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News Archive - 2014

GWR Roll of Honour to be rededicated on Remembrance Sunday

Roll of Honour

Just before 11am on Remembrance Sunday, 9 November, the Mayor of Didcot, Scott Wilgrove, will be leading a rededication of the Great Western Railway's Roll of Honour, which is displayed inside the refreshment room at Didcot Railway Centre. All are welcome to attend.

The Roll of Honour lists the names of GWR employees who died in the war of 1914 - 1918. There are 2,436 names - nearly ten per cent of the 25,479 men of the GWR who enlisted in the forces. Framed copies of the Roll of Honour were displayed at many stations on the GWR system, and some still remain in situ. The example at Didcot Railway Centre, photographed here, is still in its original frame. The citation reads:

'On this Roll of Honour are shown the names of members of staff of the Great Western Railway Company who lost their lives in the Great War. Many of the men were called upon to participate in some of the fiercest fighting of the campaign; they upheld the best traditions of their Country, and their memory is revered alike by the Company and their comrades.'

Didcot Railway Centre is proud to display this reminder of the sacrifices made 100 years ago.

The rededication will be followed by a two minute silence with the start and finish signalled by 3650s brake whistle. During the day locomotives 3822 and 3738, in GWR wartime black livery, will be posed for photography in front of the shed with smokebox wreaths, and locomotive 5322 which served in France during the First World War will also be on display.

Construction Work begins on the Controlling the Trains building

Railmotor at Southall
Excavation under way - the building in the background is the Electricity Supply Building

Construction work has begun on our building which will house the 1960s signalling panel from Swindon as part of an interactive display illustrating the history of the train 'Control Centre', on GWR territory - from Railway Policeman to the Thames Valley Signalling Centre.

The building, adjacent to the Museum & Archive, will form a major extension of the Electricity Supply building in the same Chester Red Blend 73mm brick. It will use doors and iron windows from the former GWR Permanent Way building on Station Road donated by Oxfordshire County Council as part of the Didcot Parkway station forecourt works.

Preliminary excavations for the foundation began on 2 September and we will be using all the experience we have gained from construction of the adjoining buildings to pursue our aim of a usable building by autumn next year and to be open to visitors in spring 2016.

If anyone is interested in helping with the exhibition or the building construction, or can provide interesting anecdotes from any of the eras to be portrayed, please get in touch with Robert Heron who is co-ordinating the exhibition work.

You can keep up with progress on the building by referring to its project page, and more information about Swindon Panel can be found on the Swindon Panel Society website.

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

Railmotor on the Brentford Branch

Railmotor at Southall
The railmotor at Southall

On the weekend of 18/19 October, the Great Western Society’s Steam Railmotor No. 93 ran on the Brentford Branch in association with First Great Western. This was in many ways a return to the ‘spiritual home’ of the railmotor whose first allocation was to Southall Depot when new in 1908, and also the location of one of only two Railmotor Sheds purpose built by the GWR (the other being at Chalford in the Stroud valley). Southall might also be considered the ‘spiritual home’ of the Great Western Society, as it was on the footbridge at Southall that the 'four schoolboys' initially agreed to start a fund to purchase a 14xx tank engine, which ultimately led to the formation of the GWS. The footbridge remains to this day, and the Railmotor passed under every time it left Southall on the Brentford branch, but sadly it is now locked up and unused.

Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society, said: “Around 1,000 people travelled in No. 93 over the two days in 20 round trips - the capacity of the vehicle is approx 55 seated passengers and everyone seemed to enjoy the opportunity to ride on the Steam Railmotor and on this freight only branch in West London, with almost a carnival atmosphere amongst the passengers. We were lucky that it did not rain, and on the Sunday the sun shone for most of the day. Large crowds turned out to watch the train go by and the number gradually increased as the weekend progressed. We were pleased to have the support of First Great Western and Network Rail whose representatives joined in the spirit of the weekend to make this a truly memorable occasion.

You can see more pictures of the event and a short video.

Railmotor Now Going Solo!

Railmotor in the Looe Valley
The railmotor on its last Network Rail outing on the Looe Valley Line

On the weekend of 18/19 October, the Great Western Society's Steam Railmotor will be running on the Brentford Branch in association with First Great Western who will also be running various diesel services over several lines not normally open to passengers in the West London area.

We had originally planned to run the Railmotor with matching Trailer No. 92, but will now be running the Steam Railmotor on its own - which does at least mean that everyone will get a seat in the Railmotor itself!

On Saturday 18 several of the trains are booked beyond the capacity of the Railmotor running on its own and so we shall be running additional trains to ensure that everyone who has booked gets a ride. Clearly this does mean that the trains will not run at exactly the times originally advertised but we will endeavour to get everyone who has purchased tickets onto a train as near their booked time as possible. We do apologise for any inconvenience these alterations may cause.

We're pleased to say that the are still a few seats available on some of the Sunday 19 trains and we have re-opened the bookings for these accordingly.

On the same weekend three other events will take place:

Little Engineers Pre-School Workshop

Little Engineers Pre-School Workshop

On Saturday 18 October between 11:30 and 12:15 Didcot Railway Centre will be running a Little Engineers Pre-School Workshop, in the Science, Learning and Railways carriages for children aged 3-5 years. The event is entitled 'How Things Move'.

The Small Print:

First Great Western - Great Western Heritage Weekend

First Great Western Class 57 at Didcot
First Great Western Class 57 at Didcot

In addition to our Steam Railmotor running on the Brentford Branch on the weekend of 18/19 October, First Great Western will be running various diesel services over several lines not normally open to passengers in the West London area.

The Great Western Society's Steam Railmotor No. 93, and recently restored trailer coach No.92, will operate from Southall to Brentford on both days. There will be seven departures each day from Southall at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:30, 15:30 and 16:30. The round trip will take just over 30 minutes and is limited to 110 people seats per train.

On the same weekend three other events will take place:


Kids Go Free for the Last Six Days of August

Kids Go Free

From 26 to 31 August, Didcot Railway Centre is offering Kids Go Free, whether for a running day, or a non-running day. During this period, one or two children per full paying adult or senior, will be admitted free.

Commercial Manager, Ann Middleton, commented, “It’s the final week of the summer holiday. With many people having to spend large amounts on school uniforms and other school accessories, as well as having to wait for the end of month payday, knowing that people still want places to visit, we thought we would try to help, by making the Centre better value”.

Broad Gauge Replica Fire Fly to Bow Out

Fire Fly

With the boiler certificate for broad gauge replica steam locomotive ‘Fire Fly’ due to expire in September, there is a chance for visitors to enjoy a ride behind this unique steam locomotive over the Late Summer Bank Holiday, before the locomotive is taken out of service for general and boiler overhaul.

Fire Fly’ will be in action on all three days along with visiting locomotive 30120 (from the National Collection), ‘6023 King Edward II’, and pannier tank 3650.

1363 Available to Run Soon in 00 Gauge!

No. 1363 at Didcot
No. 1363 at Didcot

Kernow Model Centre have commissioned DJ Models to produce models of the 1361 GWR Saddle Tanks in OO Gauge.

A £5 donation from the sale of each model will be made to the 1363 Restoration Team.

Chris Trerise, Kernow Model Rail Centre Managing Director, said “I am really excited about working with the Great Western Society on this project as it is not often you get to see the real locomotive assembled at the same time as you assemble a model of it! I look forward to working closely together in the future on this and other as yet unannounced projects”.

Drew Fermor, GWS Project Leader for the restoration of 1363, said “It is with great pleasure that we in the Great Western Society's No. 1363 Restoration Project take part in this exciting project to bring the 1361 Class to 4mm scale modellers. The real No. 1363 is a hugely important part of the collection at the Didcot Railway Centre. She is the sole surviving Swindon built saddle tank locomotive and is also the oldest Swindon built locomotive in our collection

The saddle tanks were designed by Churchward and Holcroft, based on the 1392 Class of the Cornwall Mineral Railways. They were the last design of saddle tank engines built by the GWR and were unusual in that they used an outside cylinder arrangement and Allen valve gear. They remained virtually unaltered throughout their working life and as such No. 1363 represents a wonderfully well preserved example of early 20th Century locomotive design. This type of locomotive was a successful, useful and capable machine, in service for over 50 years and the model versions produced will no doubt be of great benefit to the GWR/BR (W) modelling fraternity.

The five 1361 locomotives were built at Swindon in 1910 and were set to work alongside the ex-Cornwall Minerals Railway locomotives. Their usual home was Plymouth Millbay, Devon, (later Laira shed) from where they worked in Millbay Docks and on the Sutton Harbour branch. Until 1928 some of the locomotives could also be found at St Blazey engine shed, Cornwall, where they worked on ex-Cornwall Minerals Railway branches, and also at Moorswater for working the Looe branch.

In 1920 one locomotive was transferred to Newton Abbot, Devon, for shunting the railway workshops there, a duty that was to continue until 1952. Other allocations were Taunton (1953–1961) for working at Bridgwater, Somerset, (again, mainly in the town's docks), and Swindon (1956–1961). One was tried briefly on the Weymouth Harbour Tramway in 1949, and another went to St Philips Marsh, Bristol in 1962.

The models will be £124.99 Pristine and £134.99 Weathered, with a discount of £10.00 for pre-orders, which can be placed immediately either through Kernow Model Centre's website or in their store.

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

Steam Railmotor to Return to its Roots After 106 Years

Steam Railmotor and Trailer at Didcot
The Steam Railmotor and Trailer on the Main Demonstration Line
at Didcot Railway Centre

The Great Western Society is pleased to announce that arrangements have been made for Steam Railmotor 93 and trailer 92 to run on the Southall to Brentford branch line on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 October. It will be a rare opportunity to travel in vehicles over 100 years old on a branch line which only has a freight service.

Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society, said: “We are delighted to be able to bring the Steam Railmotor back to Southall where it began life, and it is doubly important as this is also the birthplace of the Great Western Society.

There will be seven departures each day from Southall at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:30, 15:30 and 16.30. The round trip will take just over 30 minutes. There will be a maximum of 110 seats per train – 50 in 93 and 60 in 92.

Tickets are £20 each and are bookable in advance via our online booking system.  Passengers will only be allowed onto the Brentford Branch bay platform at Southall for the train their ticket entitles them to. An area beside the line to the south will be available for people to take photographs.

The event is supported by First Great Western, who will be making an announcement shortly about other events taking place in the area.

As there is almost no parking around Southall station, passengers are recommended to travel there by train. If the first weekend is fully booked, there is a contingency to repeat the exercise on 1 and 2 November. For enquiries about this event and other Great Western Society activities connected with main line running please email: gwsmainline@gmail.com

Steam Railmotor 93 was allocated to Southall engine shed when new in March 1908 and remained there until April 1909, working on the Brentford branch and other lines around West London. After that 93 never returned to Southall, but worked in other areas of the Great Western Railway system until 1935 when her boiler and steam engine were removed. She became a locomotive-hauled auto-trailer, retaining a driving cab at one end from which the locomotive could be controlled. She was withdrawn from passenger service in 1956 and used as a mobile office until 1970, when the Great Western Society preserved her.

Trailer 92 was built in 1912 and worked primarily in the West Midlands, being allocated to Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, Stratford and Leamington. She was withdrawn in 1957 and used as a mess room at Cardiff Docks, until being preserved by the Great Western Society in 1969.

Both vehicles are now permanently displayed at Didcot Railway Centre. They were restored using a Heritage Lottery Fund grant between 2007 and 2013 at the Llangollen Railway. A new power bogie with vertical boiler was built for Steam Railmotor 93. The interiors feature varnished oak, polished brass and original pattern upholstery. To travel in them is to enjoy the elegant surroundings of an Edwardian steam yacht.

When 92 and 93 run together they form the world’s only working Steam Multiple Unit – the forerunner of all modern diesel and electric multiple units which can be driven from either end of the train.

The Brentford branch was opened in 1859, connecting the GWR main line at Southall with Brentford Dock on the River Thames, four miles away. The principal engineering work on the line is the Three Bridges, designed by Brunel. At this point the Grand Union Canal crosses the railway on an aqueduct, while the road is carried over both. So it is actually two bridges, but impressive nonetheless. The passenger service on the line ceased in 1915 as a wartime economy measure, but was reinstated in 1920. It was permanently withdrawn in 1942. Brentford Dock closed in 1964, and Brentford Town Goods in 1970. The line was then dismantled south of the A4 Great West Road. Since 1977 the line has been used for trains from a waste transfer station to take West London’s rubbish to landfill sites.

Didcot Skyline Soon to Change Forever!

Cooling Towers

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

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

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

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

Derogation Approval for GSM-R

Shed Scene

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

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

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

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

National Collection Locomotive visits Didcot Railway Centre

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

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

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

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

D Day 70th Anniversary Commemoration

The Oxford Ukeleles
The Oxford Ukuleles at the Cowley Road Carnival

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

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

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

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

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

Controlling the Trains Exhibition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Met No.1

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

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

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

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

Didcot Railway Centre Gains Full Accreditation Award

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

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

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

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

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

Go Broad Gauge at Easter!

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

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

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

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

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

Flagship Locomotives in Unique Tribute to Their Designers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once in a Blue Moon

Tornado at Didcot Railway Centre
Tornado at Didcot Railway Centre

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

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

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

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

Event highlights include:

4709 Progress – An Open Meeting at Didcot on 17 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Locomotion on the Move!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Second Broad Gauge Locomotive at Didcot

Iron Duke on the carriage jacks

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

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

Steam Railmotor to visit the Brentford Branch ?

Railmotor 93 at Liskeard

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

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

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

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


Recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway