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Latest News

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 Friday 25 May 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