Alan Williams grew up within earshot of the Southern Region West of England main line, and watched Bulleid Pacifics in everyday use almost from their introduction to their final demise, and developed a particular affection for the light Pacifics.
Although he has now left the area, Alan was one of the founders of the 7.25in gauge Great Cockcrow Railway at Lyne, near Chertsey in Surrey.
Approaching the time of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Alan remarked to locomotive-builder Norman Sleet that it would be nice to have a model of perhaps the best-known of the light Pacifics, 'Winston Churchill', in time for the celebration of VE Day the following year.
Norman took up the challenge and the loco he built for Alan during 1994-95 is the result.
It reflects the engine in its final condition, with modified cab and cut-down tender.
Alan went to considerable lengths to ensure the details were correct, checking all the preserved examples.
He even persuaded the National Railway Museum at York to wheel the preserved original engine outside so that he could take pictures and check measurements and other details !
In the process, he discovered many minor variations between engines, so his model is very definitely a model of No.34051 rather than just any Battle of Britain (or West Country).
However, Alan decided that reliability and ease of maintenance was more important than some of Mr Bulleid's more novel design features.
So, underneath the air-smoothed casing he opted for two rather than three cylinders, and inside Stephenson valve gear rather than a chain drive in a messy oil bath !
Likewise, the entire casing rearwards from the smokebox can be lifted off as a single unit for ease of access and maintenance.
The loco was finished with a couple of weeks to spare before the celebrations, and has been running regularly ever since at the Great Cockcrow Railway.
In traffic, while the engine proved to have sufficient power for hauling trains on the GCR, just like the prototype, it was very prone to slipping, particularly on wet rails.
Then a few years back 'Winston Churchill' was extensively rebuilt by the resident GCR engineers, with larger, slightly overscale cylinders and modified valve gear with a pumped lubrication system.
The modifications have made the 'BofB' a lot more powerful (more even than the Merchant Navy at the GCR!) and it is now able to tackle the heaviest of trains.
Alan says that he enjoys driving the engine, although it has the same very soft exhaust as the prototype, so it is sometimes difficult to see the line ahead !
Editors note : The Great Cockrow Railway is a fantastic ground level line operated to the British Railways Rule book.
It has a long and complex run and is fully and correctly signalled.
The final train of a running day is the non-stop 'Gladesman', a fast non-stop double headed train which covers the entire route and takes 25 minutes to complete the journey.
Here is a link to: Great Cockrow Railway - well worth a visit.