News Archive 2010

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3650 Models Presented

3650 model
Dennis Lovett presenting the models to Kevin Dare and Brian Thompson

On Sunday 24 October Dennis Lovett of Bachmann Europe presented limited edition 00 scale models of pannier tank 3650 to Brian Thompson and Kevin Dare, two of the stalwarts who masterminded the locomotive's 20-year restoration project at Didcot.

The model shows 3650 in its Stephenson Clarke livery which it carried between being sold out of British Railways service in 1963, and preserved in 1969. 504 limited edition models were produced in association with the 3650 group in November 2009. Kevin Dare signed all 504 certificates and the model was sold by the Bachmann Collectors' Club. At the time of writing only a handful remain available.

3650 ran briefly in the Stephenson Clarke livery after restoration was completed in 2008, before being repainted in GWR green with the GWR roundel logo that it carried when new in 1939.

Give a Little Whistle!

Simon Foote (left) presenting the whistle to Richard Croucher

Didcot's project to create County class 1014 County of Glamorgan has been presented with a GWR whistle for the locomotive to carry when restored.

The whistle was handed over on Saturday 23 October by Simon Foote to Richard Croucher, chairman of the Great Western Society.

Simon Foote explained the provenance of the whistle: “During the winter of 1965-66 I spent a number of Saturdays photographing the remaining steam workings north of Oxford in the area around Heyford station along with an old school friend, Graham Hartley”.

“We travelled out from London by train and, in the evenings, called in at Oxford engine shed to look around before catching the evening train home. During one of these visits to the shed a BR employee gave Graham the whistle which came from a GWR Hall 6900 series loco, possibly 6947 or 6957. I can't be sure which loco it was as there were many Halls withdrawn at this time. My records show 31 stored there on 8 January 1966 including, you may be interested to know, 7927.”

“Sadly Graham died of a brain tumour in 1994 and the whistle was kindly passed on to me by Graham's widow Pat, and his daughters Emma and Kathryn. I know we will all be very pleased to see the whistle go full circle, so to speak, and return to a GWR loco.”

“I am sure that it will be a very moving time when we hear it blown after all this time, and appreciate that it may be some years before it happens.”

More information about the County can be found on the project website.

As ever funds towards the project are more than welcome.

Download the County appeal form (Word format)

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

Centre Sidings Clear-up

Centre Sidings clear-up
Centre Sidings clear-up team in action

In 2011 we hope to be able to give public access to part of our centre-sidings area for the first time, in order to allow inspection of the new Steam-railmotor Shed and of course its contents!

Sadly the area has become something of a dumping ground over the years and now contains a mixture of materials for future projects, materials recovered by dismantling and, if we're honest, a lot of complete and utter rubbish! So that we can sort through and see what we want to keep, the first step is to make some room by getting rid of the rubbish and to this end a long weekend was arranged from 8 to 11 October to start to address the issue.

Good progress was made, but there is still more to do - so if you wanted to help but hadn't heard about it or couldn't make it - don't worry your chance will come.

An Unusual Visitor

Tamper in Action
Tamper on the Main Demonstration Line

On 15 September our Main Demonstration Line played host to a tamping machine provided and operated by Amey.

The machine was finally able to complete the consolidation of the track from the junction to the platform, which was re-laid last winter, so we should now be able to lift the temporary speed restriction which has been in force over the summer.

Apparently the machine is named 'Lynx'!

Local Loco Driver Celebrates 80th

Bill Carslake
Bill on the footplate of 5322.

Bill Carslake celebrated his 80th birthday on Saturday 28 August with a ride on locomotive 5322 at Didcot Railway Centre. Afterwards Bill said it was a “Great day”.

In the 1950s and 1960s Bill was a steam train driver based at Newbury. He had joined the Great Western Railway at Glyn Neath in the 1940s and then moved to Gloucester. When he married he moved to his wife's home town of Newbury, and drove trains on the branch lines from Newbury to Didcot and to Winchester, as well as the main line to Westbury.

After the Newbury to Didcot and Winchester branch lines closed in the 1960s, Bill left the railways and worked for the Milk Marketing Board, then on the buses and finally for the ambulance service.

Final Touches for 4-wheel Coach No. 416

Lettering coach 416
David Kynaston puts the final touches to the ornate GWR lettering.

Signwriter David Kynaston from Llangollen spent a week at Didcot at the end of August lining and lettering the 1891-built Dean 4-wheel brake third coach 416 at Didcot.

The 19th Century Coach had recently been restored by volunteers at Didcot and carried passengers for what is thought to be the first time in more than 70 years, at the Railway Centre late last year.

The coach has four passenger compartments, each with a door on either side lettered THIRD in gold leaf. The guard's compartment has a door similarly lettered GUARD each side. There is also an extremely ornate GWR symbol each side in an art nouveau style. Each panel of the coach's wooden body is of course elaborately lined.

On 28 August David was assisted by fellow signwriter, Mark Josling, from Pinner.

4144 Will Steam Again!

4144 Boiler Lift
4144s boiler being lifted.

The locomotive team at Didcot is planning a quick overhaul of prairie tank No. 4144 over the coming winter. The boiler needs to be retubed and restayed, but hopefully not much more attention will be required. To allow this work to begin, the boiler was lifted from the frames on Sunday 15 August.

Work on Railmotor Shed Begins

Railmotor Shed Construction
The Contractor's digger at work with the first hole adjacent to the dumper truck. The wagon parked behind the digger contains the initial consignment of aggregate and cement ready for use.

At about 2.30pm on Thursday 12 August work started on the new Steam Railmotor Shed (The Charles Whetmath Building), with the digging of the first hole for the foundations.

The previous couple of days had seen the plant and machinery transported to site from the West Yard, and the final marking out to ensure that the building is erected on the correct alignment.

Although we do not yet have all the funds necessary to complete the building, what we are able to erect is a basic structure which will be sufficient to house the railmotor when it arrives in fully restored state next year.


Mine's a Pint !

Enjoying a Pint
Bradley Upham from Lakewood, Ohio, USA, enjoying a pint in the Black Python. Bradley was a volunteer worker with the civil engineering gang last week

If incentive is required then we can provide one! All profits from the Heavy Freight Mob's Black Python real ale bar on Saturday 28 August will be put towards the quick re-entry into service of a Didcot favourite - Prairie tank No. 4144.

The locomotive team at Didcot is planning a quick overhaul of No. 4144 over the coming winter. The boiler needs to be retubed and restayed, but hopefully not much more attention will be required. It is currently planned to lift the boiler from the frames on Saturday 14 August.

The Black Python will be open throughout the Bank Holiday weekend with profits from Sunday and Monday going to support their more usual worthy causes of 3822 and 7202.

White Ball Comes to Didcot

The Civil Engineering Gang
The civil engineering gang with the post, (left to right) Liam Fisher, Tim Hollinshead, Richard Antliff, Luke Benson, Andy Braben, Philip Bisatt and Malcolm Boyd

One of the iconic names from GWR history, White Ball, where City of Truro's legendary speed of 102.3mph was recorded in 1904, is now commemorated at Didcot. A vintage Somerset County Council road sign has been restored and set up close to the broad gauge area at the railway centre.

The village of White Ball in Somerset is about a mile from Burlescombe, just across the border in Devon, where the bridge rail for Didcot's broad gauge trackwork was discovered in the 1980s, so it is appropriate to record the name in the same vicinity.

Rev Does a Rev of the Turntable!

Sponsored Turn
Sponsored turn!

The Rev. Edward Carter of St Peter's Church, Newlands Avenue, Didcot, did a sponsored turn of 3650 on the turntable on Sunday 1 August. The event raised hundreds of pounds for St Peter's.

Rev Carter commented, “Everything went very well. After the service lots of people came along to cheer me on, which was very nice. I was a bit nervous at first, but as soon as I got a bit of momentum going, the loco started to move. It was very satisfying.”

6023 King Edward II Reunited with His Boiler

6023 in the lifting shop
The boiler being lowered into the chassis in the lifting shop

Following a successful steam test work has progressed on 6023 King Edward II with cladding and pipework being fitted to the complete boiler.

A milestone was reached on Saturday 24 July when the boiler was gently reunited with the frames using the 50t gantry in Didcot's lifting shop.

This epic restoration from scrapyard condition is now in its final stages. For the record, the team who fitted the boiler were: Peter Turner, Karl Buckingham, Pete Gransden, Dennis Howells, Tony Johnson, Nick Crook, Mike Rudge, Martin Walker, Richard Varley, James Bushnell and Phil Neale.

July 2010 - Railcar Refurbishment in Final Stages

Mark Werrell and Mick Howse screwing aluminium edging strips to one of the engine cover panels, whilst contractors complete work on laying the linoleum - 17-Jul-2010
Mark Werrell and Mick Howse screwing aluminium edging strips to one of the engine cover panels, whilst contractors complete work on laying the linoleum - 17-Jul-2010

The total refurbishment of the Society's 1940 built GWR Diesel Railcar is nearing its final stages.

This vehicle is one of only two examples remaining, and the only one in running order. It is powered by two 9.6 Litre 8-Cylinder AEC engines through a Wilson epicyclic gearbox.

Externally it has been almost completely repanelled and repainted. Since then much work has been undertaken on its mechanical and electrical systems and the final stage is the interior refurbishment.

The interior has been repainted and the seats have all been re-upholstered in GWR green shell pattern and await re-fitting. On Saturday 17 July green linoleum is shewn being fitted on the floor of the large saloon. The small saloon has already been completed, with the newly upholstered seats installed.

Diesel Locomotive repainted to celebrate GWR 175

57604 on shed at Didcot Railway Centre
57604 Pendennis Castle on shed at Didcot Railway Centre
- 20-Jun-10

A re-liveried locomotive was unveiled on 20 June to mark the 175th anniversary of the Great Western Railway.

First Great Western teamed up with the Great Western Society to launch Class 57 No. 57604 ‘Pendennis Castle’, which had been repainted in original Great Western Green.

The repainted Class 57 was unveiled at Didcot Railway Centre alongside a much older engine of the same name, which is currently undergoing restoration work at the centre.

57604 ‘Pendennis Castle’ was built in 1965, as part of a fleet of 512 similar locomotives. It was renumbered as a Class 47 in the 1970s and, in 2004, was fitted with a different engine and reclassified as a Class 57 giving it the capability to haul the sleeper service between Paddington and Penzance. It was named Pendennis Castle shortly after starting this service.

The steam locomotive No. 4079 ‘Pendennis Castle’ was, when new, pitched against an LNER A1in a series of trials in 1925, and proved the better of the two. The GWR then sent the locomotive to the second Wembley Exhibition in October 1925 where she was displayed next to Flying Scotsman.

During an almost faultless 40-year career she clocked up 1.75 million miles and remains in its original condition. She was sold by British Railways in 1964, and was eventually bought by the world’s leader in finding, mining and processing the earth's mineral resources, Rio Tinto. The company shipped it to Australia in May 1977, where she was used to haul tourist trains before the need for a complete overhaul saw her withdrawn in 1994.

The cost of repairs was high and she was donated to the Great Western Society at Didcot, who agreed to repatriate it. Shipped back to England in 2000, a lengthy restoration project is still ongoing and it is hoped the Pendennis Castle will be back in use in a few years time.

First Great Western Operations Director, Kevin Gale, said: “It is very exciting to be able to celebrate our heritage in this way. A huge thanks goes out to the Didcot Railway Centre for their support and agreeing to host the event. It is a great contrast of the history of the railways, while looking forward to the future and what exciting developments lie ahead”.

Drew Fermor, Pendennis Castle restoration team leader at Didcot Railway Centre, said: “We were delighted when we found out that FGW’s Pendennis Castle was coming to meet ours during the 175th anniversary year of the original Great Western Railway.
It is fantastic that FGW has continued this long tradition by giving the name to one of its locomotives and even more so to see it in a highly appropriate livery this year.”

Great Western Society chairman, Richard Croucher, said: “We still have more work to do on our Pendennis Castle but we hope that, when she is complete, the two locomotives can perform together out on the main line as a living demonstration of both the fascinating history of the Great Western Railway and the vital contribution that it still makes to our modern society.”

Here Come the Girls!

l to r. Sarah Sewell, Ann Davies, Marie Saville and Ann Middleton.
l to r. Sarah Sewell, Ann Davies, Marie Saville and Ann Middleton.

Didcot Railway Centre finished its highly successful nine day GWR175 Extravaganza with perhaps a less noted, though no less noteworthy, achievement on Sunday 9th May.

For the first time, at Didcot, we fielded an all female crew when a train on the main demonstration line, hauled by Pannier Tank No. 9466 driven by Marie Saville and fired by Ann Davies, came under the control of guard Ann Middleton. As an added bonus, Sarah Sewell was present on the platform in her capacity as trainee Station Staff.

It's not just fun for the boys at Didcot Railway Centre!

The ‘Barry Ten’ legacy: a 47xx and three Counties

Whilst the GWR 175 Extravaganza was taking place a Didcot, it was announced, on May 4, that the Great Western Society is to be given the remains of: Prairie Tank No. 4115, Churchward 2-8-0 No. 2861 and 2-8-0 Tank No. 5227, together with a 3000 gallon tender; by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

This follows on from the acquisition, from the same source, in 2005 of 7927 ‘Willington Hall’ and an 8F boiler as part of our project to build a replica Hawksworth 4-6-0 ‘County’ class locomotive - 1014 ‘County of Glamorgan’, with some of the Hall parts also going to the Llangollen based project to build a replica Grange - 6880 ‘Betton Grange’.

The existence of the ‘Barry Ten’ – the last ten locomotives to leave the famous South Wales scrapyard of Dai Woodham – led some to think that recovered key components could form the basis not only of the new Hawksworth ‘County’ 4-6-0, but also several other locomotives including a new Churchward ‘County’ 4-4-0 and a 4-4-2 ‘County Tank’ (The Three Counties Project), as well as a 47XX 2-8-0.

The Council of the Great Western Society sees these locos as seed corn for the future as well as being a useful source of spares.

There are no immediate prospects of any work beginning on a ‘County’ 4-4-0 or ‘County Tank’. However, following an article in 2002, floating the possibility of building a 47XX 2-8-0, quite a large number of people came forward to offer help and assistance – both physical and financial – but for various reasons the timing then was not ideal. In many respects the present timing is not ideal either, but there is widespread feeling that the opportunity to embark on construction of a 47XX should be grasped whilst there are people willing to contribute to the project and the Barry Ten locomotives are still available. It is clear that the Society does not currently have the resource to tackle a project on this scale and if it is to take place then it will need to be on a separately funded and organised basis (See separate story below).

The GWS would like to acknowledge the efforts made by the Vale of Glamorgan Council with regard to the remaining Barry Ten locomotives and thank them for the support they have shown the Society.

If assurance is needed that this has been a wise move, one only has to think back to 1970 when auto trailer No. 212 was acquired for preservation. At the time the idea of restoring such a cannibalised hulk seemed like wishful thinking, yet today with fully restored Steam Railmotor No. 93 poised to emerge, it is revealed as the visionary move it was.

We believe that there will be interest in both the 47XX and Three Counties Projects and invite those interested to come forward by contacting the GWS Chairman Richard Croucher at Didcot Railway Centre, Didcot, Oxon, OX11 7NJ, or by e-mail to

GWR 47XX 2-8-0: To be or not to be? It’s up to you

47xx Locomotive
Churchward’s final masterpiece: if the project succeeds we will see a new GWR 47XX 2-8-0 running again

The GWR 47XX large-wheeled 2-8-0 is a locomotive with almost universal appeal. Churchward’s final masterpiece, just nine of which were built between 1919 and 1921, were designed for fast goods work but were frequently used on passenger services – especially holiday expresses on summer Saturdays – a role that was honoured in the late 1950s by the application of British Railways lined green passenger livery to the whole class. It is in this guise that most enthusiasts remember these imposing engines with great affection.

The idea of building a new 47XX 2-8-0 was floated in an article in 2002. Recent speculation in the press has rekindled interest in such a project and people have naturally looked to the Great Western Society as the organization that could possibly undertake the task.

In a similar vein to the GWS Saint Project, which has utilized parts from a ‘Hall’ class 4-6-0, any scheme to build a new 47XX could make extensive use of GWR standard parts from other remaining ex-Barry locomotives that have little or no chance of being restored in their own right. Thee GWS has secured an option to acquire prairie tank No. 4115 and Churchward 2-8-0 No. 2861 as parts donors for a 47XX 2-8-0. No. 4115 would yield three of the four 5ft 8in driving wheel sets needed together with the extension frame assembly, whilst No. 2861 would provide an outside-steam-pipe cylinder block which can be modified to suit the 47XX, as well as the pony truck. The 4,000 gallon tender which came to the GWS with Maindy Hall could be used with a 47XX following a thorough overhaul, but many other parts, not least the boiler, would have to be manufactured.

When Churchward put No. 4700 into traffic it carried a standard Swindon No.1 boiler, the same type used by the 28XX class, as well as ‘Hall’ and ‘Grange’ 4-6-0s. However, testing soon showed that a larger boiler was needed for these engines and the new No.7 was created specially for them – no other locomotives carried this boiler and it is considered that the great majority of people would prefer to see a new 47XX carry the No.7 boiler.

GWS chairman Richard Croucher said: “We know that it is technically feasible to build a 47XX 2-8-0. Many of the parts are available and even the unique No. 7 boiler can be built in the UK. We also know that many, many people would like to see a 47XX running once again.”

“Whilst the GWS would be happy to coordinate such a project, as well as contributing the experience gained on other new builds and the extensive research and preparatory work already carried out for a 47XX, the Society does not currently have the capacity or resources to undertake another major locomotive project. For this reason we propose creating an entirely new team to tackle this project as a stand-alone entity outside the GWS, which may be incorporated as a charitable trust. The physical work of building the locomotive could be undertaken at Didcot or elsewhere – we have a completely open mind at this stage.”

“As the appeal of the 47XX extends far beyond the traditional GWR sphere of interest we are hoping that many people not previously involved with the Great Western Society will support the project,” Richard added. “But, before we can move forward with this we need to know that there is a good prospect of raising sufficient funding for the project, that we will be able to source and coordinate all the necessary skills and – most importantly – that we can assemble a project team composed of people able to devote the considerable amounts of time and expertise that the project will require.”

“To get the ball rolling I would like to ask everyone who may be prepared to support the 47XX project just to make contact, either by writing to me, Richard Croucher, Chairman, Great Western Society, Didcot Railway Centre, Didcot, Oxon, OX11 7NJ, or by email to At this stage all you need do is write a couple of lines saying how you think you could help – perhaps by making a regular or one-off donation, contributing a skill such as draftsmanship or engineering, or best of all by becoming a member of the project team. Please do not send any money at present.”

“If there is sufficient support for the idea we propose to call an open meeting later this year at Didcot at which all interested parties can attend to learn more about the project, the work done so far and the diverse ways in which it will be possible to help. Our invitation to pledge support will remain open until 31 December 2010; at that time we will judge whether the project is viable based on the support indicated.”
One thing is certain: this call to action is the last realistic chance to make a 47XX project happen. If the task is not commenced in the next year or two there just won’t be enough people with the interest and commitment to see it through. So this really is make or break. There has been a lot of talk about building a 47XX over the years and now it’s time to turn words into actions. Will we see a 47XX run again, or will Churchward’s final triumph be consigned forever to history? It’s your choice.

Loco's start to arrive for Extravaganza

5029 and 5521 on shed at Didcot
5029 'Nunney Castle' and prairie tank 5521 on shed at Didcot.

The visiting locomotives are starting to arrive in time for next week's GWR Extravaganza.

5029 'Nunney Castle' and Bill Parker's prairie tank, No. 5521 were already on shed at the weekend 24/25 April, where they were photographed next to some of the resident locomotives.

7827 and 1450
By Wednesday, 7827 'Lydham Manor' and 0-4-2T No. 1450 had also arrived at the Railway Centre and were receiving a final polish.

By Wednesday 28, 7827 'Lydham Manor' from Paignton and Mike Little's 0-4-2 tank No. 1450 had also arrived at the Railway Centre, and are pictured being given a final brush-up.

3717 'City of Truro' was delivered to the west yard at Didcot on Wednesday and is waiting to be shunted across to the Centre as is Dennis Howell's Pannier Tank No. 9466 which arrived in the west yard on Thursday.

By the opening day of the extravaganza, on Saturday 1 May, we should be in a position to enjoy the spectacle of 14 GWR designed locomotives in steam, and as many again on static display. Along with all the other attractions it should be quite an event.

Shunting of locomotives and rolling stock to get everything into position has been going on for the last week or so as final preparations are made, and it is becoming clear that this is going to be the gala event of GWR 175!

King Edward II Passes Steam Test

6023's boiler in steam once more
Steam rises once more from 6023's boiler, which is temporarily on a 'crocodile' wagon outside the Locomotive Works at Didcot.

After passing a hydraulic test on 15 March, the boiler of 6023 ‘King Edward II’ was ready to contain fire once again - for the first time in 48 years.

Therefore on 28 March project leader Dennis Howells & GWS chairman Richard Croucher jointly lit the first fire. The boiler was allowed to warm through with pressure building slowly over the following week.

After many steamings to fine tune the boiler it was time for the official steam test. This took place on 12 April, the boiler was brought round above working pressure to lift her safety valves and passed the test successfully.

Now the group can work towards reuniting the boiler with the frames.

Easter Launch for 'New' Broad Gauge Coach

Broad Gauge Coach
The 'new' Broad Gauge Coach behind Fire Fly during the Easter period

A replica 2nd class broad gauge coach, which has been rebuilt at Didcot, entered traffic at Easter.

The vehicle was originally built by British Rail to run with replica Broad Gauge locomotive 'Iron Duke' during the GWR 150 celebrations in 1985. With a body constructed in softwood, it suffered quite badly from wet rot in the intervening 20 years before arriving at Didcot on loan from the NRM. It has now been completely rebuilt, from the chassis upwards, in 'iroko' hardwood by Pete Silver and the Fire Fly team.

The coach was relaunched into service by Helen Ashby, Head of Knowledge and Collections at the National Railway Museum on Good Friday. Broad gauge trains, including this coach, are next scheduled to run during the first weekend (1 - 3 May) of Didcot's GWR 175 Extravaganza.

Documentary Filming at Didcot

Dan Cruickshank
Dan Cruickshank and Steve Brindle in the Broad Gauge Coach.

Didcot Railway Centre will feature in a series of programmes presented by Dan Cruickshank on Great British Railways to be broadcast on National Geographic channel during May. The programmes are being made by ITN Factual, and filming took place at Didcot on Saturday 20 February

One of the programmes concentrates on Brunel and apparently involves Dan Cruickshank and Steven Brindle, author of a biography of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, speculating on why the broad gauge ended up just a quarter inch wider than 7ft and also discussing the spartan conditions offered to 3rd class passengers at the beginning of the railway age, as exemplified by our open broad gauge coach

Another programme in the series will cover the role of railways during World War I, and for this episode Dan Cruickshank spent some time on the footplate of locomotive 5322 with Alex Beasley and Pete Gransden. 5322 served in France during 1917 and 1918 hauling supplies from Calais to the Western Front, and is restored in Railway Operating Division khaki livery.

The programmes featuring Didcot are to be broadcast on the National Geographic channel at 21:00 on Wednesdays 5 and 12 May.


Recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway