Didcot Railway Centre
GWS Logo
Didcot Railway Centre
Home of the Great Western Society


Page last updated:
Loco Cleaning
Carriage and Wagon Work
Fitting the oil pipes in 
the crankcase of Diesel Railcar No. 22
My Turn to Drive

Latest News

Jane’s Big Day Out

SO Lottery

Wantage Tramway No.5 is having her brass and copper polished for a day in the sunshine (hopefully!) on Saturday 14 July. This will give an opportunity to see and photograph the 161 year old locomotive in her new livery in the open air. The locomotive is normally kept inside the engine shed at Didcot Railway Centre.

The occasion is a visit by the Shannon Express Male Barbershop Harmony Chorus at 12 noon on 14 July to serenade the locomotive. They are based in Potton, where the locomotive originally ran on the Sandy & Potton Railway in 1857, when the locomotive was new and named ‘Shannon’. This was the name of the frigate commanded by Captain William Peel VC who had the railway built as a private venture. The Sandy & Potton was soon taken over by the London & North Western Railway as part of the Oxford to Cambridge ‘Varsity Line’.

In 1877 the locomotive was sold to the Wantage Tramway and ran between Wantage Road station and the town centre for nearly 70 years. She was known as ‘Jane’ on the Tramway, which closed in 1945. A campaign was then launched to preserve the already historic locomotive, and it was supported by letters and a leading article in The Times newspaper. This persuaded the Great Western Railway to buy the locomotive for £100, then restore her and put her on a plinth on Wantage Road station with the name ‘Shannon’ reinstated.

In 1965 Wantage Road station closed, and ‘Shannon’ was then stored in the Atomic Energy laboratory at Wantage until 1969 when she moved to Didcot. She is now part of the National Collection owned by the National Railway Museum at York, and on long-term loan to Didcot Railway Centre because of her local connection.

The Shannon Express Chorus last visited Didcot in 2007 to serenade the locomotive on her 150th anniversary and are now celebrating their own 40th birthday.

The photograph (by Frank Dumbleton) shows the crew who were cleaning ‘Shannon/Jane’ on 7 July – left to right Martin Lyons, Ian Payne, Richard Preston and Peter Nicholls.

New Members’ Evening

If you are new to the Great Western Society, please come along to our New Members’ Evening on Saturday 30 June 2018 at Didcot Railway Centre.

The event starts at 4.30 pm in the Staff end of the Refreshment Rooms with tea or coffee. We will provide an introduction to the Great Western Society, Great Western Preservations, the Great Western Trust and Didcot Railway Centre, followed by a tour of the site. The tour will take in as much of the site as you have stamina and interest for. You will be able to leave the tour at any time. We expect to finish by 7 pm.

Whilst the Evening is aimed primarily at new members, if you have been a member for some time and wish to find out more about us, you will also be welcome.

Although we will cover volunteering opportunities, specific events are provided by our Volunteer Coordinator throughout the year.

Prior booking is essential. To register for the New Members’ Evening, please email info@didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk with your name and membership number. Please put ‘New Members’ Evening’ in the subject. Alternatively, drop us a line at Great Western Society Limited, Didcot Railway Centre, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 7NJ. Please quote your membership number and name when booking.

If you are not yet a member, you can sign up by completing the membership form.

Fancy a Flutter?

SO Lottery

And while your about it - support the Great Western Society!

We have partnered with the South Oxfordshire (SO) Charitable Lottery to raise funds.  Each SO Charitable Lottery ticket costs only £1 and 50p from each ticket goes straight into the Great Western Society (Didcot Railway Centre) funds. 

Each ticket has a 1 in 50 chance to win with a top prize of £25,000 so, next time you fancy a flutter, why not help the Didcot Railway Centre at the same time? 

To read on or buy a ticket, please click here... https://www.socharitable.co.uk/support/didcot-railway-centre-great-western-society

SO Charitable Lottery is promoted by South Oxfordshire District Council, a Local Authority Lottery licensed by the Gambling Commission.

Great Western Society Presented with Queens Award for Voluntary Service

QAVS Presentation
John Harwood, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire (left) presenting the Queens Award for Voluntary Service to Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society. Behind them are, left to right, Councillor Reg Waite, Chairman of Vale of White Horse District Council; Glyn Hall, President of Didcot Chamber of Commerce; Councillor Zo Patrick, Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council; Elizabeth Paris, Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire.

John Harwood, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire presented the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service to the Great Western Society and Didcot Railway Centre on Saturday 7 April 2018.

In his speech to the assembled volunteers and dignitaries Mr Harwood said “It is with very great pleasure that, on behalf of The Queen, I present the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service to the Great Western Society and Didcot Railway Centre. The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) is a national Honour, equivalent to the MBE, and was first awarded in 2003. It is only awarded to voluntary organisations and charities for outstanding service and achievement; it is the MBE for voluntary groups.

The standards for the Award are very high. The organisation must be run wholly or predominantly by volunteers, it must be local, meet a need or provide a service, do so to the highest standards, and be recognised and respected for so doing. In consequence only a few awards are made each year; during the entire period since it was first created only 30 other organisations in Oxfordshire have received the Award.

Didcot Railway Centre clearly met all of these standards. It preserves and sustains one of the most important parts of our country's engineering heritage, and does so in a way which attracts large number of visitors, many of them from well beyond Oxfordshire, and continues to inspire the young people of today. The assessors for the award were impressed by the education links which have been established with local schools and especially the successful efforts which have been made to involve girls and women in all the aspects of the centre's activities including engineering.

Overall, the Award recognises the impressive contribution and record of achievement made by the Centre over its first 50 years, and I wish you all continued success and further achievements in the future.”

Great Western Society Seeks New Trustees

The Great Western Society, the governing body of Didcot Railway Centre, is looking to appoint new trustees to its Board. We are particularly looking for trustees with experience and networks in fundraising, marketing, human resource and volunteer management, and museum management.

The Board meets four or five times a year for formal meetings. In addition, there are a number of events where trustee attendance is encouraged and trustees are expected to take an active interest in Didcot Railway Centre’s activities.

The closing date for applications is Wednesday 20 June 2018.

For more information see our Trustee Application Pack (806kb .pdf document), Trustees Roles and Responsibilities (111kb .pdf document) and GWS Monitoring Form ( 14kb Word document) or contact Ann Middleton on 0742 959 7194 or ann@didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk

Richard Westwood - Hixon Book Signing

The Hixon Railway Disaster

Richard Westwood will be signing copies of his new book ‘The Hixon Railway Disaster - The Inside Story’ at Didcot Railway Centre on Saturday 7 April 2018.

The book tells the the shocking true story behind the botched introduction of Automatic Half-Barrier level-crossings into Britain.

January 1968 saw the convening of the first Parliamentary Court of Inquiry into a railway accident in Britain since the Tay Bridge Disaster nearly a century before. Why was this? Because Britain's 'Railway Detectives', the Railway Inspectorate, who would normally investigate all aspects of railway safety, were also in charge of the introduction of automatic Continental-style, level-crossings into this country. At Hixon in Staffordshire, one of these newly installed 'robot' crossings on British Rail's flagship Euston to Glasgow mainline, was the scene of a fatal high-speed collision between a packed express train and an enormous, heavily laden low-loader. For once, the 'Railway Detectives' were the ones having to explain their actions, in the full glare of media attention, to an expectant and increasingly worried nation. (There was another awful, fatal collision at an automatic crossing at Beckingham, Lincolnshire, in April of 1968).

Using previously undisclosed information, the author has been able to cast fresh light on to not only the Hixon Disaster, but also the extraordinary story of the largely successful attempts, by British Railways and the Railway Inspectorate of the time, to hide the truth of just how close we came to having dozens of 'Hixons' right across the rail network.

Last Chance to Ride Behind 08742


Harry Needle Railroad Company’s 08 Shunter No. 08742, which has been based at Didcot Railway Centre for a little while now, will shortly be moving on to a private hire to earn its keep.

On Sunday 11 March we are therefore offering a final day of public use for those interested in clocking up some miles behind this rare traction.

08742 will be teamed up with the Railway Centre’s 08604, now in BR Blue, which will provide the brake translation to vacuum, but 08742 will be doing the work. Limited footplate passes will be available on the day for £5 - first come, first served.

Little Engineers' Workshops - Free Build

Little Engineers Graphic

The next in the series of Little Engineers' Workshops, aimed at children between three and six years old, will be held on Sunday 4 March. This workshop is entitled 'Free Build'.

The workshops, held at Didcot Railway Centre in the Science, Learning and Railways carriages are run by Victoria Haval.

This workshop will be on a drop-in basis between 11:30 and 3:30.

The Small Print:

Enjoy a Brief Encounter at Didcot Railway Centre

Brief Encounter

In 1936, Noel Coward wrote a one-act play named Still Life. This was turned into a film in 1945, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, which was named Brief Encounter.

In the film, Johnson plays Laura Jesson, a respectable middle-class British woman, who like most women of the time goes to a nearby town every Thursday for shopping, and to a matinee at the cinema. One day she meets Alec Harvey (Howard) in the tea room at the railway station, and the two begin to fall for each other, despite both being married already. The film depicts their romance growing, until events conspire to make them realise they can never be together.

In 1999, the British Film Institute voted Brief Encounter the second best British film of all time, only behind spy-drama The Third Man (coincidentally also starring Trevor Howard).

We are inviting our visitors this Valentine’s Day to recreate the iconic scene of the two lovers on the platform of the fictional Milford Junction station. We will provide a photographer, as well as requisite props, and the photos will be uploaded to our Facebook page ready for you to tag and share to your heart’s content.

We will also be selling special Valentine’s Day items in our Refreshment Room, so come and enjoy a date with a difference at Didcot!

About the King

Line up with 6023 at Didcot Railway Centre

The Blue King - 6023 “King Edward II” will soon be visiting the Severn Valley Railway and the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway where the loco will hopefully feature in their March and May Galas respectively. We are also in negotiation with the Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company for their hire of 6023 for the summer.

Sadly however, having carried out a thorough review of the current status of the loco, the Great Western Society has decided to postpone its plans to make the loco available for hauling trains on the mainline. This was not an easy decision to make as lot of people have put in many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours work on restoring the loco from its scrapyard condition as well as the considerable financial contribution. We have decided that it would be unwise to proceed any further with our plans to operate 6023 on the mainline for the present, with our preferred option being to operate the loco on heritage railways and thereby gain valuable income towards a speedy boiler overhaul once her ticket has expired.

In making the decision the following had to be taken into consideration;

6023 will be moved by road to the SVR in February for testing of the revised draughting. Assuming the tests are successful she will participate in their March gala and operate some timetabled trains before, subject to agreement, moving to the G/WR for their May gala.

Our aim will be to maintain her in full mainline condition, with all the necessary annual checks, so that should the situation change she could in future operate on the mainline, given the necessary certification.

Little Engineers' Workshops - Levers

Little Engineers Graphic

The next in the series of Little Engineers' Workshops, aimed at children between three and six years old, will be held on Sunday 28 January. This workshop will look into the fascinating subject of levers.

The workshops, held at Didcot Railway Centre in the Science, Learning and Railways carriages are run by Victoria Haval.

This workshop will be on a drop-in basis between 11:30 and 3:30.

The Small Print:

Recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway