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Disc and Crossbar Signal
More Coal Please!
Fitting the oil pipes in 
the crankcase of Diesel Railcar No. 22
Vintage train

News Archive - 2013

Didcot Railway Centre Highly Commended

Beautiful South Awards
Ken Robinson looks on whilst Jackie Murphy, of Flagship Consulting, presents the award to Ann Middleton and Frank Dumbleton of the railway centre

Didcot Railway Centre flew the flag for the heritage railway sector in the South East, at the Beautiful South Awards on 27 November, by securing a Highly Commended accolade as a visitor attraction.

Organised by Tourism South East the Beautiful South Awards has run for over twenty years and celebrates the very best the South East has to offer for all types of tourism businesses including B&Bs, hotels, holiday parks, self catering, visitor attractions as well as recognising those businesses that have gone the extra mile on accessibility, sustainability and great customer service.

The ceremony was co-hosted by Tourism South East Chairman, Ken Robinson CBE and travel journalist and broadcaster Alison Rice. Our category of award was sponsored by Flagship Consulting and the event overall by Shepherd Neame.

Ken Robinson said: “It is great to see such excellence rewarded. These 2013 Beautiful South Awards represent the culmination of hard work and dedication by the best tourism professionals, in our best tourism businesses, that have been recognised for providing such outstanding customer experiences.

Ann Middleton, Commercial Manager of the railway centre said: “We are so proud to win a Beautiful South Award. It’s a great achievement for all the volunteers and staff at Didcot Railway Centre.

More information about the Beautiful South Awards is available on their website.

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

Swindon Panel to Come to Didcot

Swindon Panel being operated (under close supervison) on an open day

We are delighted to announce that we have reached an agreement with the Swindon Panel Society to bring the signalling panel from Swindon to Didcot Railway Centre, once it has been decommissioned by Network Rail next year.

Their project aims to preserve Swindon Panel, one of the original Western Region ‘turn push’ type panels, the staple panel design of the Great Western since the 1960s, before they all close forever in the next few years. The panel will be reconstructed and refurbished in its 1980s form and realistically operated with a simulator back-end.

The Panel will be located in a new building, to be constructed between the new electrical building and the Great Western Trust Museum and Archive, which may also house a few other exhibits of signalling control interest. Once the installation is complete members of the Swindon Panel Society will be demonstrating the working methods to interested visitors, extending the history of western signalling on display at Didcot. We can already boast a railway policeman's hut and disc and crossbar signal from the earliest days of the Great Western Railway, Frome Mineral Junction Signal Cabin from 1875 and Radstock North Signal Box from 1910, so this new exhibit will take the story right up to date (or at least as far up to date as we wish to go - for now!), with the latest 1960s technology.

More information about the Swindon Panel Society is available on their website.

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

Your Chance to Drive Steam Railmotor No. 93

Steam Railmotor No.93

We are pleased to be able to offer a special Railway Experience Day with Steam Railmotor No. 93 at Didcot Railway Centre on Tuesday 8 July 2014.

The experience of firing and driving the precursor of every railcar or multiple unit seen anywhere in the world, is open to six people, who will fire and drive from the footplate, as well as drive from the carriage end. The cost of the event to each participant is £450.

As always with Railway Experience Days at Didcot, the following is included:

The day commences at 8am with coffee and breakfast rolls and concludes at 4pm with the presentation of a certificate detailing the experience.

To book this very different footplate experience, telephone 01235 817200 or complete and return the application form (210kb .pdf file).

We also run Railway Experience Days with more conventional steam propulsion at a cost of £325 per head. See our Railway Experience Day page for more information.

Didcot Railway Centre wins a Business and Community Award

BACAs award presentation
Some of the Didcot Railway Centre team with Mayor Axel Macdonald

Didcot Railway Centre is pleased to be the community winner in the Science and Innovation category of the Business and Community Awards (BACAs) organised by Didcot First. Didcot First is an independent organisation, committed to bringing together commerce, statutory bodies, voluntary agencies, and the general public to ensure that Didcot is a positive place to live, work and invest. The BACAs scheme is now in its fifth year.

The award was won for implementing the Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system which allows us to claim gift aid, and hence increase our funds. There is a small cash prize which we are going to use to implement one of the recommendations from our recent Visit England - Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme (VAQAS) assessment. This inevitably involves toilets - Visit England are rightly concerned with quality toilets!

The awards ceremony was held at the Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot on Saturday 19 October where the certificates were presented by Didcot Mayor Axel Macdonald. Railway Centre Commercial Manager, Ann Middleton said “There's so much talent in Didcot, so well done to all our fellow award winners and everyone nominated. We were so proud to be nominated for a Business and Community Award and it was a wonderful surprise to have won.

Hairy Bikers Restore ‘Night Owl’ No. 4709

Hairy Bikers at Llangollen
2-8-0 No 2861 being dismantled at Llangollen to retrieve parts for the 4709 project
© David Wilcock -14-May-2013

The construction of 4709 is one of the landmark projects to feature in a new BBC TV series in which The Hairy Bikers visit the people restoring our industrial heritage.

You can see Si and Dave getting their hands dirty on 4709 in the final episode of The Hairy Bikers' Restoration Road Trip to be broadcast 25 August.

The three episodes of the programme will be broadcast on BBC2 on Sundays 11, 18 and 25 August, see the episode guide on the BBC website for more information about the programmes.

There is much more information about the restoration on the 4709 Project's website

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

Night Photography Event - 23 November 2013

County of Chester Plates

Didcot Railway Centre in partnership with Neil Cave (TimeLine Events) are pleased to invite you to a night photography event.

The event will run from 4.30 pm to 9.30 pm and the tickets include access to Didcot Railway Centre from the normal opening time.

There will be two engines in steam (which we hope will include 6023) and scenes will be posed featuring the front of Engine Shed, Turntable, Branch Line and Coal Stage.

All tickets must be booked in advance and numbers are limited to 100. £25 per ticket.

This event is now fully booked and in the next few days Neil Cave will be writing to everyone who has a ticket giving them the programme for the evening.


Steam Aid II - 3 August 2013

County of Chester Plates

Have you ever looked longingly at the Didcot collection and wished that you could have a go? Well now's your chance!

Drive Mogul No.5322, Steam Railmotor No.93 or Pannier No.3738, watch shunting demonstrations by Pannier No.3650, ride in Great Western Diesel Railcar No. 22, find out what's it takes to be a signalman, and generally see behind the scenes.

We will be offering driver experiences on Nos. 5322, 93 and a pannier (of indeterminate number!). There will be works tours, signal box tours and miniature train driver experiences for the youngsters. Driver experiences can be taken as footplate rides for those less confident.

Normal steam day admission prices apply, but for additional charitable ‘fares’ you can do so much more:

All donations go to Cancer Research UK - Help us Raise Steam, Raise Money and Save Lives!

We will be opening for extended hours to cope with demand - Driver experiences start at 09:00, last admission 15:30 gates close at 18:00 - We will keep going until the last ride is taken! All locomotives and rolling stock are, as ever, subject to availability.

County Day - 27 July 2013

County of Chester Plates

The County Day at Didcot on Saturday 27 July will provide an opportunity for supporters and others to view progress on the creation of the new 1014 ‘County of Glamorgan’. The engine should have the cab installed with numberplates fitted, nameplates mounted on the splashers and the bogie installed under the engine. You will be able to see the work undertaken on the frames, wheels and cab in the Didcot Railway Centre Works and talk to members of the ‘County Set’ - both the team who are working on the engine and those who are behind the scenes. There will also be a progress report on the tender and boiler (which are currently off site) with some photos.

There will also be an unparalleled gathering of both Churchward and Hawksworth County name and number plates on display - we have so far been promised over 20 straight plates and 7 curved plates (off the original Churchward County 4-4-0’s) plus some cab sides.

1466 ‘Now available in Black’

1466 in newly apiled BR Black

0–4–2T No. 1466 has recently been repainted into British Railways black livery in connection with a series of private photo-charters, that will be attempting to create the look of Plymouth Laira shed in the '50s at Didcot, using not only 1466 but also 6023 and 5322 which are also currently carrying BR liveries.

1466 was the first locomotive to be preserved by the Great Western Society and has been out of traffic for some time. Recently a fund was launched to ensure that 1466 will be overhauled in time to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Society - in Great Western green!.

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).

The photo charters are being run by Neil Cave, who says that there is curently still space on the July 13/14 event. Please e-mail Neil for more details.

Diesels Arrive for ‘Shed Bash’


The visiting diesels have arrived for the forthcoming Spring Bank Holiday weekend ‘Shed Bash’ gala:

Our own diesels - 08604, GWR diesel railcar No. 22, DL26 and our Gas-Turbine 18000 will also feature.

55019 and 31466 will be running on the Main Demonstration Line and No. 22 and the 08 will run on the Branch Line. We hope to use DL26 for some shunting manoeuvres during the day and to run 31466 and 55019 double headed in the later part of the afternoon.

The event organiser, Railway Centre Manager Roger Orchard, is seen leaning out of the cab of the lead Deltic. He said: “We are recreating the atmosphere of 1970s diesel depot open days, where people can climb into the locos and see what it was like to drive them.”

Sadly, electrical problems with Class 44 D4 'Great Gable' means that the Peak Locomotive Group-owned locomotive will not be attending the event.

Win a Saint Name and Number Plate

Saint plates

Anyone who donates £100 or more to the Great Western Society Saint Project before 13 July 2013 has a chance to win one of two full size replica Saint name and number plate sets.

Whilst the limelight has been on the Steam Railmotor and trailer, and single-chimney King 6023 ‘King Edward II’ over the last couple of years, steady progress has continued behind the scenes on perhaps the most ambitious historical rebuild of all - the creation of a new straight-frame Saint 4-6-0, No. 2999 ‘Lady of Legend’.

2013 is the 100th Anniversary of the construction of the last Saint No. 2955 ‘Tortworth Court’ and 60 years since the final Saint in service – No. 2920 ‘Saint David’ – steamed for the last time in 1953. This landmark year is therefore highly appropriate to commence fund-raising for the final push on the project. We estimate that the remaining work on the rebuild will cost in the region of £50,000, with a subsidiary project to enable to loco to run from time to time as a Churchward 4-4-2 Atlantic costing an additional £30,000.

GWS member, Dennis Tebbutt, has made and donated two magnificent full size Saint Class replica wooden name and number plates, 2926 ‘Saint Nicholas’ and 2983 ‘Redgauntlet’ for fundraising purposes, and anyone who donates £100 or more to the appeal before a special Saint day at Didcot on Saturday 13 July 2013 will be entered into a draw (one entry for every £100 donated). There will be two prizes, each of a name and number plate set. The first name drawn will win the 2926 set, and the second name will win the 2983 set.

Recent work has seen progress on the locomotive, boiler and tender. Below the running plate, the valve gear has been reassembled and the connecting rods and coupling rods fitted. A new front tube plate for the boiler, manufactured last summer, is now ready to be fitted, after which the smokebox will be riveted back into place using flush rivets in the same manner as the Churchward original. Ultrasonic testing has shown some reduction locally in the steel plate thickness of the firebox outer; this will be cut out and new plate will soon be welded in. New stays will be needed, together with a number of new foundation ring rivets where this plate is replaced. The crown stay nuts in the inner firebox need replacement and we plan to build up the rear laps with some copper weld, whilst a number of foundation ring rivets also need replacing. The large flue and small tubes are already at Didcot, but the super heater elements still need to be manufactured. Finally, new pipework within the smokebox needs to be made to take the steam from the boiler to the cylinders. Once the motion and brake gear has been fitted to the locomotive and the work on the boiler firebox outer completed and the new tube plate and smoke box re-fitted, we plan to place the boiler into the frames so that work can begin on preparing piping and cladding.

During 2012 the underframe of the tender was cleaned up and refurbished, with new steel plates for the cross members and the front and rear drag boxes fitted up. Steel plate for the new tender tank has been acquired and rolled to shape as necessary and work is under way to construct the new tank. The wheelsets, axle boxes and springs have already been refurbished and most of the associated fittings have been acquired.

Membership of the Saint Partnership is still open and anyone who contributes £1,000 or more, either in one amount or by monthly payments, will have their contribution recorded on a plaque to be attached to the cab roof of 2999 after restoration has been completed. They will also receive priority booking on the inaugural run by ‘Lady of Legend’ and the chance (subject to the host’s agreement) to ride on the footplate on a preserved railway. Details can be found on the Saint project website.

If you would like to view progress on Lady of Legend and take a closer look at what still needs to be done, come along to the Saint Day at Didcot on 13 July when members of the project team will be available to give you a detailed tour.

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

Restored Autotrailer Reunited with Steam Railmotor

Trailer 92 and SRM
Restored Autotrailer No. 92 and Steam Railmotor No.93 at Llangollen Station - 19-Apr-13

The first public runs of our newly restored Autotrailer No.92, which has been restored to run with Steam Railmotor No.93, took place at the Llangollen Railway's Spring Gala. The event ran from Friday 19 to Sun 21 April.

For the first time the Railmotor, whose restoration was completed two years, ago has an autotrailer in the same livery and with similar internal fittings and decor to run with. The restoration of bodywork and underframes of both vehicles has been carried out in the engineering workshops at Llangollen.

Prior to the Gala weekend, on Thursday 18, the pair played host to a goodly crowd of Great Western Society members, who had contributed to the Railmotor and Trailer project, when the combination ran two return trips between Llangollen to Carrog, acompanied by the usual speechmaking and celebration.

The next public appearance of the pairing will be at Didcot Railway Centre over the Mayday Bank Holiday event (4-6 May), when they will be officially launched into traffic by Lord Faulkner.


Museum Conservation Store and Reference Library

Concrete Pour
Richard Antliff and Harrison Connor direct another load of concrete into the foundations - 9-Apr-13

The first main concrete pour for the foundations of the new Conservation Grade store and Reference Library, took place on Tuesday 9 April. The new building, to be know as the Charles Gordon Stuart Annex, is attached to the existing Museum Building and will hold the paperwork, photographs and other delicate items, cared for by the Great Western Trust, in archival conditions. The building will provide proper access to the Trust's material for amateur and professional researchers.

Work on the foundations started towards the end of 2012, when the 'first sod' was cut on 27 November. During a particularly cold and frosty winter the foundations had progressed to the point where the main concrete pours, to form the foundation slab, were able to take place once the frosts were guaranteed to stay away for a few nights.

So far £170,000 has been raised in donations towards the building's construction and we hope to achieve a weatherproof building by the end of 2013, using these funds built up over many years. Grant aid is likely to be available from museum bodies for the fitting out stage but we will need to help by more fund raising too. Further donations to the Trust for both the building and the fitting out work will be very welcome.

If funding permits, we would wish to transfer the archive collection to the new building for student access by Summer 2014, coinciding with the 30th Anniversary of the Trust’s founding.

If you'd like to contribute to this exciting project, cheques sent to Didcot Railway Centre and made payable to ‘The Great Western Trust’ with ‘Library Fund Appeal’ on the back will be most gratefully received and appreciated.

More information is available on the Charles Gordon Stuart project page.

Rovers’ Return Gala - 4-6 May

Steam Railmotor
Steam Railmotor No. 93 approaching Dunster

The weekend of 4 to 6 May is planned as a welcome home to Didcot for Steam Railmotor No. 93 after its tour of the West of England during the winter, and the blue King 6023 after boiler repairs and running on the Great Central Railway.

Steam Railmotor No.93 will be accompanied by auto-trailer 92 of similar vintage. Like the railmotor, the trailer has been restored on the Llangollen Railway with a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Together the two vehicles form the only working steam multiple unit (SMU) in the UK.

