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Didcot Railway Centre
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Carriage and Wagon Work
More Coal Please!
Fitting the oil pipes in 
the crankcase of Diesel Railcar No. 22
My Turn to Drive

Latest News

Didcot Skyline Soon to Change Forever!

Cooling Towers

This view, taken from the entrance to Didcot Railway Centre, will be entirely changed early in the morning of 27 July when the group of three cooling towers, which dominate this picture, will be demolished.

The building on the right is our coal stage, and you can also make out the Steam Railmotor Shed (Charles Whetmath Building) in the foreground.

The cooling towers are one of two similar groups belonging to the Didcot A Power Station which closed in March 2013. The other three towers and the 650 ft (200m) chimney are also redundant and will presumably also be demolished in due course.

If you'd like a last chance to see the structure voted Britain's third worst eyesore in 2003 by ‘Country Life’ readers, we're open every day so why not come along?

Derogation Approval for GSM-R

Shed Scene

The Great Western Society is pleased to announce that it has received derogation approval from the Railway Safety Standards Board (RSSB) to allow the use of a transportable GSM-R (Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway) unit when operating on Network Rail.

Instead of having to fit a radio to each locomotive, it will now be possible for the unit to be shared between the society’s main line registered operational fleet – currently 6023 “King Edward II” and the Steam Railmotor No. 93 and in due course other restorations, such as 4079 “Pendennis Castle” and 2999 “Lady of Legend”, if and when they are approved for main line operation.

Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society, said: “The ability to use transportable units means that large savings can be made with both the time taken to install the fixed equipment and the cost of the installation and equipment itself. We would like to thank all those who have helped the Society over the last twelve months to achieve this outcome and in particular GWS member Richard Preston who did much of the leg work.

Meanwhile, other work continues in preparing 6023 for mainline running and the TPWS/OTMR currently being fitted should be finally connected up around the end of August.

National Collection Locomotive visits Didcot Railway Centre

31466, 6435 and 30120
Viisting loocmotives, 30120 and 6435 with resident 1466 in front of the engine shed at Didcot

Normally based at the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, T9 class 4-4-0 30120 is visiting Didcot Railway Centre for approximately three months, and is to make its debut at the centre on Saturday 12 July when the slightly younger, 1908 built, Steam Railmotor No. 93 will also be in service

Built in 1899, at Nine Elms near London, for the London & South Western Railway (LSWR), 30120 is the only surviving member from a class of 66 locomotives. Designed by Dugald Drummond, the locomotives were well liked by their crews, and gained the nickname ‘Greyhounds’ because of the good turn of speed they were capable of. Withdrawn from British Railways in October 1963, the locomotive was immediately taken into the National Collection.

Have a look at our locomotive roster to see when 30120 will be running.

D Day 70th Anniversary Commemoration

The Oxford Ukeleles
The Oxford Ukuleles at the Cowley Road Carnival

The weekend of 7-8 June will give visitors to Didcot Railway Centre the opportunity to experience something of WWII on the home front.

Visitors will be able to experience the effect of the blackout on running trains, both on the carriages, and the locomotives. Passenger trains will run all day, with two steam locomotives and 1940 GWR Diesel Railcar No 22 being in action. The passenger train will have a carriage with one compartment blacked out, with appropriate (dim!) lighting. There will be goods trains and shunting demonstrations.

On the Sunday only, the Oxford Ukuleles will be performing during the afternoon, at various points around the railway, and at 2pm, subject to weather conditions and availability, there is a Spitfire flypast scheduled.

On both days, there will be Punch and Judy, the classic wartime children’s entertainment.
There will be re-enactors posing as the Home Guard. There will also be demonstrations of ‘Make do and mend’, and ‘waste not, want not’ activities for young volunteers including recovering coal under the coal stage!

The event will also feature a model railway, depicting Lulworth Camp, an Army base near the imaginary town of Westport in Dorset, where tank gun crews were (and still are) trained. It is close to Westport Gas Works, at the back of the town. Each has its own railway system, linked to the Southern Railway at Westport. The ‘Lulworth Camp Military Railway’ extends to Tyneham sub-camp in a hidden fiddle yard, but viewers can see the operation of the cassette yard that represents the line to Westport and beyond. There are strict demarcation rules, and traffic is handed over to the military at the Exchange Sidings as Railway Company engines are not permitted to enter the Army Depot other than to the Troop Platform. The most important traffic handled is Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV’s) (i.e. tanks) of the WW2 era, carried on several different types of tank-carrying wagon. General stores traffic is worked through the system and tank-crew trains from the LNER and SR come and go.

Controlling the Trains Exhibition

Controlling the Trains
(L – R) Tim Leighton, Scott Wilgrove, Richard Croucher
and Tom O’Flaherty

A new permanent exhibition will open at Didcot Railway Centre in couple of years time. Entitled ‘Controlling the Trains’, the interactive displays will chart the history of the control of trains in the Great Western area from the Railway Policeman of 1835 to the Thames Valley Signalling Centre of 2010 (The Signalling Centre dominates the view over the the level crossing on our Branch Line). The exhibition will be housed in a purpose built structure next to the Great Western Trust Museum and Archive. Not only will it offer scope for interpretation of the existing signalling equipment at Didcot, such as Radstock and Frome boxes and the unique ‘broad gauge’ signalling equipment, but it will also enable the display of other equipment.

A principal ‘new’ exhibit will be Swindon Panel, a 1968 turn-push type NX Domino panel, which is to be preserved by the Swindon Panel Society, an organisation set up to preserve the equipment and demonstrate it to visitors and enthusiasts. When the panel is decommissioned by Network Rail in early 2015, Swindon Panel Society will move it to Didcot. A computer simulator in the background will mimic the passage of trains, enabling visitors to work the Panel themselves and experience what it is like to be a railway signalman.

Didcot's Bank Holiday Diesel Gala saw the formal signing of an agreement between Swindon Panel Society and the Great Western Society which is one of the first stages in setting up this exhibition. Tom O'Flaherty, Chairman of the Swindon Panel Society said “I am delighted the Great Western Society has welcomed us to Didcot and that we are helping them tell the important story of the development of railway signalling. We hope this will spark the interest of younger people to take up careers in the railway industry”. Signing the agreement with Tom was Richard Croucher (Chairman of the Great Western Society). Network Rail was represented at the signing by Tim Leighton (General Manager NR Western Route), and also in attendance was Didcot Town Mayor, Scott Wilgrove.

Much remains to be done before the Panel is fully working at Didcot. For further information, including how to become involved see the
Swindon Panel Society Website

The Great Western Society is not responsible for the content of external web sites.

The Great Western and Metropolitan Railways Steam Gala – 3-5 May 2014

Met No.1

The Great Western Railway (GWR) and Metropolitan Railway (MR) were inextricably linked from the very dawn of underground railways. In January I863 the MR opened the world’s first underground railway from the GWR’s Paddington station to Farringdon Road in London. The GWR, as a partner in this line, supplied the first steam locomotives, which were broad gauge. However, the GWR and MR soon fell out and from I864 the Metropolitan supplied its own locomotives.

The Metropolitan also expanded with a surface railway north and west of Baker Street station, into the open countryside where suburbs were developed that became known as Metroland. It extended through Harrow, Rickmansworth and Amersham to Aylesbury where the MR joined an existing GWR branch from Princes Risborough, with a joint GWR/MR station opening there in 1894.

The underground railways started to use electric traction at the end of the 19th century, which improved the atmosphere in the tunnels considerably. However, the MR’s surface lines through Metroland continued to use steam traction for many years.

Join us at Didcot Railway Centre to celebrate the recreation of a country junction in Metroland, where visiting celebrity locomotive Met. No.1 of 1898 will connect with our own GWR Steam Railmotor and Trailer, together with 6023 “King Edward II” and our GWR Mogul and Pannier Tank. Perhaps you could raise a glass to times past in the ‘Black Python’ bar?

Didcot Railway Centre Gains Full Accreditation Award

Didcot Railway Centre has been awarded Full Accreditation by Arts Council England. The Accreditation Scheme is a benchmark for museums, setting nationally agreed standards in collection care, public services and museum management. Gaining Full Accreditation status shows that Didcot Railway Centre is meeting the national standard and is key to gaining future grant funding to develop the Centre.

Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society, which runs Didcot Railway Centre said “I am delighted that Didcot Railway Centre (DRC) has achieved full accreditation status. DRC first obtained museum registration over a decade ago and as museum standards have been raised, we have been invited to jump the next height which has been achieved each time.

Unlike many other museums, the achievements at Didcot Railway Centre are made entirely by volunteers and I am particularly pleased as a voluntary organisation, that we are able to equal, and in some cases, exceed the standards being accomplished in the professional world which reflects highly on our volunteer members.

Lord Faulkner, President of the Heritage Railway Association said “Heritage railways and living history museums are an important part of explaining our heritage to current and future generations of enthusiasts. Gaining Full Accreditation reflects a high degree of professionalism within a voluntary organisation. It is a real achievement that shows how Didcot Railway Centre has developed into the successful visitor attraction it is today.

There are currently just under 1,800 museums participating in the Accreditation Scheme, which sets nationally agreed standards for museums in the UK. The Accreditation lasts for three years and defines the good practice and standards that help museums to be the best they can be, for current and future users.”

Go Broad Gauge at Easter!

Iron Duke and Fire Fly
Iron Duke and Fire Fly with Broad Gauge Train in the Transfer Shed at Didcot Railway Centre

As Easter we will display broad gauge locomotives 'Iron Duke' and ‘Fire Fly’ side by side, with ‘Fire Fly’ hauling our broad gauge passenger train on Brunel's baulk road track. This may well be the first time that two GWR broad gauge locomotives have been seen together since 1892 - certainly since 1906 when ‘North Star’ and ‘Lord of the Isles’, preserved at Swindon Works after the abolition of the broad gauge, were scrapped to make more space .

'Iron Duke', is on long term loan from the Science Museum and is undergoing some much needed cosmetic restoration to return it to a suitably Great Western condition for display. ‘Fire Fly’ is the only working Great Western broad gauge locomotive and regularly hauls trains at Didcot Railway Centre. Both locomotives are replicas of original Great Western Railway engines.

You can also expect to see the Travelling Post Office being demonstrated and the signalling and level crossing in operation on the Branch Line on Sunday and Monday.

You can expect plenty of activity for families as well, over the entire Easter Bank Holiday Weekend, including:
• Children's Entertainment - Magic Show, Balloon Modelling, Street Organ
• Children's Activities in the Science, Learning and Railways carriages
• Easter Egg Treasure Hunt
• Didcot's own Chipper the Squirrel! (Friday and Monday only).

Flagship Locomotives in Unique Tribute to Their Designers

Collett and Gresley
Charles (C.B.) Collett - 10 September 1871 – 5 April 1952 (left) and
Sir (Herbert) Nigel Gresley - 19 June 1876 – 5 April 1941 (right)

Three mighty steam locomotives, the pride of the pre-nationalisation Great Western Railway and London & North Eastern Railway will gather at Didcot Railway Centre on 5 and 6 April 2014 in a display not seen for over 60 years. All three locomotives are currently painted in the same short-lived historic British Railways express passenger blue livery that was applied in 1949 in an effort to improve the image of the recently nationalised British Railways.

The event titled ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ offers the public a 2 day opportunity to see these magnificent locomotives up close, learn about their history as well as have the opportunity to ride behind them.

In an amazing coincidence, 5 April is also the anniversary of the deaths of two of the locomotives' designers:

A short commemoration service for Sir Nigel Gresley and Charles Collett will be held on 5 April at 10am, finishing with all three locomotives simultaneously sounding their whistles for 1 minute.

Completing the trio is A1 No 60163 “Tornado”, designed by A H Peppercorn, the last Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER. None of the original A1s were preserved and “Tornado” was built from scratch over a 20 year period at Darlington Locomotive Works as the next in line of this classic locomotive type.

Once in a Blue Moon

Tornado at Didcot Railway Centre
Tornado at Didcot Railway Centre

In a preservation first this Spring, Didcot Railway Centre will host three British Railways blue steam locomotives together in one place. Famous new steam locomotive Peppercorn class A1 60163 Tornado will join forces with the illustrious ex GWR King 6023 King Edward II and sublime Gresley class A4 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley in an all blue line up at Didcot on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 April 2014.

Mark Allatt, Chairman of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, the registered charity that built and now operates Tornado, said “The salivating prospect of seeing not two but three main line express locomotives present in one place and in the same stunning blue livery has been on the wish list of many enthusiasts for decades.  This dream will soon become a reality and we are very pleased that Tornado will be joined by such illustrious company.

Nigel Wilson, Chairman of The Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Preservation Trust which owns and operates No. 60007, said “60007 has carried BR Blue livery for the last 20 years but this must be the first time since the 1950s that three locomotives in this livery have been seen together let alone in steam, SNGLPT is very pleased to be part of the event.

Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society, said “After a considerable amount of quiet discussion behind the scenes, we are very pleased to be able to announce the appearance of a trio of blue express locomotives at Didcot Railway Centre when King Edward II plays host to Sir Nigel Gresley and Tornado over the first weekend of April. This is a line up which we have been hoping to achieve ever since 6023 entered traffic and will be a unique opportunity to see these locomotives together.

Event highlights include:

4709 Progress – An Open Meeting at Didcot on 17 May

Frame stretchers in place between the mainframes
Frame stretchers in place between the mainframes

An open meeting will be held at Didcot Railway Centre on Saturday 17 May to present the project and give members and the public a chance to meet the team and also see what has been achieved as well as what lies ahead. The meeting will be held in the marquee beyond the turntable and will be on-going through the day from 11 o'clock onwards. It will give those interested an opportunity to see the work so far done with 4709 through photographic media and by reference to other locomotives the physical aspects of the undertaking.

The construction of 4709 – the new-build Churchward 47XX 2-8-0 – took a major step forward at the end of 2013 when final assembly of the main frames got under way. Starting at the rear, the new drag box and five stretchers have now been finally aligned and bolted up and two of the stretchers have now been riveted into place. This leaves the motion bracket stretcher to be tackled which will be an amalgam of new plate work already in the Great Western Society’s possession, together with donor parts from large prairie 4115.

Clearly getting the frames aligned properly is a crucial part of the new build and will ensure many years of trouble free running. The Society has been fortunate to have had the benefit of a short term loan which has enabled this work to be done. There is still some further refurbishment to be done and it will be necessary to manufacture new horn guides for the rear axle, the pattern for which has just been completed.

Towards the end of its career, it appears that 4115s buffer beam took a bit of a knock and a new front buffer beam assembly has been fabricated. In addition this knock appears to have affected the extension frames from 4115 which will also need to be straightened. Otherwise the extension frames have been cleaned and tested. The plan is then to fit the buffer beam assembly to the extension frames. Once the main frames have been riveted up the extension frames will be fitted so that the whole assembly can be riveted. It is hoped to complete this during the first half of 2014.

In a unique partnering arrangement with the Llangollen Railway and the Betton Grange group we have jointly funded an apprentice at Llangollen who will divide his time equally working on 4709 and 6880, as well as Llangollen projects and attending college one day a week. This offers all parties many benefits as well as contributing to the supply of young competent engineers for tomorrow.

We have also now obtained all the donor parts for 4709. Chief amongst the new acquisitions is the cylinder block from 2861 which required a significant asbestos removal. 2861 has also yielded the majority of the parts for the braking system and the vacuum cylinder. A major phase of the project – the recovery of all donor parts - is now complete.

The 4709 Team has produced a 48-page illustrated soft back booklet, 4709 – The Story So Far, outlining the background to the Project and it’s achievements to date. Priced at £7.95, copies are available by post for £10 (including p&p) from Richard Croucher, Appeal Co-ordinator 4709 Project, Didcot Railway Centre, Didcot, Oxon, OX11 7NJ. All profits will go towards 4709.

Locomotion on the Move!

T9 passes Transfer Shed
30120 at Didcot on 29 March 1959.
The wooden building immediately behind the locomotive is the original 1863 built (broad gauge to standard gauge) Transfer Shed, which is now to be found within Didcot Railway Centre. -
Photo: Ben Brooksbank

2014 is already starting to look like a busy year for Didcot's locomotives visiting other lines, and other locomotives visiting Didcot.

Steam Railmotor No.93 is just about to move from the Barry Tourist Railway, where it has spent the winter, to the Churnet Valley Railway, where it will star in their Winter Steam Gala on 22/23 February and their Railcar Day on 2 March. We hope to have an information and sales stand at the Gala - why not come and see at Kingsley and Froghall - surely new territory for the Great Western? The Railmotor will return to Didcot in time for Easter.

Meanwhile GWR Mogul No.5322, will be leaving in March to feature in the West Somerset Railway Spring Steam Gala, celebrating the Southern Railway’s ‘Withered Arm’. From there the locomotive will travel north for the Llangollen Railway Spring Steam Gala which is dedicated to Croes Newydd loco shed in Wrexham. No.5322 is also expected to return to Didcot in time for Easter. However the black-liveried Churchward Mogul is expected to leave Didcot once again in the summer to assist with the peak season service, during July and August, on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway.

By way of exchange, two locomotives from Bodmin will be visiting Didcot in the summer months. These are Southern Railway T9 No.30120, which will stir memories of the 1950s when the locomotive was based at Didcot for working the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line, and auto-fitted Collett pannier tank No.6435. The latter will enable the running of auto trains using our autotrailers 190 and 231, which we have been unable to do since the withdrawal of our own 1466.

It is looking likely that there will be other visitors as well this year - but more news of this soon.

The Great Western Society is not responsible for the content of external web sites.

A Second Broad Gauge Locomotive at Didcot

Iron Duke on the carriage jacks

The National Railway Museum's broad gauge replica 4-2-2 Iron Duke was successfully unloaded at the Railway Centre on 11 December. The locomotive and tender was brought from Didcot West Yard on rail wagons, after having arrived by road, and lifted off the wagons using the jacks in the carriage shed, then lowered onto standard gauge 4-wheel trucks. These will be used to move the locomotive to the broad gauge railway in the transfer shed in due course, where it will join our working replica broad gauge locomotive Fire Fly. Is this the first time in over 100 years that two GWR designed Broad Gauge locomotives have been together? In any case these two early express passenger locomotives designed by Daniel Gooch, which did so much to prove the supremacy of the broad gauge in the 1840s, will be exhibited together. They will enable us to celebrate Gooch's 200th birthday, in 2016, in appropriate style.

There are no immediate plans to return Iron Duke to steam but we will be undertaking some cosmetic restoration before putting the locomotive on display. Jeff Day and his team are prepared to do the work, but as always any help would be appreciated. If you would like to assist with this important project, please contact Roger Orchard at Didcot Railway Centre.

Steam Railmotor to visit the Brentford Branch ?

Railmotor 93 at Liskeard

Following Steam Railmotor’s No.93s successful venture on the Liskeard-Looe branch in November 2012, all parties agreed that it would be nice to repeat the exercise elsewhere and to that end discussions have just commenced.

Towards the end of November 2013, Richard Croucher (Chairman) and Richard Preston (Chairman, Main Line and Heritage Railway Operations) from the GWS met with officials from First Great Western, Network Rail and West Coast Railways to explore various options. A very positive meeting was held and it has been agreed to work towards the Steam Railmotor, and possibly Auto Trailer No. 92, running a timetabled operation on the Southall-Brentford branch next October. The provisional date is the weekend of 18/19 October 2014, with a backup weekend one or two weeks later. Actions have been agreed and all parties are now engaged on the next stage, which is to confirm cost and the practicalities of such an operation.

Such a visit has great significance for the GWS as Southall footbridge is where the Society was conceived in 1961, was the location of the shed at which Railmotor No. 93 began its working life and was the location of the structure on which the new Steam Railmotor shed at Didcot is based.

There are many practicalities which need to be overcome before we know if the operation is viable let alone if it can take place, but we will keep you updated on progress.


Recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway