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Severn Valley Railway unveils wartime livery for its famous ‘purple loco’

The Severn Valley Railway’s celebrated ‘purple loco’ will receive a brand-new identity next year, and bosses at the leading heritage line expect that once again, they’ll be causing ‘a bit of a stir’.

An artist's impression of how 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ will look in the striking black livery
An artist’s impression of how 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ will look in the striking black livery

That’s because the scheme chosen for 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ is the striking black livery used by Southern Railways during the war years – it would never have been carried by this locomotive which wasn’t built until 1946.

The Bulleid West Country class loco will be repainted in matt black, with sunshine yellow cab numbers and lettering on the tender, replicating the austerity livery carried by SR engines during the Second World War. The nameplates will be red, and it will also carry the locomotive’s original SR number, 21C127.

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The repaint is scheduled for early 2023 during the line’s annual shut down period. An original plan to repaint 34027 this autumn was changed because of an operational need for the locomotive to be available for the SVR’s extensive range of Christmas services, through till early January.

The SVR’s head of steam engineering Duncan Ballard explained the thinking behind the move to paint the locomotive black:

“We’ve chosen this livery not only because we know it’s going to spark plenty of interest amongst our visitors and heritage enthusiasts, but also because it offers us a very practical short-term solution. We need to replace 34027’s purple livery because that was purely for the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year. Applying matt black paint will be a hugely labour-saving job, just as it was when it was used during the war. We plan to carry out this out in January, so the loco is ready to enter service when we reopen in early March.

“34027 will be needed to haul public services through till autumn 2023, at which point we’ll withdraw it from traffic for an intermediate overhaul, which is likely to see the locomotive out of traffic for a year or so. Following this essential maintenance, we’ll repaint it back into full British Railways green with red and black lining. Putting it back into this livery is definitely something we want to take our time to complete to the highest of standards.”

“We know that a matt black ‘Taw Valley’ is going to cause a bit of a stir,” said Helen Smith, the SVR’s managing director. “But let’s face it, at the Severn Valley Railway we’re not afraid to do things a little differently! It’s certainly going to look amazing in austerity black, especially when we relaunch our popular Step Back to the 1940s events next summer.”

Speaking on behalf of Taw Valley Limited which owns the locomotive, Phil Swallow said:

“Our loco wasn’t built until 1946, the year after the Second World War had ended. It was then rebuilt by British Railways in the 1950s into the form we see today. In reality it would never have carried a matt black livery in its rebuilt form. So, this will be an unusual example of a ‘what if’ livery.”

“As the owners of ‘Taw Valley’, and just like the SVR, we’re no strangers to pushing a few boundaries. We’re right behind the idea of an austerity locomotive and can’t wait to see it next year.”

The Severn Valley Railway stole headlines around the world when it painted 34027 purple earlier this year and renamed it ‘Elizabeth II’ to commemorate the late Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. The move proved a huge draw for many thousands of visitors, who flocked to the railway to see it in person, and to travel behind the head-turning loco.

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