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Western Class Locomotives (Paperback)

A Tribute

P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 20th Century Transport > Trains & Railways

By Bernard Mills
Imprint: Key Publishing
Pages: 96
Illustrations: Approx. 150
ISBN: 9781913870034
Published: 3rd May 2022
Last Released: 28th July 2022



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Unusually for a large class of locomotives, all Western Class locomotives had the same prefix which gave them a unique identity. Redesignated as Class 52 in the early 1970s, they were essentially designed by and for the Western Region, which saw hydraulic transmission as the way forward in replacing the 4-6-0 steam locomotives that Swindon had produced. However, the rest of British Rail went down the road of electric transmission as the mistakes of the wholesale lunge into dieselisation came to fruition, and when BR opted for a standard policy the Western Region was forced to comply. It was in 1967 that the death warrant for the hydraulics was signed, though it would take more than a decade to finally end the hydraulic era. Illustrated with full-colour photographs of all 74 of the Western Class locomotives, on a variety of workings that illustrate their versatility, this nostalgic volume gives a portrait of a much-loved, but short-lived, class of locomotive.

Devon-based author and photographer Bernard Mills has scoured his photographic collection for the best views of the most powerful locos in the Western Region’s hydraulic fleet, the Class 52s. Each of these locos bore a name prefaced with the word ‘Western’, and these nameplates were worn throughout the fleet’s lives, helping to make them a favourite amongst enthusiasts.

Bernard Mills has managed to feature two views of each of the 74 locos in the fleet, a feat which he says he achieved without even realising. In doing so, he admits that challenging lighting conditions meant that not all the views are up to the standard he would have liked. Nevertheless, the images chosen represent an impressively varied selection, many in bright sunlit conditions, and often against a backdrop of the Devon and Cornwall scenery in which these locos seemed so much at home. The varied liveries worn by the locos are featured too, with most in blue with full yellow ends, but some in the earlier maroon and green, and one from 1970 in pale blue with small yellow panels.

Many of the locations featured have changed hugely since Bernard’s images were captured. No longer can we see so many semaphore signals in Cornwall, and long rakes of blue and grey coaches are just a distant memory. The photographer has also managed to include some locations visited less frequently by the Westerns, including Falmouth, Bugle, Heathfield and Honiton Bank.

This is an excellent compilation of pure nostalgia, and at £14.99 is also very good value for money.

West Somerset Railway Association

Some nice photographs in this compact volume.

A good book for those interested in the class of motive power

James Simmonds
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