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Funeral Train

Funeral Train - Winston Churchill

For train enthusiasts here is a little background information of the locomotive.

21C151 Winston Churchill is a Southern Railway Battle of Britain class 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive that has been preserved as part of the United Kingdom’s National Collection.  It is on display at the Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon.

21C151 was built at Brighton Works in 1946, being released to traffic on 30 December of that year.  Initially it was unnamed and paired with 4,500-gallon tender 3301.  It was first allocated to Salisbury locomotive shed for services on the West of England Main Line between London and Exeter.  The locomotive was officially named Winston Churchill in a ceremony at Waterloo railway station on 11 September 1947.

It passed to British Railways in January 1948 as part of nationalisation of Britain’s railways.  However, it was October 1948 before it received its British Railways number 34051.  It also kept its Southern Railway malachite green with chrome yellow striping until November 1950 when it was repainted into British Railways Brunswick green.


On 24 January 1965, Winston Churchill died.  His state funeral on 30 January 1965 saw his coffin process up the River Thames on the MV Havengore before being transferred to Waterloo Station.  A special train had been laid on to take the family to Handborough, seven miles north-west of Oxford.  Handborough was the closest station to the parish church of Bladon where Churchill’s body was to be interred. The train comprised:
Battle of Britain class 34051 Winston Churchill,
Pullman guard-parlour car 208,
Hearse van S2464S,
Pullman kitchen-parlour car Carina,
Pullman kitchen-parlour car Lydia,
Pullman parlour car Perseus,
Pullman guard-parlour car Isle of Thanet.

members of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars loading the coffin into the Hearse Van

While being prepared, the locomotive carried four white discs in an inverted ‘T’ formation – the headcode for a Royal Train, but this was subsequently changed.  The headcode used while pulling the special train was one disc on each side of the locomotive’s smokebox, and a third in the middle of the bufferbeam – a ‘V’ formation evoking Churchill’s ‘V for Victory’ sign.  In reality, that headcode would normally only have been used for a breakdown train.

The train was routed via Barnes, Twickenham, Virginia Water, Ascot, Wokingham, and Reading, where it left the Southern Region and joined the Western Region.  The train continued to Handborough via Didcot East & North Junctions and Oxford.  The 34051 locomotive then retraced its route back to London, the special train being taken back to Paddington by ‘Western’ class diesel-hydraulic D1015 Western Champion.

After hauling Churchill’s funeral train, 34051 was earmarked for preservation (having covered 807,496 miles), so in November 1965, 34051 was moved to Hellifield for storage.  It later spent some time at the Didcot Railway Centre.  It now resides at the National Railway Museum in York, as part of the UK National Collection, (with the intention of being fully restored to its former glory).  Repainting of the engine was completed at the Mid-Hants Railway at Ropley, Hampshire in December 2014 after which the engine was returned to York for display in the National Railway Museum in time for the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill on 20 January 2015, but the locomotive remains non-operational.  In 2016 it was moved to the NRM’s “Locomotion” museum at Shildon, where it was still observed to be located in December 2017.

The railway station at Handborough, Oxfordshire, where WSC’s coffin arrived following its journey from Waterloo, London (before being taken by a hearse to Bladon) has not been forgotten.

A plaque marking this event was unveiled on Friday, 24th July 2015.  The plaque was unveiled by the then Prime Minister, Rt Hon David Cameron MP.  Representing the QOOH was Col Chris Laurence (Chairman of the QOOH Association and OY Trust) and Robbie Robinson c/w the QOOH Standard.

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