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News Archive - 2016

Swindon-Salzgitter Twinning Association

Swindon-Salzgitter Twinning Association

We were pleased to welcome a group from the Swindon-Salzgitter Twinning Association on Saturday 8 October. They had a tour of the railway centre, to view the many wonderful Swindon creations preserved at Didcot.

The photograph shows in the foreground Frank Klingebiel (left) the Oberbürgermeister (Mayor) of Salzgitter and Eric Shaw the Mayor of Swindon.

Salzgitter is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany.

All in a Day's Work - 24-25 September

All in A Day's Work

At our ‘All in a Day's Work’ event over the weekend of 24-25 September, we'll operates all the locomotives and stock that we can in order to offer a range of attractions designed to appeal to the enthusiast and family visitor alike.

Commercial Manager, Ann Middleton said, “The subtitle of this year's event is ‘Behind the Scenes’. We intend to give our visitors a chance to view and take part in activities that are not normally accessible to the public”.

As well as the usual passenger (and occasional goods) trains running all day on both of our demonstration lines, there will be regular guided tours of both the locomotive and carriage works.

Members of our restoration and maintenance teams will be on hand to explain what's going on with the various projects the Great Western Society currently has in hand. The Controlling the Trains building will be open (courtesy of the Swindon Panel Society) for viewing of both the Swindon signalling panel itself, and the progress being made with installing other exhibits, whilst those with an interest in slightly older signalling systems will be able to visit both Radstock and Frome signalboxes.

Among the other attractions, there will be a locomotive on shed pilot duties, periodically changing the photographic line-up at the front of the shed, as well as demonstrations of the capabilities of the 5-ton capacity steam crane.
It is also intended to offer visits to the ‘Civil Engineer's Yard’, where restoration and maintenance of ‘infrastructure’ exhibits may be viewed.

The Black Python licensed bar will be offering its usual range of ales from lunchtime on both days; and all the Railway Centre's normal sales outlets and refreshment rooms will be open.

Pre-booking is not required for any of the scheduled attractions. However everything is, as always, subject to availability.

On Track - Reading's Railways: Past, Present and Future

On Track

Didcot Railway Centre and the Great Western Trust (GWT) have been involved in setting up a major temporary exhibition at Reading Museum, which runs until 14 January 2017. Free Entry.

Reading Museum invites you to ‘Jump on Board for this incredible journey through an extraordinary story, told with stunning imagery and must-see exhibits. On Track traces the development and impact of Reading's railway, discovering how the station has become one of the busiest in Britain, used by nearly 20 million passengers a year’

Ann Middleton, Didcot Railway Centre's Commercial Manager says “It’s been a very interesting experience to work with the Museum of Reading. The Steering Group met regularly for a year to discuss the outline of the exhibition and the objects to display. There were a number of meetings with GWT colleagues to identify objects from the GWT collection that tell the story of Reading’s railways, notably an 1846 map of the Reading Station area with the Great Western Hotel clearly marked. The Private View was a chance for Steering Group members to meet other partner organisations and see the final exhibition.

You could even go and hear an afternoon talk by Great Western Trust Chairman, Peter Rance - Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a Very Personal View, on Saturday 12 November - Booking with Reading Museum is essential - Tel: 0118 937 3400.

More Information is available on the Reading Museum website.

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

2017 Calendar Now Available

Calendar 2017

The Didcot Railway Centre Calendar for 2017 is now available from our shop.

It is double A4 size and covers aspects of the GWR.

You can by it for £7.99 from the shop, or by mail order with postage of £2.00 if posted to within the UK and £4.00 overseas.

Please send cheques Payable to GREAT WESTERN RETAIL SALES LTD. to the railway centre or alternatively telephone 01235 817200 for credit/debit card orders.

Double Book Signing


Laurence Waters and David Maidment will be at Didcot Railway Centre on Saturday 27 August to sign their most recent books - ‘Great Western Manor Class’ and ‘Great Western Moguls & Prairies’ respectively.

Both books are from Pen & Sword’s, ‘Locomotive Profiles’series and will be available to purchase from the Railway Centre shop.

Great Western Moguls & Prairies’ describes the conception, design, building and operation of the fleet of Prairie 2-6-2 tank engines and the Mogul 2-6-0s designed by Churchward in the early part of the twentieth century and perpetuated by his successor, Charles Collett, in the 1920s and 1930s. These engines formed the backbone of the GWR locomotive fleet for secondary passenger and freight work for over half a century and were some of those that remained to the end of steam traction on the Western Region of British Railways. The book also covers some of the lesser known Moguls developed in the Dean/Churchward transition at the end of the nineteenth century and briefly looks at the Mogul and Prairie designs proposed by Churchward, Collett and Hawksworth but were never built. The book is copiously illustrated with over 250 black and white and 60 coloured photographs and is a comprehensive record of a group of locomotives found throughout the Great Western and its successor, the Western Region, for over fifty years.

Great Western Manor Class’ covers the 30 Manor class 4-6-0s designed by CB Collett in 1938, and built by the Great Western, and the Western Region at Swindon in two batches, 20 in 1938/9, and 10 in 1950. In order to save money the first 20 members of the class were built using parts from withdrawn 4300 class 2-6-0s, and were coupled to refurbished Churchward 3,500 gallon tenders. The lighter 4-6-0s Manors were given ‘blue’ route classification which allowed them to work over many secondary lines.

The construction of the Manors completed the final stage of Collett’s plan to provide a full range of 4-6-0 tender locomotives for Great Western passenger services.

Over the years the Manors saw extensive use on services in the South West, West Wales and ex-Cambrian Lines in North Wales. They provided motive power for both the ‘Pembroke Coast Express’ and the ‘Cambrian Coast Express’. Many of the class lasted to the end of steam traction on the Western Region, with the last examples being withdrawn in November 1965. Remarkably of the original 30 members of the class no fewer than 9 have survived. In this book, author Laurence Waters charts the history of the class from their construction at Swindon in 1938, right through to the final withdrawals in 1965. Using many previously unpublished black and white, and colour photographs, accompanied by informative captions, each member of the class is illustrated. This book should appeal to those interested in the history of Great Western Locomotive development as well as modellers of the Great Western and Western Region.

Introducing 1014 ‘County of Glamorgan

1014 Rolling Chassis

The Great Western Society’s project to build a replica Hawksworth County - 1014 ‘County of Glamorgan’ has now reached the stage where we have a 4-6-0 rolling chassis.

On Saturday 27 August we will be displaying the locomotive, in this form, to its supporters and the wider public at Didcot Railway Centre.

This is an operating day and we plan to introduce 1014 to the public on the turntable with a short ceremony and afterwards put it on public display outside the locomotive shed where everyone can see it close up. Members of the County volunteer working party will also be present during the day and they will be able to explain in a more detail how the Project is progressing.

The day also provides an opportunity to pay tribute to Mike Cooper, 1014’s Project Engineer, who was sadly and suddenly taken from us last March.

Burton on Trent Boy with Love of Steam


A seriously ill 10-year-old boy from Staffordshire, had his greatest wish granted - to be a steam driver for the day - thanks to Rays of Sunshine and Didcot Railway Centre.

Alex is currently living with DiGeorge Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that has caused him to have a range of complications. Despite what he has been through, the young boy has been extremely brave and very kind and caring. Alex really enjoys Thomas the Tank Engine and this was the inspiration for his greatest wish.

To make Alex’s wish come true, Rays of Sunshine enlisted the help of Didcot Railway Centre, who organised a very special day for the 10-year-old. During his visit, Alex got to enjoy a guided tour of the Centre, including the workshops and signal boxes and, of course, he also got the chance to drive and fire the locomotive, as well as being guard of the train.

After his wish, Ian, Alex’s father, commented: “Thank you so much Rays of Sunshine and Didcot Railway Centre for organising Alex’s wish. We had a fantastic time.

Roger Orchard, Railway Centre Manager, added: “It was our absolute pleasure to have Alex and his family at the Railway Centre to make his wish come true of driving a real Steam Train. Alex made a fantastic Steam Train Driver and it was great to be a part of something so positive and help Rays of Sunshine put a smile on his face.”

Rays of Sunshine Children’s Charity brightens up the lives of seriously ill children in the UK aged three to 18 years old by granting wishes, granting hospital ward wishes and organising outings and large scale events for seriously ill children, including The Rays of Sunshine Concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

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

Steam Local Line - Wednesday 10 August

Steam Local Line

STEAM is a touring performance, in which a group of urban explorers discover, beneath canvas tarps, the skeletal remains of a machine that changed the world. Inspired, they shovel coal on the fires of the past … Inspired by classic movie genre STEAM takes the Urban Playground Team on a whistle stop tour through silent movies, the Wild West, James Bond, WWI and the dark future of inner city commuting…

There will be workshops at Didcot Cornerstone Arts Centre on Saturday 6 August, where local young people will create new scenes for the show that they will then play alongside the professional company in STEAM LOCAL LINE at Didcot Railway Centre on Wednesday 10 August. Shows will be at 11.30am and 2pm with a workshop in between from 12.15 to 1 pm.

No extra to pay - included in running day admission charge.

For more information have a look at the The Urban Playground website.

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

Star Tugs Event - 25/26 June

Star Tugs

The Star Tugs will be visiting Didcot again in June. We're expecting a large display with one or two bits not seen in public before.

As well as the display there will be tug related activities such as Spot the Tug, activity sheets and colouring in.

See also the Star Tugs website.

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

Didcot Railway Centre to Host BBCs 'Trainspotting Live'


BBC Four will be screening a live show over three evenings in July, hosted by broadcaster Peter Snow and mathematician Dr Hannah Fry, from their base at Didcot Railway Centre where they will provide a commentary on passing trains.

The two hosts will link to presenter Dick Strawbridge who will be visiting interesting railway sites across the country.

The programme aims to be 'not just a show for trainspotters', but should interest anyone with a passion for British history, travel and engineering. Mr Snow said: “Even more exciting than watching election results come in is watching glorious trains speed past on a major railway line. And if it happens to be a steam engine passing by - what a bonus!

Cassian Harrison, channel editor at BBC Four, said: said: “BBC Four has always been the home of singular passions - from James May celebrating the intricate engineering of a lawn mower to George McGavin unpacking the hidden history of a single oak tree. I'm delighted that for one week we're now going to celebrate that most unique of British obsessions - the train - with all the wit, scale and love of detail that is BBC Four's hallmark.

Tom McDonald, head of commissioning, specialist factual formats and natural history, added: “I am delighted to be doing a big live show for BBC Four on a subject which is so close to the nation's heart, which will build the most comprehensive picture of Britain’s rail network ever attempted.

The public are also being asked to help out by filming their own trainspotting adventures, which may then be used on the show.

Final Line-up for Diesel Gala and Real Ale Festival - 28-30 May 2016


Confirmed visiting locomotives are:

Sorry but D1015 ‘Western Champion’ will no longer be visiting the event. As there are fewer mainline diesels attending than we had hoped we will be reducing the admission charge to £11 (adult), £9 (child), £10 (60+) and £34 (family, 2 adults + 2 children).

The event will also feature Didcot Railway Centre's:

Our Signalling system will be in operation on the branch line, and there will be a flypast by a Dakota on Sunday, weather permitting.

The ‘Black Python’ bar will be hosting the Real Ale Festival. There is more information about this event on our Gala Events page.

All locomotives and other attractions subject to availability.

We had to get a Bigger Rally Site!

Transport Rally 2015

The Didcot Railway Centre Transport Rally on Sunday 5 June 2016 had originally been planned to take place at Didcot Town Football Club car park, but with the owners of some 32 vintage buses applying to bring their vehicles, it was clear that, together with all the other exhibits, we had a problem. Our rally wouldn't fit on our rally site! Thankfully GWR and APCOA were happy to come to the rescue and offer the huge Didcot Foxhall Road car park as an alternative into which all our exhibits will comfortably fit.

As well as the buses there will be a steam road roller, vintage cars and commercial vehicles, together with miniature railway rides and trade stands. Some of the vintage buses will be offering rides on routes to Wantage, Wallingford and Blewbury as well as providing a shuttle service to Didcot Parkway Station and the Railway Centre entrance.

The admission price for the Rally includes access to Didcot Railway Centre, where there will be train rides and our shops and refreshment room will be open as usual for souvenirs and sustenance! There is more information about the Transport Rally on our Gala Events page.

All attractions subject to availability.

New Volunteers Day - 4 June 2016


As part of Volunteers' Week, we are offering a chance to find out about volunteering at Didcot Railway Centre.

Volunteer managers will be available on the day to explain what they do and what help they need. Visitors signing up as volunteers will have a chance to ride on the footplate of one of our engines.

Didcot Railway Centre will be open and visitors can enjoy unlimited train rides as well as all our other attractions.

Steam Gala - 30 April-2 May 2016


Our Steam Gala over the May Day weekend celebrates the 175th Anniversary of the opening of the Great Western Railway with some visiting locomotives joining our home fleet, as well as some special activities.

The visiting locomotives are:

They will be joined by:

In the Broad Gauge Transfer Shed you can meet some ‘Victorians’ and find out what it was like to travel on the earliest GWR trains. you can also follow the Victorian Heritage Trail around the centre.

Our Signalling system, including the Victorian installation at the North End of Centre will be in full operation, as will the ‘Black Python’ Real Ale bar!

Our shops and refreshment room will, of course, be open as usual for souvenirs and sustenance!

All locomotives and other attractions subject to availability.

Arts and Industry Exhibition at Cornerstone - 12 April - 16 May 2016

Art and Industry Poster

There is currently an exhibition of paintings of Didcot Railway Centre by local artist Andrew Manson at the Cornerstone Gallery, Didcot.

See the Cornerstone Website for details of the exhibition and for opening times and directions.

Andrew gives an artists description of the Railway Centre: ‘The whole operation runs at its own pace keeping in time with the exhibits & the age they are from. I can't see the place modernising any time soon & it's fair to say they would not want it to either! Its charm and culture is embodied through the steam, dirt, grit and slow turns & grinds of the old rail industry’.

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

Diesel Gala and Real Ale Festival - 28-30 May 2016 - First Visitors Announced

Diesel Gala

Our Diesel Gala and Real Ale Festival over the Spring Bank Holiday is starting to take shape.

Confirmed visiting locomotives so far are:

The event will also feature Didcot Railway Centre's:

Other possible visitors include classes 37, 50, 52, 66 and a pair of HST power cars.

Our Signalling system will be in operation on the branch line, and there will be a flypast by a Dakota on Sunday, weather permitting.

The ‘Black Python’ bar will be hosting the Real Ale Festival.

Steam Gala - 30 April-2 May 2016 - Visitors Announced

9466 shunting stock

Our Steam Gala over the May Day weekend celebrates the 175th Anniversary of the opening of the Great Western Railway with some visiting locomotives joining our home fleet, as well as some special activities.

Confirmed visiting locomotives are:

In the Broad Gauge Transfer Shed you can meet some ‘Victorians’ and find out what it was like to travel on the earliest GWR trains. There will also be other information around the Railway Centre regarding our Victorian heritage.

Our Signalling system, including the Victorian installation at the North End of Centre will be in full operation, as will the ‘Black Python’ Real Ale bar!

Museum Week - 28 March - 3 April 2016

Museum Week

It's Museum Week from 28 March to 3 April. This is a worldwide cultural event on Twitter (@MuseumWeek) and we at Didcot Railway Centre will be joining in the fun.

7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags! - every day museums across the globe will be tweeting on a particular subject with the hashtag #MuseumWeek.

Monday 28 March #secretsMW a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your museum
Tuesday 29 March #peopleMW honours the people who have helped make your museum
Wednesday 30 March #architectureMW is about telling the story of your buildings
Thursday 31 March #heritageMW the focus is on tangible and intangible cultural heritage
Friday 1 April #futureMW is a chance to share your most innovative projects
Saturday 2 April #zoomMW zoom in by sharing details and anecdotes that provide an interesting insight into your collection
Sunday 3 April #loveMW is time to share what you love about your place

About hashtags

Adding a hashtag to a social media post makes your comment searchable. For example if you tweet or make a facebook post including the hashtag #secretsMW then others will be able to find your and related comments by searching #secretsMW.

Children's Disco - 7 & 8 April 2016

Cgildrens's Disco

As a great way to finish the Easter Holidays we're offering an additional attraction on Thursday/Friday 7 & 8 April 2016.

Children's Discos run throughout the day and are firmly aimed at families – no drink or drugs (but probably some rock 'n' roll)!

No need to book, just pay on the day - exhibition only day prices apply.

Tornado Set to Hit Didcot at Easter

Tornado at Didcot Railway Centre

Guest locomotive, Peppercorn A1 class Pacific 60163 ‘Tornado’ will feature extensively over the four days of Easter steamings (25-28 March) at Didcot Railway Centre, along with locomotives from our home fleet.

The locomotive was designed by A H Peppercorn, the final Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER before nationalisation in 1948. None of the original A1s were preserved.

Built from scratch over a 20 year period at Darlington Locomotive Works, as the next in line of this classic locomotive type, ‘Tornado’ incorporates all the necessary requirements to operate on today’s modern railway.

Tornado first moved under her own power in 2008 and has gained many accolades since, including, hauling the Royal Train three times, and appearing on an episode of BBC Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson on the footplate.

The visit is ‘Tornado’s’ first visit of the year to a heritage railway, offering members of the public the chance to see this famous locomotive, back in apple green livery for the first time in four years.

Commercial manager, Ann Middleton, commented, “This will be Tornado’s fourth visit to the centre. Tornado remains ever popular, and we look forward to welcoming her supporters and fans. It’s a great chance for people to get up close and personal with Tornado as well as ride behind her and watch the locomotive on our demonstration line.

Little Engineers Pre-School Workshop

Little Engineers Pre-School Workshop

On Sunday 7 February Didcot Railway Centre will be running a Little Engineers Pre-School Workshop, for children aged 3-6 years. The event is entitled 'How Steam Engines Work'. The workshops will be held at 11:30am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm in the Science, Learning and Railways carriages, and in between the workshops there will be Engine Shed tours for participants.

The Small Print:


Earlier News Archives


Recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway