News Archive 2012

Page last updated:

Father Christmas visiting Didcot Railway Centre

Father Christmas
Father Christmas on the Footplate of Fire Fly

Father Christmas is visiting Didcot Railway Centre on December weekends. So we've invited Thomas to pull the trains to take all of Father Christmas' young friends from Didcot Halt to see him.

Thomas and Father Christmas will be at Didcot on 1/2, 8/9, 15/16 and 22/23 December.

It's essential for those wishing to visit Father Christmas to book in advance (See our 'Day Out With Thomas to visit Father Christmas' page for details), but we're also open to other visitors, with Mogul 5322 expected to be pulling trains on our main line, our restaurant open for festive treats, and our shop selling presents ideal for your railway-minded friends and relations.

Tornado Unveiled in Blue - Sunday 25 November

Tornado in British Railways blue

A special event was held at Didcot on Sunday 25 November for Covenantors of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust to have a close-up view of new-build A1 class 60163 Tornado in BR blue livery for the first time.

60163 was repainted during winter maintenance at Southall and had hauled a railtour from Paddington to Shrewsbury and back on Saturday 24 November. The locomotive arrived at Didcot early on Sunday morning, and went into the engine shed to be cleaned, before moving onto the turntable for exhibition at midday.

Tornado was then posed on the turntable for the rest of the day, giving visitors a chance to get a good look at the new livery.

Railmotor Runs to Looe

Railmotor near Looe
Railmotor No.93 on the Looe Branch

Months of planning and hard work by many finally paid off on Sunday 11 November, when a wooden bodied vehicle, originally built in 1908, and containing a vertical boiler ran five passenger trips on a Network Rail line.

The event, which many said simply could not be done on today's modern railway, is a major achievement for the Great Western Society, which could not however have been achieved without the considerable support given by First Great Western and many others.

Sunday was a largely sunny day, though with a tendency to sudden heavy showers, and all five railmotor runs were completed successfully. Some of the early runs ran a little late whilst the firemen learnt how to get the best out of this unique machine on a line with new challenges, but once this was achieved the afternoon trips ran as Great Western trains should, and the sound of the Railmotor coming up the bank to Liskeard from Coombe Junction was enjoyed by many.

We are all now looking forward to next Sunday's runs - why not come and see us at the GWS sales and information point on the Looe branch platform at Liskeard? If you originally booked for 4 November and have not cancelled your booking, your original tickets remain valid for travel on the equivalent train - please remember to bring them with you!

See also our video clips page for a short film sent in by Chris Kapolka.

Railmotor Trips to Looe now on Sundays 11 and 18 November

Railmotor at Bodmin
Railmotor No.93 passing Charlie's Gate on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway

The Steam Railmotor trips originally scheduled for Sunday 4 November on the Liskeard to Looe branch have been rearranged for Sunday 18 November.

Timings and operations are the same as 4 November – only the date has changed.

If you have a ticket for the 4 November trains these will automatically be valid on the same train on the 18 November, unless you have requested a refund. If you are unable to come along on 18 November then please contact us for a full refund by e-mail at: Requests for refunds for the cancelled 4 November trips should be made by Saturday 10 November. Once again we apologise for the inconvenience and disappointment that the cancellation has caused and hope that the replacement day will allow as many people as possible to sample the delights of Steam Railmotor travel in the glorious Cornish countryside.

There will undoubtedly be some returned tickets and these will be put on sale on Ticketweb from Wednesday 7 November. Tickets for the return journey by Railmotor from Liskeard to Looe cost £25 each and can be booked via Ticketweb or by phoning 08444 771000 (Booking fees apply). There should be some tickets for those middle of the day trains which had sold out for 4 and 11 November dates if you're quick!

We continue to be assured that everything is going ahead as planned for Sunday 11 November trains.

Railmotor Trips to Looe on 4 November Cancelled (11 November Trips Still Running)

Railmotor at Bodmin
Railmotor No.93 at Bodmin General

Owing to circumstances outside the control of the Great Western Society, the operation of Rail Motor No.93 on the Looe branch on Sunday 4 November 2012 has been cancelled. The Society expresses its very sincere apologies for this cancellation, particularly at such short notice.

The diesel allocated to tow the Railmotor from Bodmin to Liskeard failed. The back-up replacement diesel also failed. Despite best efforts by West Coast Railways, First Great Western and Network Rail no suitable replacement locomotive could be provided. Operating restrictions placed on running the Railmotor on Network Rail means that there is no alternative method of running the Railmotor from Bodmin to Liskeard.  

The decision to cancel operations on Sunday 4 November was taken by West Coast Railways who have admitted responsibility. At all times the Society were kept informed, and took immediate action to inform ticket holders of the cancellation. West Coast have given assurances that the trips scheduled for Sunday 11 November will proceed as planned. A decision on trips to replace those cancelled will be made on Tuesday 6 November and this information will be published here as soon as we have it. If it is possible to re-schedule the event then the tickets you have purchased will be valid on that day. If it is not possible to re-arrange then your ticket monies will be refunded in full. Any ticket holders who wish to have a full refund before it is known whether a re-scheduled event can be arranged, should contact the Society by e-mail at:

And Now ... A bus to Looe too

Looe Bus Poster

As an additional attraction to complement the running of Great Western steam railmotor No. 93 on Cornwall's scenic Looe Branch, First Great Western have arranged for a heritage bus service to be in operation between Looe and Liskeard, to connect in with Railmotor departures from Liskeard.

This service is being provided free of charge.

As the Great Western Railway was a great advocate of connecting bus services, or 'Road Motor' services as they were officially described, it is pleasing to see road and rail working in harmony in this way.

Once you've had your Railmotor ride, why not try travelling by road and see how the experience compares?

Railmotor and bus will be running trips on Sundays 4 and 11 November and there are still a few tickets available for the Railmotor. Tickets for the return journey by Railmotor from Liskeard to Looe cost £25 each and can be booked via Ticketweb (Booking fees apply). There will be five return trips on each Sunday, three of which are already fully booked on both days. The remaining tickets are on the 08:30 and 16:30 departures from Liskeard. Note that you cannot join or leave the Railmotor at Looe.

6023 King Edward II - Update - 10 October 2012

6023 at Loughborough
6023 at Loughborough for boiler repairs.

We are aware how much everyone wants to see 6023 in operation and share people’s disappointment at how long the repairs to the boiler have taken. We are also disappointed that technical and personnel issues which should have been resolved privately at Didcot have turned out to be anything but.

On the advice of the 6023 Project Engineer, an outside contractor was engaged to undertake the repairs needed to the boiler firebox and work started at Didcot in early 2012 and much of this was completed by the end of February. At that point, our Insurance Inspector asked for a method statement to be prepared for the repair of the firebox copper lap joints which involved specialist copper welding and this was submitted to the Insurance Company in April. The insurers finally came back with their approval in June and arrangements were then made to obtain some copper plate and start work at the beginning of August. Unfortunately the provision of the copper plate was withdrawn by the supply source at the last minute and an alternative was obtained with work rescheduled to start on August 28.

Regrettably over the previous weekend graffiti remarks derogatory to the contract boiler smith were written on the inside of 6023’s fire box by person or persons unknown, which he naturally found offensive and caused emotions to boil over. However, the contractor confirmed that he was happy to complete his contract at his Loughborough works and 6023 was moved there on September 6. The firebox has now been prepared in readiness for the specialist copper welder and the work is expected to be done during October/early November. Once this is complete, the boiler will be subject to an hydraulic test to identify any leaking stays and a decision taken on what further work, if any, needs to be done in anticipation of a full steam test.

Apart from the alterations which still need to be made to the oil feed pipes in the leading driving axle under keeps all mechanical work is complete and only final touches to the TPWS/OTMR applications need to be made.

Whilst at this point we are unable to give any firm date for 6023 becoming operational, we remain committed to the completion of the 6023 to main line standards as soon as practical and we will provide a further update on progress and completion in due course. We can then all enjoy the fruits of what remains an outstanding and successful restoration which we hope will grace the main line for years to come.

Steam Railmotor on the Looe Branch - Booking Now Open

Railmotor and FGW 125
Steam Railmotor No.93 overtakes a First Great Western HST at Didcot - or was it the other way around?

On Sundays 4 and 11 November 2012 the Looe Valley will once again echo to the sound of a GWR steam train, while the passengers enjoy a ride in the elegant Edwardian oak and brass interior of the Great Western Society's Steam Railmotor No.93.

The 104-year-old wooden-bodied vehicle has cleared various hurdles to be allowed to run on Network Rail lines. The train operator in Cornwall, First Great Western, has been very supportive and is sponsoring the Looe branch events, with West Coast Railways being the train operator. The train operations are still subject to final approval by the Office of Rail Regulation.

Tickets for the return journey from Liskeard to Looe cost £25 each and can be booked via Ticketweb (Booking fees apply). There will be five return trips on each Sunday, with the train carrying 54 passengers per trip, so clearly tickets are very limited. It's not possible to leave or join the train at Looe, so all journeys start and finish at Liskeard. The provisional timetable is for departures from Liskeard at 08:30, 10:30, 12:30, 14:30 and 16:30 with the trip taking around 40 minutes in each direction.

Steam Railmotor 93 was built in March 1908 and ran as a self-propelled unit for nearly 30 years, before being converted to a locomotive-hauled auto trailer in 1935 and renumbered 212. In 1956 it was withdrawn from passenger service and converted to a work study coach, becoming an office in Birmingham. It was preserved by the Great Western Society in 1970 and stored in the carriage shed at Didcot. In the 1990s the project to build a new steam power unit and rebuild the coach as a steam railmotor began. In July 2007 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the project £768,000 for the rebuild of the coach, and the work was carried out on the Llangollen Railway, being completed in March 2011.

The Liskeard and Looe Railway opened in 1860. Originally the terminus for Liskeard was at Moorswater, a little to the west of the town. In 1901 the railway opened a link from Coombe Junction to the GWR station at Liskeard, enabling Looe to be promoted by the railway as a holiday destination. The 8.75 mile journey from Liskeard to Looe starts with a steep descent to Coombe Junction, where the train reverses. The line then follows the East Looe river, which becomes a tidal estuary with Looe railway station opposite the point where the West Looe river joins the East Looe. The Looe Valley Line is designated a Community Rail line and is now promoted by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership.

1466 Restoration Fund Launched

1442 on the Hemyock Branch
A picture of 14xx class 1442 taken on the Hemyock branch in the 1960s by GWS founder member Mike Peart

In April 1964 0–4–2T No. 1466 was the first locomotive to be preserved by the Great Western Society. Now a fund has been launched to ensure that 1466 will be overhauled in time to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Society.

Since she last ran in 2000, No.1466 has been in the queue for her third major overhaul in preservation. Mechanically the engine is in very reasonable condition, but it is known that a new backplate, firebox side plating and possibly a new boiler barrel will be needed. Any help you can give will bring us closer to the day when this flag ship locomotive will steam again.

More details can be found on the 1466 donation form (688 kb .pdf file).

Bank Holiday Britannia

Britannia at Didcot
70000 Britannia basks in the evening sunshine in front of the Engine Shed at Didcot

We intend that ‘Britannia’ will be in steam and hauling passenger trains on our demonstration line on all three days of the August Bank Holiday weekend. Provided the loco performs well on Saturday, she will be working on Sunday and Monday too. It will be a chance to get up close, see the loco in action and ride behind her.

70000 arrived at Didcot on 27 July so that we could assist with the re-springing of the front bogie. The loco was lifted the following week and the bogie springs replaced. 70000 then steamed in the railway centre on 8 August, but the Britannia crew still weren't happy with the bogie and the loco was lifted again for more attention. The repairs were completed on 23 August, so let's hope all is satisfactory now.

GWR Sentinel to Visit in September

Isebrook at Quainton
Isebrook in the Down Yard at Quainton
Photo - Andrew Bratton, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre

Sentinel 0-4-0 6515 Isebrook will be making a fleeting visit from its home base of Quainton, to be the guest locomotive at Didcot Railway Centre, during the ‘All in a Day’s Work’ steam gala over the weekend of 15/16 September.

The locomotive will feature on the centre’s branch line on both days.

This Sentinel locomotive was delivered new to the GWR and taken into stock as No. 12 on 1 October 1926. Fitted with equipment for working train vacuum brakes and steam heating, it was based at Swindon for use on the Malmesbury branch, and then sent to work at Brentford Goods Yard. These trials were not successful and the loco was taken out of stock in December 1926, being returned to Sentinel the following month.

Modifications were carried out in 1927, including the fitting of a larger boiler, which enabled further trials, including passenger working, to take place on the Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway during the latter part of the year. The loco then returned to the GWR where more trials were undertaken on the Malmesbury Branch on 2 October 1927. During these trials a speed of 38 mph was attained, hauling a train of three four-wheel coaches, taking just 16½ minutes to cover the 6½ miles from Malmesbury to Dauntsey. The loco then returned to Shrewsbury, where it was used by Sentinel as a works shunter followed by more trails, and eventually entry into industrial service where it acquired the name ‘Isebrook’. It last steamed in pre-preservation service in 1958.

The remains of the locomotive were preserved at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton where it was restored to health, first steaming there in 1979.

(With thanks to our colleagues at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, who have provided the historical detail on this locomotive)

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

Didcot Junction Ceilidh Band Plays on Sunday 29 July

Didcot Junction Ceilidh Band
Didcot Junction Ceilidh Band play in GWR Diesel Railcar No. 22

The Didcot Junction Ceilidh Band (nothing to do with the railway centre!) played at the centre on Sunday 29 July.

Formed at the beginning of the year, the band consists of Keith Holloway on melodeons, Felicity Cormack on violin, and Linda Benton on cello. The three experienced folk musicians play English, Scottish and Irish tunes: great to listen to, and for dancing, especially on a nice summer’s day! Guest callers are used for barn dances.

The name Didcot Junction was chosen because the band meets in the Didcot area to rehearse.

Free Entry for Local Visitors

Didcot Mayor - Peter Read
Peter Read in Coach 1289
14-July 2012

On Saturday 14 July we offered free admission to all Didcot residents (on production of proof of residence, e.g. council tax, utility bill, in the OX11 postcode area) as part of the town's Picnic in the Park event.

Over three hundred Didcot residents took the opportunity to visit their local railway centre. Amongst them was the recently elected Town Mayor, Peter Read who enjoyed a steam train ride in the art deco surroundings of coach 1289, which was built in 1937.

22nd June 2012 - Railmotor No. 93 Certified for Main Line Running

The Steam Railmotor on the Llangollen Railway
A taste of things to come – this is on the Llangollen Railway, but could soon be anywhere.
Adrian Knowles - 21-May-2011

Following last year's successful launch of the Steam Railmotor we have, at the suggestion of one of the Train Operating Companies, now got permission to run it at selected locations on Network Rail.

An initial approach to the Office of Rail Regulation to run wooden bodied stock with no secondary door locks and no modern on-board safety systems met with a positive response, subject to satisfactory safety measures, operating procedures and derogations from Railway Group Standards being in place. So, despite the negative views of some within the preservation movement we decided to see what could be achieved, strictly on the basis that the historic nature of the vehicle would not be compromised,

After a good deal of preparatory work had been undertaken, cold, hot and paperwork audit inspections were done by the Society’s VAB, together with trials on brake, cant and detonator audibility, and vehicle maintenance procedures were incorporated in the GWS Maintenance Policy and Plans document. The result of all this activity has been the issue of the necessary Safety Certification and Engineering Acceptance.

Approval to run the Railmotor on Network Rail was given at the Rail Safety & Standards Board meeting in June. This approval is not location specific, nor does it include additional operating restrictions over and above those already agreed, so we are more than pleased with the end result, and it makes all the work put into the document worthwhile.

We will now move on with Vehicle Route Acceptance to see, literally, where all this work will take us, but in the meantime the Railmotor will be operating at Didcot for the Summer season.

Three Great Trips - at a Discount

Three Great Trips

Over the summer you can get at £2 discount on entry to Pen don Museum, Didcot Railway Centre and the Cholsey & Wallingford Railway.


Whenever you visit any of these three railway-themed attractions between mid June and the end of November you'll receive a voucher which entitles you to a £2 discount on entry at future visits to any of the three.

There is plenty to see and do at each of the attractions.

Terms and conditions are specified on the vouchers but in general, they can be redeemed at any of the attractions until 30 November 2012, with the exception, at Didcot Railway Centre, of the Peppa Pig Weekend (23/24 June) and Day Out With Thomas (6/7 October).

Local residents can also find these discount vouchers in the Didcot Herald and Oxford Mail between June and August.  

Legacy to Speed County Boiler Reconstruction

Boiler for County project
The 8F Boiler Intended for 1014

Work will start shortly on the (re)construction of the boiler for the GWS County project thanks to a major bequest from one of our members. He specifically wished to benefit the County project and the sum involved will allow us to make significant progress on rebuilding the boiler.

The No 15 OA boiler that was fitted to the GWR County class locomotives has its genesis in the boiler for the Stanier 8F class, built in large numbers at Swindon Works during World War 2. The boiler is similar in many respects to that of a Stanier 8F, the ruling dimensions for the firebox being almost identical, and consequently the Society has acquired an 8F boiler from Stanier No. 48518 - one of the ‘Barry Ten’.

The only major difference in the fireboxes was the shape of the foundation ring and associated platework and it has been decided not to alter the firebox in any way except to blank off the two safety valve openings on top of the firebox, which are not required for the No 15 OA, and to convert the backhead to a GWR layout, which is similar to that of the LMS. The main issue therefore is how best to alter the barrel from partly coned to the required fully coned type of the correct length for a County class locomotive, albeit with the same front and rear diameters. It is currently proposed to manufacture a new coned barrel in two parts together with a new front tube plate and smoke box – the Society already has in its possession the double chimney off No. 1006 County of Cornwall.

Discussions have taken place with LNWR Crewe’s boilersmith, Richard Watkins, over the boiler conversion, who has agreed that the conversion is achievable and has produced a proposed schedule of works. The project team has broken this down into logical steps comprising initial assessment, attention to the firebox, the manufacture of a new tubed boiler barrel with front tube plate and then a new double chimney smokebox and its associated door furniture.

Contract 1A, the first of 5 contracts, was placed with LNWR Crewe Ltd on in April for removing the 8F barrel and stripping the firebox for investigation and specialist inspection. Once the firebox is opened up, it will be inspected jointly by the Society’s insurers, the Project Team and Richard Watkins to decide the content of Contract 1B - the necessary refurbishments and repairs.

The boiler is expected to be moved to Crewe in June 2012, subject to the usual operating constraints. Going forward we would hope to re-wheel the frame at the end of the first quarter in 2013 and to have the boiler on the frames by 2015, the 50th anniversary of the cutting up of the original 1014. Final restoration work, such as piping up and assembly of the fittings, will be carried out at Didcot.

In the meantime, work continues on the restoration of the locomotive and construction of the new tender where we have recently taken delivery of the pattern for the front drag box, which will shortly be cast and machined by Boro’ Foundry at Stourbridge in the West Midlands. Work is now underway on the pattern for the rear drag box for the tender, which will then follow a similar process to the front drag box. Once both drag boxes have been completed they will be shipped to Multi-Tech Engineering in Pontefract to be married with the outside frames and the inner ladder frame to make up the full under frame.

Clearly this is a major boost to the County project. However we are still looking for supporters to push forward all the other works needed and if you feel you can help please contact Richard Croucher, County Project Appeal Co-ordinator at Didcot or by e-mail to

Two Days in May

Gauge Conversion
The gang packing the newly positioned baulk.

Over this weekend in 1892 some 177 miles of Great Western Railway track in Devon and Cornwall were converted from broad to narrow (standard) gauge in an exercise involving some 4,700 men.

In commemoration of the 120th anniversary, and on a much more modest scale, the civil engineering gang at Didcot have been doing a spot of (temporary) gauge conversion for themselves. The work was undertaken on the broad gauge siding at Didcot Railway Centre, where standard gauge access will be needed in due course in connection with the eventual construction of the ‘Broad Gauge Engine House’.

In keeping with the original conversion, where alcohol was forbidden, the men, like their predecessors, were supplied with a Scottish beverage consisting of oatmeal, sugar and water. Unlike their forbears the present day gang were not given one shilling for each night way from home, nor was W. H. Wills around to supply 5,000 packets of ‘Westward Ho’ tobacco! The volunteers were however initially pleased to learn that the practice adopted on this occasion by the Great Western Railway of rewarding their men with a bonus of 25% of salary was to be honoured on this occasion.

Lest it be thought that this conversion was considered as a wondrous modernisation by the GWR it should be noted that, following the conversion, the company Chairman, F G Saunders, stated that ‘the necessity for getting rid of the broad gauge was no reflection on Brunel's genius, nor want of consideration for it. Nor was it brought about by any want of merit in the gauge itself, but that it had been practically crowded out by the aggressive activity of the narrow gauge, eventually compelling the company to do away with that which allowed the Great Western to offer passenger attractions and service, than which, to claim the least for it, no better existed throughout the country’. How's that as a valediction for the broad gauge?

Magnificent Moguls - Beautiful in Black

U class 31806 arrives at Didcot for the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton gala
5322 temporarily turned out in BR Black

The Didcot, Newbury & Southampton gala over the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend (5-7 May) will see two 2-6-0 ‘Mogul’ locomotives in British Railways black livery working together at Didcot for the first time since ... well we can't remember when!

Visiting Southern U class locomotive, No. 31806, from the Mid Hants Railway will be joining our own GWR Mogul No. 5322, which is newly (though temporarily) also turned out in BR black - hauling passenger and goods trains, both individually and double heading.

The Gala will also feature pannier tanks, our GWR diesel railcar, signalling operations and of course real ale!

For more information see our galas page.

Steam Aid

Steam Aid

On Saturday 12 May Didcot Railway Centre will be running an event to raise funds for the Thames and Chiltern Air Ambulance and the Intensive Care Unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Entry to the centre will be at non-running open day prices (eg. £5 for an adult), and all donations made in respect of undertaking special activities will go to the two medical charities. Recommended donations will be £5 for driving a locomotive and less for other activities.



Things you can have a go at include:

You'll also be able to see Mogul 5322 in BR Livery - which it will carry for a few days only, and the unusual sight of the railway centre full of activity without a passenger train in action!

All locomotives etc. are, as always, subject to availability.

Building Demolition and Erection

Carefully removing the slates from one of the buildings for re-use at Didcot Railway Centre
The new transformer compound (left) and Switch Room.

As buildings in Didcot Parkway station forecourt are demolished, a new building goes up at the Railway Centre.

Work has started on a joint project between Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council to transform Didcot Network Rail station frontage and create a transport hub.

The first stage of the work, which is now complete, involved removal of the disused original Great Western Railway brick and concrete buildings at the far end of the West Car Park. We are pleased that these buildings have been carefully dismantled and much of the resulting material is being donated to Didcot Railway Centre to be used in future developments.

Another project which has been taking shape at the Railway Centre is the new transformer compound and electrical switch room. The building is now structurally complete and work continues on fitting doors, and the required electrical switchgear, before the supply is switched over and the old, post-mounted, transformer near to the loco works removed later in the year. This project should ensure adequate electrical supply for all the new developments planned for the railway centre, for many years to come. The compound and switch room have been built in traditional style and have incorporated building materials recovered from demolition projects elsewhere.

4709 is Now ‘For Real’

4709 Frames at Llangollen
4709s Main Frames and front extension frames in the workshops at Llangollen

According to the tradition that says the identity of a locomotive rests with the mainframes rather than frequently changed items such as the boiler, 4709 – the Great Western Society’s recreation of Churchward’s final masterpiece, the 47xx mixed traffic 2-8-0 – now officially exists!

Helped by a rousing start to fund raising, the massive 31ft 1in mainframes for the new locomotive were plasma-cut to profile in March by Tata Steel at Cradley Heath, then machined and drilled at nearby T M Engineering which carried out similar work for the Tornado project. On March 11 the frames were delivered to the Llangollen Railway where they have now been married to the front extension unit from 4115, ready for the all-important alignment process. The frames will be on display to visitors to the 6880 Betton Grange Society’s Steel Steam & Stars III gala (21-29 April)

Don Ashton from the 47xx project team said: “The sheer physical size of the mainframes came as quite a surprise, even to those close to the project. It’s a real tribute to the engineering expertise and skill that still exists in the Black Country that local companies were able to carry out the work so efficiently.Tata Steel has been very supportive of the 47xx project, as well as being most helpful with the technical issues, while TM Engineering applied a most enthusiastic and professional approach to the machining and drilling of more than 200 holes.

Initial fund raising has also allowed the GWS to place the order for the new driving wheel pattern and this is scheduled to be completed before the end of April to be on display alongside the frames at Llangollen. Meanwhile, the three donor driving wheel sets have been subjected to non-destructive testing (NDT) and are ready for refurbishment. It will, however, be necessary to cast a new rear drag box which also requires a pattern, as well as acquiring further steel plate for the stretchers etc. These items are the next priority. The GWS has been most encouraged by the response to the appeal so far, and especially the number of people who have signed up to make regular monthly contributions. One-off donations of any size are also most welcome and the more financial support the project receives, the faster the work will proceed. The objective is to make the 4709 build-cycle as rapid as funds and resources allow.

For full details visit 4709 Project Website, or email GWS chairman Richard Croucher.

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

Highclere Castle ... at Didcot

Highclere Castle nameplate

A nameplate from 4096 Highclere Castle was recently bequeathed to the Great Western Trust which runs the Museum and Archive at Didcot Railway Centre. The plate, which we believe to be in ex-locomotive condition, is now mounted on the wall in the museum above the relief map of Devon and Cornwall.

Highclere Castle, near Newbury, is one of the closest castles to Didcot and has become famous as the location for Downton Abbey in the television series. Highclere station was on the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line. It is particularly appropriate to have the nameplate on display this year as the railway centre is running a gala at the beginning of May to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Didcot to Newbury line.

4709... work begins!

Prairie tank 4115
Prairie tank 4115 — one of the ‘Barry 10’ arrives at Llangollen for dismantling

With pledges of more than £50,000 already received for the Great Western Society’s project to build a new example of Churchward’s magnificent 47XX mixed traffic 2-8-0, physical work has now started.

The first major job has been the careful dismantling of prairie tank 4115, one of the ‘Barry Ten’ which will now be the major donor locomotive for 4709. This has been carried out at the Llangollen Railway where a large number of common GWR parts have been retrieved not only for 4709, but also for other future projects. Wherever possible parts have been unbolted, and where rivets are involved these have been carefully torched through the centres to minimise damage. The tanks, cab and bunker have set aside for further use, while the boiler – which did not form part of the items donated to the GWS – has been despatched to L&NWR at Crewe.

During November 2011 further dismantling took place with the removal of the pony truck assembly and its associated components, allowing the wheel sets to be dropped out. The next job was to remove the extension frames and cylinder sub assembly from the main frames which has been achieved with complete success.

The dismantling has revealed that the extended Barry sojourn of 4115 seems to have been kind and a large percentage of the structure common to the 47XX is not only available but is in much better condition than expected. For example, all of the 41XX front end unit is capable of renovation.

Prairie tank 4115
The front extension frames from 4115, inverted to facilitate cylinder removal

The mainframes have now been ordered and it is expected that they will be cut in February. Much research has gone into the steel specification and Tata has been most helpful in advising on the most suitable material.

The use of components reclaimed from an existing locomotive presents surprising challenges when deciding which holes can be drilled in the new mainframes in the machine shop. As the frame plates are 1¼in thick it will be important to minimise drilling on-site so as much as possible will be done immediately after the frames are cut. All refurbished components will be positioned and spotted through their existing holes. Extensive verification of the drilling plan will ensure that the correct result is obtained first time.

A full assessment of the condition of removed components is now underway.  When the new mainframes are delivered to Llangollen they will be aligned with the un-refurbished extension frames from 4115, thus providing the first glimpse of the impressive size of 4709.

The project team has been able to preserve a very significant number of components from 4115 and this has given 4709 a major advantage as a rebuild project compared to a new build, as well as providing a worthy and respectful re-use of 4115’s parts.  Such parts include driving wheels, extension frames and brackets, frame stays, footplate supports, brake hangers, the vacuum brake cylinder and reservoir, weighshaft and bearings. The availability of these original GWR parts and the consequent cost saving should enable the 31-foot mainframes for 4709 to be  assembled relatively quickly.

In due course the three existing 5ft 8in driving wheel sets from 4115 will be refurbished, to be joined later by a new, fourth driving wheel set. A pattern maker has been identified who is very keen to begin work on making the pattern for the fourth wheel set, and discussions have also taken place with a foundry who are equally keen to undertake the castings.

Two other donor locomotives, 5227 and 2861, will also yield up many other parts, in particular the axles, axle boxes and horn guides from the former which were common between the 47XX and 5205 Classes.  5227 also has trailing axle boxes with increased side clearance which are unique to the 5205 and 47XX classes.

The cylinder block from 2861, with outside steam pipes, is identical to that of the 47XX and this will be used for the rebuild. A simple solution has been provided for the different saddle radius to take the Swindon No 7 boiler and this is currently under review by the VAB.  

Progress to date has been achieved thanks to a very small core team of people both for design, physical works and financial contributions.  We have established a project team led by Paul Carpenter, who will be the 4709 Project Engineering Manager for the GWS at Didcot. Work is planned to progress consecutively on several fronts at several locations. At Didcot, a team has already started work on the restoration of the 4000 gallon tender. At Llangollen, there is a huge pile of components that require cleaning, refurbishing and painting.

If you would like to help and would like to join these teams, at either Didcot or Llangollen, please contact Paul at You can be assured of a warm welcome – there are jobs for volunteers of all ages and all abilities.

The first stage of the Project (provision of the rolling chassis and restoration of the tender) is expected to cost in the region of £200,000. Whilst all donations, large or small, are always welcome, particularly in the early stages to get things established, like other similar projects success depends on a large number of people making regular contributions every month and we are hoping to build up a good base of covenanters, irrespective of the amount of contribution, to achieve that aim.

Over the years many people have expressed a desire to see a 47XX 2-8-0 in action again and we hope those who wish to see this will now come forward and give their support to help us deliver 4709’s chassis during 2012.

Download the leaflet 4709 Project - Rebirth of a Night Owl (428 kb .pdf file)

New Web Site for 2999 Lady of Legend

Saint Class Locomotive
Saint No. 2903 Lady of Lyons seen at Park Royal before the Great War

With the progress on the locomotive construction becoming more evident as the project enters its final few years, a new web site is launched.

The last surviving Great Western Railway ‘Saint’ class locomotive went to the breaker's yard in 1953, long before the standard gauge steam railway preservation movement got under way. From that moment many people have dreamed of building a new example of Churchward’s iconic design, which influenced almost all subsequent British steam development.

The widely held passion for the ‘Saints’ has led to that dream becoming reality and a new ‘Saint’, No. 2999 Lady of Legend, is being constructed by the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre.

The 2999 Lady of Legend web site provides more information about the Saint Project, the latest news of the rebuild, and how you can be part of it.

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

Didcot Railway Centre's ‘Most Successful’ Year Crowned with Prestigious Award

Railmotor and Tornado
The Steam Railmotor stands alongside Tornado at Didcot .

The Great Western Society is delighted to announce that it has been awarded the Heritage Railway Association Large Group Award for 2011. This recognises 50 years of excellence within the railway preservation movement, culminating in the restoration to working order of Steam Railmotor No. 93, which entered traffic in May this year after a seventeen year rebuild .

Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society, said: “I am delighted that the GWS has won the main HRA award for 2011 which fittingly marks a momentous year as well as the 50th anniversary of the society. This really is the icing on the cake after we managed to acquire the new 50 year lease of Didcot Railway Centre to safeguard the future. We are particularly proud to be able to join the small band of organisations which have won the main award three times, the previous occasions being in 1974 and 1981.

2011 has been arguably the most successful year ever for the Great Western Society and Didcot Railway Centre. It has organised several major launch events, including one for the newly restored King class locomotive 6023, outshopped in blue livery, as well as the Steam Railmotor. In April two Kings, 6023 and 6024, were together at Didcot, and in June the new-build A1 pacific Tornado was posed with the Steam Railmotor. Visitor numbers to the railway centre have increased by about 13% in 2011, compared with 2010 which itself was an improvement on previous years. With the security of the 50 year lease, work has already started on a new services building to improve the capacity of the electricity supply for planned visitor enhancements.

The GWS was previously the recipient of this prestigious award in 1974 to recognise its running the Vintage Train of GWR locomotives and carriages on the main line. It received the award again in 1981 for developing Didcot Railway Centre as a major visitor attraction, together with giving a major overhaul to the boiler of national collection locomotive Evening Star, enabling it to run on the main line.


Recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway