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Didcot Railway Centre
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Fitting the oil pipes in 
the crankcase of Diesel Railcar No. 22
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Latest News

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 – See the New 47XX 2-8-0 and Hear All About It!

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

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.

Having achieved all this, we are now planning to raise the general level of awareness of the 4709 project. 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. In the meantime we are also arranging for people to be able to come to Llangollen on Saturday 5 April (on the occasion of the Llangollen Railway’s spring gala when 5322 will also be appearing) to see the frames of 4709 and a display of donor parts. Everyone will be welcome to come along on the day to see progress to date – meet on the departure platform at Llangollen station by the footbridge from 11am.

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
Southern Railway T9 No. 30120 passes the Broad Gauge Transfer Shed at Didcot on 26 March 1959.

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.

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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