Saturday 4 May will see the launch of the SMU by Lord Faulkner, and the train will spend some of the day running on the main demonstration line at Didcot Railway Centre, where it can be seen alongside its descendants – modern diesel multiple unit trains – on the parallel Network Rail tracks.

On Sunday and Monday 6023 King Edward II will be running on the main demonstration line, while the SMU will run on the railway centre’s branch demonstration line.

The return of the King and the SMU will bring to an end a remarkable period of nine months during which motive power from Didcot Railway Centre has visited a number of major players in the heritage railway industry, as ambassadors of the GWR.

Great Western Society members will be pleased to know that there will be no charge for Society members to visit this gala event.

£2 Discount at Didcot Railway Centre, Pendon Museum and Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway

3 Great Local Trips

Didcot Railway Centre, Pendon Museum, and the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway have banded together for a three way joint promotion.

Billed as ‘Three Great Local Trips – at a discount’ the promotion works as follows:- Visitors to any one of these attractions – all within 30 minutes drive of each other - pay a standard admission charge, and then receive one voucher per visitor, providing a £2 discount per person for a future visit to any of the three partner attractions. When they make the next visit they get another voucher. The vouchers are valid for any visit from March to the end of November 2013, though some specific dates and events are excluded.

Where this promotion differs from other similar promotions, is that the vouchers are transferable. If visitors in possession of these vouchers are unable to use them, they are asked to pass them on to friends or relatives that might be able to use them.

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

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

Could We Build a Dean Bogie Single?

Dean Bogie Single
The Duchess of Teck

Following the successful launch of our Victorian Carriage Fund last year, a number of people have suggested that the construction of a 3031 class 4-2-2, otherwise known as a Dean Bogie Single would enhance the collection even further as well as bridging the gap between the Broad Gauge and the 20th Century eras.

This was raised at the Annual General Meeting last September and the suggestion was made that we should try and ascertain what level of interest and support there may be as a first step. Clearly it is a long journey from a suggestion to a reality, but there does seen to be quite a bit of interest in re-creating the elegance and grandeur of a Victorian train. Perhaps it is pertinent to say that something similar happened with the Steam Railmotor; here a project planning group was established in 1991 to ascertain the feasibility and work up detailed plans prior to the 1998 launch. Prior to 1991 the late Ralph Tutton has spent half a dozen years researching the Great Western Steam Railmotors identifying much material which proved invaluable during the planning stage.

Some investigative work has already been carried out, but before anyone can think about ordering the first piece of steel there is much more work needed to be done. As a starter thanks to our friends on the Bluebell Railway we now have a set of drawings for the Dean bogie as built during the 1892 – 1898 period. Many people will be aware of the existence of a non-working replica of 3041 ‘The Queen’ which resides in Windsor Station. What may not be so well known is that the Society provided assistance to Madame Tussauds at the time of its construction in the 1980’s.

We believe that some drawings must exist in addition to the Swindon General Arrangement drawing which is already in our possession. Furthermore patterns were made specifically for some of the non-ferrous fittings by Hugh Philips Engineering, and we would like to identify where these may now be found.

From experience with other projects we have an idea of some of the costs. The cylinder block, which is handed but comparatively straight forward compared to our Churchward 2-cylinder locomotive would be an early requirement, costing in the region of a high four figure sum for the pattern once we have the drawings; a guestimated ball-park figure of £25,000 cast and machined. Construction totally to the original specification would retain ‘Grandfathers Rights’ and reduce costs, so the most challenging aspect of the project is likely to be the  manufacture of the crank-axle, which was a forging on the original locomotives.

It is important to note if this went ahead that this would be a new project in which there is an opening for new people to become involved and make a positive input.

If you are interested in helping with the preparatory work or have something you could offer, we would be pleased to hear from you and the first contact should be through me - email: chairman@didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk

Railmotor Trailer Trials at Llangollen

Trailer 92 at Berwyn
No 92 stands at Berwyn during running in trails on the Llangollen Railway. Getting soaked in the driving rain are GWS Chairman Richard Croucher and Railmotor Project Manager Graham Drew

On Tuesday 29 January 2013 GWR Autotrailer Number 92 operated for the first time since being withdrawn from traffic and condemned by British Railways in January 1957 – 56 years to the month since it last turned a wheel in service. Llangollen’s Auto fitted Pannier Tank 6430 provided the motive power and interface to test the vehicle systems on a wet and windy day, which seems to have become a tradition for the Railmotor Project as the Railmotor’s power bogie was tested in similar weather.

With Project Manager Graham Drew having the honour of being on the regulator, and with Society Chairman Richard Croucher in attendance trips were made to test the mechanical linkages and vehicle ride quality. The trials proved successful, with running between Llangollen Station and Berwyn to prove that the coach did ‘what it says on the tin’ before returning to works for a a couple of weeks of cosmetic crossing ‘Ts’ and dotting ‘Is’.

No 92 will make it’s first public appearance in traffic at Llangollen's April Gala event, when it will operate with the Railmotor No 93. Both vehicles will return to Didcot Railway Centre after the Gala for the summer season.

Meet the ‘Everything GWR’ Locomotive of the Year 2012

Everything GWR

Pannier Tank 3650 is pleased to have won the GWR Engine of the Year’ Poll held by Everything GWR website. The website comments that “3650 won ... because it is looked after by a particularly engaging team of friendly people, it has made friends wherever it has been this year, it looks great in the 1930s shirt button livery and, it must be admitted, because of a nice bit of self marketing on Facebook! Becoming the saviour of the steam starved Severn Valley was a good move and then taking off onto Southern territory to the Bluebell has also gone down well”.

3650 will be celebrating the achievement at Didcot Railway Centre on Saturday 9 Febraury.

Proposed timetable:

Why not come along and celebrate 3650's award?

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

6023 King Edward II - Star of GCR Winter Gala

6023 at Loughborough
6023 at Kinchley Lane on the GCR.
26-Jan-13 - Photo: Oliver Goodman

The locomotive passed its hydraulic boiler test on Tuesday 22 January at Loughborough, in the presence of inspectors from the insurance company and the VAB (vehicle acceptance body). This was followed on Wednesday 23 January by a successful steam test - allowing 6023 to star at the Great Central mid winter gala over the weekend 25/27 January. Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society said, “6023 made 11 round trips (about 160 miles) during this weekend's gala on the Great Central Railway. The locomotive has performed faultlessly and no problems have arisen. Congratulations to all who have worked to get the King back into action. The plan is for 6023 to remain on the Great Central to accumulate some running time, but is expected back at Didcot in time for our gala event on the Bank Holiday weekend on 4, 5 and 6 May. That weekend should also see steam railmotor 93 back at Didcot with its auto-trailer coach 92.

3650 goes on Holiday - Summer 2012

3650 on the Severn Valley Railway
3650 crossing Victoria Bridge.

In late July Roger Orchard received a call from the Severn Valley Railway - they were down to barely enough locomotives to run their services, no breathing room for periodic maintenance and having to resort to diesels. Could our little pannier stage a rescue attempt? We jumped at the chance for the engine to take a holiday so on 25 July under the supervision of Kevin Dare, 3650 left Didcot - Destination Bridgnorth, for a three week hire.

On 26 July 3650 landed on SVR metals, and with no time to lose preparations began with the goal of running her first services on 28 July. Fitness to run was carried out, mud holes changed to the lead joints preferred by the SVR and a spark arrestor fitted, coaled, watered and by the evening a warming fire lit ready for a steam test. On 27 July with the steam test complete 3650 moved light engine to her new temporary home for the week, Bewdley MPD.

28 July dawned, to Matt and Phil’s amusement, with Kevin clucking around 3650 like an old mother hen. But 3650 was in good hands. Her driver for the day, Steve (better known as Jongo – the policeman that chased an old lady on an electric mobility scooter up the motorway in Police Camera, Action) and fireman Will Marsh had things well in hand.

3650 on the Severn Valley Railway
3650 at Kidderminster.

09:35 off Bewdley MPD, light engine to Kidderminster, to work the BS1 diagram at 10:25 off Kidderminster to Bridgnorth (with Kevin on board). Arriving at Bridgnorth at 11:32, 3650 detached and ran light to the shed for water and a top up with coal. Back on to the train of six maroon Mk1’s ready to depart on the 12:15 to Kidderminster. After arriving at Kidderminster at 13:24 and taking water from the column, Kevin retired to the train with a silly grin on his face, satisfied that 3650 was performing perfectly after hauling the heaviest train she had so far in preservation, for a round trip of some 32 miles without any problems. This left Matt and Phil to share the next round trip between them but not before attaching Matt’s specially made International Rescue headboard. The final round trip arrived back at Kidderminster at 17:15 with a scheduled light engine move back to Bewdley MPD of 17:25 arriving on shed at 17:34. However, this was not to be as the light engine return to Bewdley was delayed slightly as class 50, 50044 had failed and Warship 821 was dispatched to rescue it. Eventually, day one saw 71 miles covered.

Sunday – day two, was the same diagram and times. This time, 3650’s owner Brian Thompson and his wife Chris were also present to experience what most of us can only dream of, a round trip on the footplate. Two light engine moves plus two round trips, 71 miles on day two.

And so it went on, working two round trips each day through till Wednesday.

However, Tuesday saw a bit of a hitch. Many drivers with experience of combinations brakes will tell you when they wear, they can sometimes require a bit of a tweak to find the sweet spot to create the maximum 25” of vacuum. This, coupled with 3650 having an excellent vacuum pump which pulls 25”, meant that unless the crew found the sweet spot, they had trouble pulling the brakes off again once the train had slowed. This was also compounded later in the day when it was decided to give Sir Keith Park, 34053, a running in double headed turn with 3650. Of course, SKP’s brakes only work at 21” and time was lost having to pull all the vacuum release chords on the six coach train. The total time lost was approaching an hour.

3650 on the Severn Valley Railway
3650 tries out what it feels like to be an LNER locomotive!

With Thursday and Friday as spare turns for 3650, Kevin took Friday as a day off, travelling to Bridgnorth late Thursday evening. He spent four and a half hours Friday, stripping, scraping and lapping in the combination brake steam face before re-assembling it. In spite of being out of steam for some 36 hours ‘Damn hot’ was one quote that escaped from Kevin, amongst other not printable!

With a fire back in 3650 early Saturday morning, she was put on the back of the 13:35 to Kidderminster, dropping off the train at Bewdley ready to work the BS2 diagram the following day (we like to think we were banking the train). Sunday saw Jongo as 3650’s driver again and he noticed a much improved and less finicky combination brake, much to Kevin’s relief. Some of the guys from last year’s hire to the Swindon & Cricklade Railway had also made the trip to the SVR to see 3650 in action and we were able to treat them to use of our footplate passes for part of one of the trips.
3650 again worked daily through till Wednesday.

And so it carried on for the following week. Due to a few more minor hiccups with 2857, SKP needing a few more tweaks, 4566 and 5164 also needing work, 3650’s stay was extended to the end of August.

3650 on the Severn Valley Railway
3650 at Bewdley with International Rescue headboard!

