The Great Western Trust (GWT) (Registered Charity 289008) was established by the Great Western Society (GWS) in 1984 to own, administer, conserve and display the smaller artefacts and memorabilia of the GWR collection at Didcot Railway Centre. This deliberately focussed organisation has a unique, nationally significant collection devoted to the social and economic impact of the GWR, its constituent, absorbed and joint companies and its nationalised British Railways (Western Region) successor.
All seven Trustees are unpaid volunteers, who have to be GWS members and are individually appointed by the GWS Management Council.
To establish as comprehensive and representative collection of artefacts as possible with the purpose that not only will that material be conserved and available to current and future generations, but displayed and interpreted in such a way that it demonstrates the whole extent of this vast transport undertaking, its operations and the impact it had upon its staff and its customers.
To maintain topicality and to minimise fatigue for displayed items, we annually refresh some display themes. This also allows us to exploit the otherwise hidden part of our Collection.
The vast majority of our collection has been donated by our visitors or by GWS members.
Broadly, it spans the period from 1833 (the First GWR Share Prospectus) to 1977 (when Diesel Hydraulic locomotives, unique to British Railways Western Region were withdrawn) The breadth is vast, including the building of locomotives to the running of Hotels, dockyards, air services, cartage, road motor omnibuses, marine and docks, and the organisation of the GWR staff and their wide ranging educational, recreational and welfare activities. It also covers aspects specific to Didcot and its locality. Finally, GWT are custodians of the GWS’s own railway preservation heritage records from its formation in 1961.
So far, we have recorded over 30,000 individual items and a further 50,000 photographs and that work continues based on many annual donations from both general public visitors to the Museum and GWS members, including bequests.
The Collection holds significant portfolios such as the R K Bird collection (which is probably the most comprehensive collection of Great Western publicity material in one place) and the bequests of Eric Mountford, Michael Hale, Mike Ogden and not least Charles Gordon Stuart.
Under the umbrella title of Didcot Railway Centre, the bodies forming and administering it including the Great Western Trust, have gained full Accredited Status under the Arts Council of England (ACE) scheme. Hence potential donors can be satisfied that our Collection is subject to the best nationally recognised procedures.
To date we have assisted numerous authors of books, but our key goal is to greatly improve such work through a Conservation Grade store and Reference Library Annex (the Charles Gordon Stuart Annex) attached to the existing Museum Building. If you'd like to contribute to this exciting project, cheques sent to Didcot Railway Centre and made payable to ‘The Great Western Trust’ with ‘Library Fund Appeal’ on the back will be most gratefully received and appreciated.
The Great Western Trust volunteers are currently heavily involved in getting the new Annex building equipped, furnished and filled with its archive of books, drawings, posters and paper based artefacts. When that massive task is completed, arrangements will be announced for study access but only by pre-arranged appointment, and in exchange for a modest fee to reflect conservation and facility costs.
Until then, the Trustees regret that its archive collection is not accessible. However, its displays in its Museum building are of course already open to the public as detailed elsewhere on this website.
The Trust's photographic collection is vast and comprises images in both black and white and colour. These not only cover the Great Western but other British railway companies. Details can be obtained from the Hon Photo Archivist c/o Didcot Railway Centre enclosing a stamped addressed envelope.
Enquiries regarding the Trust Collection itself or the historical information it contains should either be sent to the Trust Secretary c/o Didcot Railway Centre enclosing a stamped addressed envelope, or via E Mail ensuring that ‘Great Western Trust Museum & Archive’ is in the Subject line.
As the Trust is entirely resourced by volunteers who give their time freely, and given that conserving the Collection is a major and ongoing expense, we consider that a commensurate donation to Trust funds is a justified reward in return for any information that we can supply, and such would be warmly appreciated.