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A4 Steam on the South Devon Railway

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A4 Steam on the South Devon Railway

As I said in my My Top 5 Steam Locos post, the A4 steam loco is my favourite type. The shape of the loco just stands out from other steam locos, for me it looks totally beautiful.

The A4 Steam Loco Class

Nigel Gresley designed the 4-6-2 steam locomotive class in 1935. There were thirty five built and the streamlined design gave them high-speed capability. The most famous one is 4468 ‘Mallard’ that holds the record of being the fastest steam locomotive at 126 mph. Like many steam locos, the A4 Class ran on the mainline until the early 1960’s when diesel trains replaced them.

On the 16th August 2015 LNER A4 No: 60009 “Union of South Africa” was running the ‘The Royal Duchy’ tour from Bristol Temple Meads to Par.

Once the tour arrived at Newton Abbott the steam loco failed due to a hot axle box. Two and a half hours later the tour continued to Par with a Class 47 No: 47832. The A4 loco slowly departed and went to Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway.

Hot Box

The saying ‘Hot Box’ means that when a bearing on an axle of a steam loco overheats. The cause of the problem is when the oil has dried out or leaked, which then overheats the bearings.


I was at Dawlish with my friend John waiting for the steam tour to come to get some photographs. I had a new camera with me, a Canon 7D mk2. For some unknown reason the camera would not focus. I ended up very disappointed not getting any photos of my favourite steam loco.

John’s photograph shows ‘The Royal Duchy’ tour passing through Dawlish. Photo © John Leonard

I did not hear about what happened to the loco and where it ended up to until late that night. So, the following day, the 17th August 2015 I went out to Buckfastleigh station to get some photographs of my favourite class loco. I ended up buying a Canon 5D mk3 which I still use today.

This photograph shows GWR 0-6-0PT No: 6412 hauling LNER A4 No: 60009 “Union of South Africa” from the station to the workshop for its repair.

After staying at Buckfastleigh for 18 days the loco was finally given the green light to leave the South Devon Railway. It left the station at around 17.00 and went down to Laira Depot at Plymouth to turn around on the depot’s triangle. It then headed back to Bristol Temple Meads.

On the 3rd September 2015 the repaired loco, LNER A4 No: 60009 “Union of South Africa” is seen passing through Woodville on the South Devon Railway returning back to Bristol Temple Meads.

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