Blackmoor Vale Plate


Credit 21C123 Kingscote
  No. 21C123, Blackmoor Vale runs round at Kingscote, 11th September 2007.

Purchased from British Railways

With the impending end of steam on British Railways in July 1967, a group of drivers and their colleagues from Nine Elms, the motive power depot near Waterloo, had formed the Bulleid Preservation Society in 1966 to purchase a Bulleid Pacific. Initially the two Battle of Britain class pacifics No. 34066, Spitfire and No. 34086, 219 Squadron were considered suitable locomotives. However with the end of steam in July 1967, West Country Class Pacifics No. 34023, Blackmore Vale and No. 34102, Lapford were the only unrebuilt Bulleid pacifics remaining in traffic. No. 34023, Blackmore Vale was the locomotive purchased as it was considered to be the most mechanically sound.

Longmoor Steam Railway

The engine and tender were purchased for £1,900 and the locomotive transferred to Longmoor, the site of the Longmoor Military Railway. BR stated on the bill of sale that 'No Guarantee can be given as to the condition and suitability for future use'.

With the closure of Longmoor in 1970, the Society, now called the Bulleid Society Ltd. found a new home at Liss on the short lived Longmoor Steam Railway.

Bluebell Railway

Another move occurred in September 1971 with the closure of the Longmoor Steam railway. No. 34023 was moved by rail to Haywards Heath and then by low loader to the Bluebell, which has been her home ever since.

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  No. 21C123 undergoing restoration, 1974.
  Blackmoor Vale at Sheffield Park, 1976.  

Five years later, in May 1976, No. 21C123, Blackmoor Vale returned to traffic on the Bluebell, resplendent in Malachite green. She was repainted in BR Green in 1984, her final BR livery, with additional cosmetic work being undertaken to give the locomotive the '1967' appearance. She was withdrawn from traffic in 1985. Her tender was lent to Battle of Britain class pacific No. 34072, 257 Squadron and was used with the locomotive on the Swanage Railway.


The locomotive was overhaul and a new tender body built in the Bluebell's Workshop.

Credit 21C123 Sheffield Park Works spacer 21C123 Reverser Credit
  Right side showing new boiler lagging and pipework, 28th February 1999.   Repaired reverser being reassembled,
28th February 1999.
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  A rare view of the inside of the oil bath showing the chain drive and valve gear, 21st November 1999.   Lubrication pipes under repair and test,
2nd January 2000.
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  Tender frames reassembled and painted,
6th November 1999.
  Construction of the new tender body,
16th January 2000.


On Saturday 19th August 2000, Blackmoor Vale was officially renamed at Sheffield Park by David Shepherd and HAV Bulleid after her overhaul.

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  Blackmoor Vale, with nameplates covered, in the bay platform at Sheffield Park.   Bulleid Society Chairman, John Fry, making a speech with David Shepherd alongside.  

Into the New Century

After the locomotive's return to traffic in 2000 the engine became, once more, the Bluebell's flagship, however life is not always easy for a Bulleid pacific in operation.

These problems, not in any chronological order, relate to problems with the thermic syphons in the firebox, which resulted in the manufacture, in the Bluebell works, of new back sections to the syphons. To undertake this, a former was built to allow the appropriate profile of the new syphon back to be made from appropriate plate. The old sections of the syphons were cut out and the new items welded in.

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  No. 21C123, Blackmoor Vale at Railfest 2004, National Railway Museum, York, June 2004.   Blackmoor Vale working hard at Three Arch Bridge, 18th December 2005.  

A major mechanical failure was the fracture of one of the three combination levers and the bending of one of the other levers. Luckily, spare combination levers had been obtained when the engine was purchased, but for the future new items will need to be obtained. Today, with the closure of the remaining railway forges, water jet profile cutting of a steel billet is the means to obtain a new item. The Society has the necessary Southern Railway drawing to enable water jet profiling of the steel to be computer controlled and thus simplify manufacture of new combination levers.

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  Blackmoor Vale amongst the bluebells,
May 2006.
  No. 21C123 hauls the Golden Arrow, April 2008.  

One aspect of the engine under constant surveillance was the firebox, which dates to the latter days of BR steam. Problems with the firebox were the main reason for the withdrawal of the locomotive from traffic on the Bluebell in May 2008. The constant heating and cooing cycle that a boiler undergoes in the preservation world is very far removed from the thirty day period in traffic with no heating and cooling cycle the engine was subjected to in BR days. The firebox problems were leaking stays and the comparative thinness of the inner firebox plate.  

Golden Arrow

The Bulleid Society has had two replica golden arrows made for the sides of No. 21C123, which are worn when the locomotive is hauling the Bluebell's Golden Arrow dining service. These were expensive items to have made, being 15ft long and constructed of hardwood.

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  No. 21C123, Blackmoor Vale fitted with Golden Arrow regalia at Sheffield Park, 11th June 2003.  

Renamed O.V.S. Bulleid

To commemorate the birthday of the locomotive's designer Oliver Vaughan Snell Bulleid, born on 19th September 1882, the Bulleid Society renamed No. 21C123, Blackmoor Vale as O.V.S. Bulleid from 19th September 2003 until the end of October with the intention of repeating the renaming each year.

This is not the first time the locomotive has been so named. The Assistant Works Manager at Eastleigh chose No. 34023, Blackmore Vale when he paid his own tribute to the Southern's CME. He attached a wooden pattern West Country nameplate O.V. Bulleid to make a photographic record.

The Society have had cast new West Country style nameplates and the artwork for the crest was produced by Richard Green. This was based on the Bulleid family coat of arms, which OVS Bulleid obtained in 1934, this was then enamelled onto mild steel and laser-cut to shape.

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No. 21C123, Blackmoor Vale fitted with O.V.S. Bulleid nameplate and shield, 23rd October 2003.  

The Future

After early withdrawal from traffic, the engine has been in store at Sheffield Park and on display to the public, who have admired the pacific's lines and who have contributed in many ways towards the potential costs of the future overhaul of the engine.

The Society is aware that to return the locomotive to traffic will require the renewal of much of the inner firebox and with this in mind we have commenced the purchase of items necessary to build a new inner firebox for No. 21C123. Currently, two new thermic syphons, costing £15,000 are on order with future orders directed to the items necessary to construct a new foundation ring and then the formed plate for the combustion chamber, the area below the syphons adjacent to the firebox tubeplate.

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  Blackmoor Vale, along with an Allely's trailer and tractor unit, being hauled by five Burrell traction engines up the steep slope of the demonstration field at the Dorset Steam Fair, September 2009.   No. 21C123, Blackmoor Vale, alongside No. 96 Normandy, at Horsted Keynes during the Bluebell Railway's 50th anniversary weekend,
7th August 2010.