With all of the SVR fleet back in action, plus their Hawksworth pannier 1501, imminently due into service, the first week of September saw 3650 taking a well-earned rest for a washout and maintenance. As part of the maintenance, Kevin had asked if the right hand cylinder cover copper sealing ring could be looked at, as it was blowing a little between the cylinder and steam chest covers. However, when the cylinder cover was removed, it revealed a crack between two of the studs on the opposite side. Although the crack was quite old (somewhere after 1997 when the cover was last removed) and was not related to the leak, advice was sought from ‘Metalock’ as to a repair. With Kevin and Brian Thompson (3650’s owner) present, it was decided to use Metalock to perform a stitch repair to prevent the crack getting any worse. The moment the repairs were agreed, SVR staff and volunteers set to work preparing 3650. Both buffers were removed, as was the front drag box, buffer beam, vacuum and steam heat pipes and cylinder cock linkage. A job which would probably have taken a couple of Saturdays at Didcot, completed in a day. Metalock arrived on Monday 10 September to start the repairs, and when Brian and Kevin arrived by lunchtime, the repairs were well under way. They were completed by mid Tuesday, and when Kevin phoned the SVR on Friday, 3650 was already back together. There was even time for ‘Jongo’ to give the smoke box a rub down and a coat of black paint where all the hard work 3650 had been doing had blistered it. The steam test on Monday 17th September proved everything was OK.

With only the bill from Metalock to pay, the disassembly and reassembly by the SVR being free of charge, we felt it only fair that the SVR should benefit from a few more steamings also free of charge. What better way than to let them ‘test’ 3650 for their three day gala on the 21-23 September, after all, they found, got quotes, stripped, had the repair done and reassembled 3650 in less than two weeks. At Didcot, with only volunteers at weekends, this would have probably taken upward of six weeks working weekends only! 3650 was used for shuttles between Kidderminster and Arley / Highley for the three days of the SVR gala, returning to Bridgnorth on the last day.

Peter G Hudson of the SVR observes that “at the peak of its operating season in late July 2012, due to an unfortunate series of mechanical defects the Severn Valley Railway’s normal compliment of eight serviceable steam locomotives was reduced to just two; GWR 4-6-0 7812 Erlestoke Manor, & LMS 2-6-0 43106. The 3650 Groups and DRC responded at very short notice , favourably to the SVR’s request to hire 3650 to help ease the situation which had become so serious that two days before 3650 was due to arrive. for about four hours the SVR had been forced for the first time to power all its timetabled service trains with diesels. So on the Friday 3650 was steamed and tested with a run down to Bewdley and back to Bridgnorth before being pressed into traffic the following day. 3650 created history as it was the first time since BR days that an 8750 pannier tank had worked the full length of the Severn Valley. The last time this had happened was in 1963 when 9624 and 4665 double-heading. Although the SVR steam fleet includes two pannier tank locos, 5764 and 7714 they are both to the original 1929 57xx design. The only other 8750 class Pannier Tank to work on the SVR since preservation was 9600 when it double-headed with 9466 in November 2009 on an excursion from Tyseley to Bridgnorth via Cradley and Kidderminster; they only worked between Kidderminster and Bewdley as light engines for servicing. Although 3650 has never worked on the Severn Valley line before 27h July, through into August and September it filled the missing historical motive power scene for the SVR by recreating a regular working 8750 class pannier tank. The SVR Autumn steam gala used 3650 effectively on three coach locals between Kidderminster and Arley and also on five coach locals between Kidderminster and Highley, as a finale to the visit. 3650 also made history by piloting 34053 when on 31 July they double-headed the 14.55 LMS set train from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster to test the BB ‘on a loaded train. Thank you 3650 for your authentic appearance and helping to keep the SVR steaming at a critical motive power shortage period, now thankfully resolved.

On the Wednesday following the SVR gala, 3650 was off loaded at the Bluebell Railway! It seems they too have a situation where their locos are fully stretched and in need of maintenance and washouts with no spare locos.

Here we go again and by the time you read this, 3650 should be well through her hire period, which lasts through until the beginning of January. 3650 is quickly becoming the best travelled pannier of 2012.

6023 King Edward II - Update - 4 January 2013

6023 at Loughborough
6023 at Loughborough for boiler repairs.

The repairs to 6023s boiler took another step forward on 4 January, when the new copper plate work and welding passed it NDT test. There is still some further work which needs to be undertaken in the firebox and it is hoped this will be completed in time to undertake an hydraulic test around the middle of January.

If this is successful a steam test will quickly follow - hopefully in time for 6023 to appear at the Great Central mid winter gala over the weekend 25/27 January.



Recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway