtesy Ian Bowskill.