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Churchill's Funeral Loco Completed at MHR

No. 34051 'Winston Churchill' has recently received a cosmetic restoration at the Mid Hants Railway. The engine will be on public display at the National Railway Museum, York from 30th January. 

The article below details the restoration that has taken place. 

The restoration of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral train reached an important milestone just before Christmas, as staff at Mid Hants Railway’s Ropley works reunited the freshly painted locomotive No. 34051 Winston Churchill, with its nameplates. 

This marks the closing stages of the comprehensive cosmetic restoration work required to bring the Battle of Britain Class locomotive named after the great statesman, back to its former glory.

Winston Churchill, along with Southern Railway’s parcel van S2464S which carried the great statesman’s coffin, was part of the funeral train which transported the illustrious former Prime Minister from Waterloo, London, to his final resting place in Long Hanborough, Oxfordshire. They are both being displayed in the Great Hall of the National Railway Museum in York as part of Churchill’s Final Journey, a fascinating display telling the story of the last steam hauled state funeral of the 20th century on 30 January 1965. 

Churchill was the only statesman to be given a state funeral in the 20th century and on 30 Jan 2015 the York museum will mark 50 years since Winston Churchill’s state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1965 by reuniting the funeral train in the museum’s Great Hall. Winston Churchill will have three discs on the front in a ‘V’ formation, just as it did half a century ago.

The display will include archive footage of the funeral, which was televised to millions worldwide and will also showcase the newly cosmetically restored Southern Railway’s parcel van S2464S, on loan from the Swanage Railway. The former goods van carried mundane items such as bread and newspapers ahead of being chosen to carry Churchill’s coffin in 1965.

Locomotive No. 34051 Winston Churchill was one of 44 members of the Battle of Britain class produced by the Southern Railway between 1945 and 1950. They were all named after the people, aircraft, fighter squadrons and airfields involved in the Battle of Britain. Designed by the Southern Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer, Oliver Bulleid, their unique shape and innovative technology set them apart from other British steam locomotives.
James Lester, the fireman on board the train during the solemn final journey dropped in to Mid Hants to watch the latest stage in the restoration.

James has been helping the Museum with its Churchill’s Final Journey display by reliving his memories of that historic day in 1965 when people stood at station platforms and clustered around their TV sets to give their final farewell. As part of its preparation for its 50th anniversary commemoration of the state funeral, the Museum is also appealing for other first-hand memories of the funeral train.

He said: "I’m so pleased to see the work on the loco is on track for completion by Christmas, this project has meant a lot to me as Churchill’s Final Journey will not only tell the story of a remarkable man, it will tell the tale of many railwaymen who played a part in his last journey from the capital to his final resting place.” 

Ian Harrison, Chairman of the Friends of the National Railway Museum South of England Group that launched an appeal in 2011 to bring the loco back to display condition in time for the 50th anniversary commemorations was also present to witness the nameplates being mounted on the locomotive.

He said: "The South of England Group of the Friends of the NRM has been delighted to lead the appeal to bring Winston Churchill back to its best. The locomotive is now in the superb condition it was in when it hauled Sir Winston’s Funeral Train in 1965 and is a credit to the staff and volunteers of the Mid Hants Railway who have put many hours of effort into it. We are still raising money towards this important restoration project and donations are still very welcome.”
The next time James and Ian see the BR green locomotive will be when it takes to the limelight as the nation commemorates an important milestone in world history. 

Colin Chambers, Chairman and Managing Director of the Mid Hants Railway said: "We’ve reached the final stages of the project to get this Southern Railways engine back to its best, ready to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s state funeral. All that remains is some additional varnish applied by our team of painters headed up by Ollie Collins, who started with us as a volunteer, rising through the ranks as apprentice and then taking over from our painter when he retired. It is planned to be on its way to York by Mid January.

Simon Holroyd, Engineering and Workshop Manager said: "No 34051 lost a number of fittings throughout its period in store before coming to York and the workshop team at York have worked hard to replace what would have been there initially, crafting components from scratch such as the whistle and live steam injectors.”
Senior Curator of Rail Vehicles at the National Railway Museum, Anthony Coulls, said: "Our locomotive and the carriages that it hauled have earned a place on the national stage due to the part they played in Churchill's final journey. The team at Mid Hants and in our York and Shildon workshops have done a fantastic job bringing these vehicles back to the way they looked on 30 January 1965 and we hope people will join us to marvel at the train and commemorate this great national occasion.” 

Churchill’s Final Journey runs from 30 January - 3 May 2015. The cosmetic restoration work on the locomotive and Southern Railway Van has been supported by the Friends of the National Railway Museum. For more information, including how to share your memories visit www.nrm.org.uk/churchill

You can see the BBC South Today coverage here 

All images courtesy Chris Ison

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