A LOCOMOTIVE named after a New Zealand airman who helped to win the Battle of Britain is now part of the Severn Valley Railway’s (SVR) locomotive fleet.

The ‘Battle of Britain’ class engine No.34053 Sir Keith Park, has been running trials on the railway over the last few weeks, and has now been fully commissioned to work on the 16-mile line between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster.

Up to 10,000 steam enthusiasts will get their first glimpse of Sir Keith Park as a working locomotive at the Severn Valley Railway’s annual Autumn Steam Gala from today until Sunday.

Nick Ralls, SVR general manager, said: “Sir Keith Park is something of a gold nugget, and a proud boast for us.

“The Air Vice Marshall after who the engine was named, is now acknowledged to have been the principal architect of Britain’s victory in the air battle which turned the course of the Second World War, but Southern Locomotives’ restoration of the engine which was at one point considered to be a complete nohoper, is no less heroic.

“It’s a man’s engine, which has the combined virtues of being light enough to come within the safe working weight limits of Victoria Bridge which carries our line over the river at Arley, but powerful enough to work the heaviest trains that we run.”

Withdrawn from service by British Railways in 1965, it is Sir Keith’s first season on the line since restoration.

It will be joined by visiting Southern locomotives T9 4-4-0 30120 and U-class 31806 at the three-day gala. Also appearing will be Coal Tank 0-6-2 in LMS livery as 7799 and newly-restored Great Western 0-6-0PT 1501.

An intensive train service will run between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, with brunch and cream teas available in the observation saloon.There will also be a real ale beer tent at Bewdley.

People can get further information at svr.co.uk or by calling 01299 403816.