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

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Page last updated:
04-Dec-2017
Loco Cleaning
 
Carriage and Wagon Work
 
Painting
 
Fitting the oil pipes in 
the crankcase of Diesel Railcar No. 22
 
My Turn to Drive
 
Gardening

Latest News

Thomas is Here and Keen to Take his Friends to see Father Christmas

Thomas and the Fat Controller

This weekend marks the first of our ‘Day Out With Thomas and meet Father Christmas’ events of 2017.

The staff and volunteers at the Railway Centre have been working hard this week to make sure everything is prepared for these fun family weekends.

A Limited number of tickets will be available on the gate for the afternoon slots on 2 & 3 December, but space is limited so we recommend arriving early.

Tickets remain on sale for 9/10, 16/17 and 22/23 December and you can book in advance online.

Didcot on TV

Tornado at Old Oak Common Depot

In a new two-part documentary, partly filmed at Didcot Railway Centre, Rob Bell tells the story of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, exploring his complex personality as well as his prolific achievements.

In the first episode on Friday 8 December at 8pm on Channel 5, Rob examines Brunel's first major project, the Thames Tunnel, before he went on to secure the post of official engineer to the proposed Great Western Railway.

A Visit from Tornado

Tornado at Old Oak Common Depot

New Peppercorn ‘A1’ steam locomotive No. 60163 ‘Tornado’, will be visiting Didcot Railway Centre from 16 October to 25 November to allow her owners to undertake some routine maintenance work. She will be leaving Didcot at about 6am on Saturday 25 November prior to hauling a railtour from Euston to Chester that day.

During her visit the locomotive will normally be on view to our visitors at our weekend and half-term week (21 - 29 October) openings and will be in steam and hauling passenger trains on Saturday 28 October.

Little Engineers' Workshops - Signals

Little Engineers

On Sunday 19 November Didcot Railway Centre will be running a Little Engineers' Workshop, for children aged 3-6 years. The event is entitled 'Signals'. The workshops will be held at 11:20am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm and 2:30pm in the Science, Learning and Railways carriages, and in between the workshops there will be guided tours of the signalling infrastructure for participants.

The Small Print:

An Exciting Week Ahead as Didcot Railway Centre goes LNER

Flying Scotsman on the turntable at Didcot
Flying Scotsman on the turntable during its last visit to
Didcot Railway Centre

From Friday 25 to Wednesday 30 August we will be featuring two world famous locomotives - 60103 ‘Flying Scotsman’, and Gresley A4 class Pacific 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’, a sister locomotive to ‘Mallard’, the fastest ever steam locomotive - together with some GWR locomotives of course!

On Friday 25 August, the Centre is closed to the public, in order to have a press and VIP day for world famous locomotive 60103 ‘Flying Scotsman’, and to prepare for the three days of the August Bank Holiday, when ‘Flying Scotsman’ will be in action on the main demonstration line. Along with GWR 0-6-0 saddletank 813, which will be working on the branch line at the Centre.

Also appearing, on Sunday and Monday only, will be Gresley A4 class Pacific 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’, a sister locomotive to ‘Mallard’, the fastest ever steam locomotive.

Tuesday 29 August is a ‘static’ day, with no trains running, but, there will be a rare opportunity to see and photograph the two Gresley main line express locomotives side by side, in front of the locomotive shed. Possibly a third main line express locomotive might be included, in the shape of GWR King class 4-6-0 6023 ‘King Edward II’. ‘Union of South Africa’ is soon due to retire permanently to a museum in Scotland, so this will almost certainly be the last chance to see her together with ‘Flying Scotsman’ in the authentic setting of a steam engine shed.

On Wednesday 30 August, 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’, will be hauling trains on the main demonstration line, while 813 continues to work on the branch line.

Although Thursday 31 August is nominally a static day, there will be a train running, though not for passenger rides! On this day only, ‘Union of South Africa’ is being used for driving experiences - a very rare opportunity to drive a Gresley A4 class Pacific main line certified express locomotive. For more details, please telephone the Centre on 01235 817200.

National Lottery support for Rails on the Western Front event to mark First World War Centenary

Lottery Funded

Didcot Railway Centre has received £8700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a project (Rails on the Western Front).

Made possible by National Lottery players through HLF’s First World War Then and Now programme, the event will focus on commemorating the 100th anniversary of 5322, a steam engine built in 1917 which worked on the Western Front between 1917-19. The event takes place at the Centre on Saturday/Sunday 19/20 August.

Re-enactment events will be used to bring to life 5322’s time in France, and to illustrate her role, and that of railways in WWI transportation.

The aim is to provide an experience people can relate to, and to encourage visitors, volunteers and the local community to find out about the impact of the war on their families.

The focal point will be the recreation of a French station using the centre’s original 1860’s wooden train-shed, populated by members of the Great War Society and featuring a recreated ambulance train, Outside in the station yard will be a recreation of a casualty clearing station, demonstrating the link between frontline activity and the railway. A further military camp display will demonstrate the many and various skills which a soldier would have had to acquire to enable him to do his job, as well as the realities of everyday life.

Visitors can follow a ‘WWI Trail’ of the WWI-related exhibits in the Society’s collection, along with their history, such as the real-life story of three nurses who served in the Centre’s currently unrestored WWI ambulance coach.

A permanent display will have a section where visitors can add their own memories and oral testimony about their family’s experience and connection with the War.

Volunteers will have been trained up to evaluate the event on the day and these skills will be used again to evaluate and survey visitors to the permanent WWI exhibition and other displays on site. Our volunteers will gather the information recorded and an on-line interactive archive will be created where everyone can access and contribute information. The archive will allow the public to discuss, contribute, share and research information about the railway’s war efforts.

Commenting on the award, Ann Middleton said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the National Lottery for this prestigious project. It will greatly help in the creation of this important project

‘Union of South Africa’ to join ‘Flying Scotsman’ at Didcot Railway Centre

Union of South Africa

A second Gresley locomotive will be joining arguably the most famous locomotive in the world, Gresley class A3 Pacific 60103 ‘Flying Scotsman’, on Sunday/Monday 27/28 August. That locomotive is Gresley class A4 Pacific, 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’, a sister locomotive to ‘Mallard’, the fastest ever steam locomotive.

On 27/28 ‘Union of South Africa’ will be on display at the railway centre but not working.
However, on Wednesday 30 August, she should be working on our main demonstration line.

The appearance of ‘Flying Scotsman’ will provide people in Didcot and surrounding areas, a chance to enjoy this renowned locomotive, for the first time since 2005, when the locomotive last visited the centre, just before being taken out of service.

Railway Centre Manager, Roger Orchard said: “We are delighted to have been chosen by the National Railway Museum to show off their most famous locomotive in our living steam railway museum. Passengers will be able to ride behind Flying Scotsman in beautifully restored carriages from the 1930s and there will be frequent trips to watch and photograph the train as it goes by. We are also working with our neighbours in the community to ensure they are able to share in this experience, and will be working to support local businesses. We look forward to welcoming Flying Scotsman to Didcot again and to further visits in the future.

Ann Middleton, commercial manager, added, “It is many years since Union of South Africa visited Didcot Railway Centre. To have two Gresley locomotives together, particularly these two locomotives, is quite a coup.

Jim Lowe, Head of Operations at the National Railway Museum, said: “Following the successful restoration of the Flying Scotsman, we’re delighted to be able to give as many people as possible the opportunity to see this magnificent locomotive in person. Embarking on a national tour, we’re visiting Wales, the South and South West of England and will be returning to Didcot over the August Bank Holiday weekend for the first time since the engine was restored. We’re excited to be back and expect the crowds to be out in force once again.

Interest in Flying Scotsman will be extremely high. Those wishing to view it are urged to do so from a safe vantage point. It is vital that spectators do not venture onto the railway, particularly when it is on the mainline.

A further attraction will be the visit of another guest locomotive: 813, a Great Western Railway 0-6-0 saddletank, which will be in action on all three days, on the branch line. There will also be a barbecue, our renowned 'Black Python' real ale bar, flypasts on each day by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, musical entertainment and all our usual visitor amenities and attractions.

The Railway Children

Play park

On Tuesday & Wednesday 8/9 August, the Yvonne Arnaud Youth Theatre will perform ‘The Railway Children’ at Didcot Railway Centre.

They'll be performing twice a day on both days and as Wednesday is also a running day, they'll have a live steam train running past as they perform!

This is a brand new musical adaptation of E Nesbit's classic tale of adventure, discovery and friendship and, with the atmospheric backdrop of Didcot Railway Centre, this promises to be a fabulous experience for the whole family.

Where shall we go? To the railway!

Roberta, Peter and Phyllis have their lives turned upside down when their father mysteriously has to go away with two strangers in the night. They have to move from their comfortable London home to go and live in a simple country cottage, where Mother writes books to make ends meet.

They soon come to love the railway that runs near their cottage and they make a habit of waving to the Old Gentleman who rides on it. The railway becomes the centre of their new life, but little do they know what wonders and changes it will bring to them – maybe even the answer to Father’s disappearance…

New Playpark Official Opening

Play park

Our new railway themed playpark is to be formally opened by former Didcot Mayor, Scott Wilgrove on Sunday 9 July at 12 noon.

As Mayor of Didcot (2014-2015), Scott had to nominate a Charity for the year. He chose Didcot Railway Centre, and decided that a much desired railway themed playpark would be appropriate.

The funding for the playpark has come from Scott’s Mayoral fund raising, and a community grant from Magnox Ltd, the nuclear decommissioning site license company, one of whose centres, is at nearby Harwell.

Ann Middleton, Commercial Manager, said, ‘We welcome this wonderful addition to our picnic area, which provides more for families to do, and which helps to make the Centre more family friendly.

Join our Front of House Team

We are currently looking for someone to join our small front of house team at Didcot Railway Centre to staff the Ticket Office, Enquiry Office, Science Learning & Railways Exhibition, Museum, and Office.

Your role would be to help us improve our customer service and ensure our visitors receive a warm welcome. You would be required to sell tickets and guide books, answer the telephone, help visitors with enquiries, help visitors understand Didcot Railway Centre’s collections, explain the museum displays, lead guided tours and give general information to visitors, dealing with them clearly and courteously, recognising and valuing diversity when dealing with other people.

Supporting duties include administration and IT use, including using the internet, social media and Excel.

You will report to and will be supported by the Front of House Manager, a small dedicated team and a group of enthusiastic volunteers.

Didcot Railway Centre is open every weekend and daily in holiday periods so weekend and Bank Holiday working will be required as well as weekday office cover.

To apply please e-mail the Application Form (36kb .doc document) to the Front of House Manager

Didcot Railway Centre Awarded TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2017

Didcot Railway Centre has been awarded a Certificate of Excellence for 2017, the third successive year, the award has been given to the Centre. The prestigious Certificate of Excellence designation recognises establishments that consistently earn great TripAdvisor reviews from travellers. The Certificate of Excellence accounts for the quality, quantity and recency of reviews submitted by travellers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.

Ann Middleton, Commercial Manager of the Centre said “I am delighted that Didcot Railway Centre (DRC) has again been awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the year. It is very gratifying for the many volunteers involved here, and shows that their continued hard work has been worth it.

Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society, which runs Didcot Railway Centre said “It is great news that Didcot Railway Centre has again been awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. Heritage railways and living history museums are an important part of explaining our heritage to current and future generations of enthusiasts. Being given this award again reflects a high degree of professionalism within an organisation. It is a real achievement that shows how Didcot Railway Centre has developed into the successful visitor attraction it is today.

Queen’s Award For Voluntary Service Given To Didcot Railway Centre

The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

The Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre is proud to announce that they have been granted the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is in recognition of the voluntary work that has taken place at Didcot Railway Centre for over 50 years, and could be deemed particularly apt in this, their 50th anniversary year.

The wide ranging skills of the volunteers, past and present, can be seen in how the Centre has developed, from a railway depot, into a globally recognised centre of excellence in railway preservation. The work includes the restoration of steam locomotives, historic carriages and wagons, and buildings sourced from many outposts of the original Great Western Railway. The Centre now has an unmatched collection of locomotives, rolling stock, and small and large artefacts of railwayana from a single railway company.

Centre manager, Roger Orchard said, “We feel hugely honoured to have been given this award, especially in our 50th anniversary year. We hope this award will stimulate more volunteers to come to the Centre and see the many different volunteering roles we are able to offer people of all ages and abilities.”

You can find out more about the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service on the www.gov.uk website.

When is a Shed Notashed?

Steam Railmotor No.93 at the Transfer Shed

The company that produced ‘Trainspotting Live’ from Didcot last year were so impressed with our Transfer Shed that they have nominated it for the Shed of the Year award.

Didcot Railway Centre Transfer Shed has been nominated in the ‘notashed’ category for Channel 4's program ‘Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year’. However to win this unusual accolade we need your votes!

So please click to register your vote and who knows we may achieve world wide fame for this award! The competition is sponsored by Cuprinol - we may even get some to splash on the Shed itself.

Transfer sheds date back to Brunel's broad gauge railway, when it was necessary to manually transfer goods from trains of one gauge to trains of another.

The shed has a central platform, with a standard gauge line on one side and a broad gauge one on the other, to make this transfer as easy as possible. The Transfer Shed at Didcot was moved from what is now the station car park to form the northern terminus of the Branch Line.

National Railway Museum’s Flying Scotsman to visit Didcot Railway Centre

Flying Scotsman at the NRM

Didcot Railway Centre is pleased to announce the visit of the famous locomotive, 60103 ‘Flying Scotsman’.

Considered by many to be the most famous locomotive in the world, it will be at Didcot Railway Centre during the three days of the August bank holiday (26/27/28 August).

The appearance of ‘Flying Scotsman’ will provide people in Didcot and surrounding areas, a chance to enjoy this renowned locomotive, for the first time since 2005, when the locomotive last visited the centre, just before being taken out of service. Admission will be by ticket only, bought in advance via this website. There will be no walk in/pay at the gate admissions.

Flying Scotsman on the turntable at Didcot
Flying Scotsman on the turntable during its last visit to
Didcot Railway Centre

Railway Centre Manager, Roger Orchard said: “We are delighted to have been chosen by the National Railway Museum to show off their most famous locomotive in our living steam railway museum. Passengers will be able to ride behind ‘Flying Scotsman’ in beautifully restored carriages from the 1930s and there will be frequent trips to watch and photograph the train as it goes by. We are also working with our neighbours in the community to ensure they are able to share in this experience, and will be working to support local businesses. We look forward to welcoming ‘Flying Scotsman’ to Didcot again and to further visits in the future.”

Jim Lowe, Head of Operations at the National Railway Museum, said: “Following the successful restoration of the ‘Flying Scotsman’, we’re delighted to be able to give as many people as possible the opportunity to see this magnificent locomotive in person. Embarking on a national tour, we’re visiting Wales, the South and South West of England and will be returning to Didcot over the August Bank Holiday weekend for the first time since the engine was restored. We’re excited to be back and expect the crowds to be out in force once again.”

Interest in ‘Flying Scotsman’ will be extremely high and those wishing to view it are urged to do so from a safe vantage point. Spectators must not venture onto the railway under any circumstances.

Tickets for 'Flying Scotsman' at Didcot Railway Centre over August Bank Holiday weekend will be available soon. If you'd like to be among the first to be notified of tickets being available, please subscribe to our newsletter, or register with Ticketmaster.

Tickets MUST be purchased in advance for this event. No tickets will be available for purchase on the day.

Tim Dunn to Open New ‘Action Stations’ Exhibition - Saturday 11 February

Action Stations

Over the years, Didcot Railway Centre has been used more than 100 times for main stream films, documentaries, commercial advertising or music videos. With that thought in mind, the Centre management has long pondered how best to showcase some of the ways Didcot has been so featured.

In 2016, the Centre was offered the sponsored help of Reading University intern student, Marylyn Molisso., and the decision was made to let Marylyn develop the theme accordingly, once the working title of ‘Action Stations’ was chosen.

Marylyn then spent 10 weeks, working on Action Stations, the second week of which, coincided with the BBC’s three live transmissions of ‘Trainspotting Live’; one of the 10 chosen Action Station banners. During the 10 weeks, Marylyn researched through the many films and productions made at the Centre, before narrowing the choice down to the 10 most interesting or relevant productions.

The 10 Action Stations banners were jointly sponsored by donations from Didcot Rotary Club, Didcot Chamber of Commerce members, and from the Flourish Project.

Action Stations is a series of 10 pop-up banners that will be placed around the Centre to show how (and where) the Centre has been used in film and television productions, including Trainspotting Live. It is hoped it will help broaden the Centre’s appeal to a wider audience. Ann Middleton, Commercial Manager, said, “Film tourism is an exciting new development for us. We are delighted to launch Action Stations to show how Didcot Railway Centre has featured in film and television over the years.

The new exhibition is to be officially opened on Saturday 11 February, at around 11:30, by Tim Dunn, one of the four presenters of Trainspotting Live. Marylyn will also be present for the occasion.

Volunteer Reunion - Saturday 29 April

As part of the Society celebrating 50 years at Didcot there will be an informal volunteers reunion on Saturday 29 April 2017 for all volunteers past and present. At the moment it is planned to have a BBQ and the bar open as a focal point for people to meet up with others, chat or just use as a base to visit parts of the site that are new, have changed or just you haven't been to for a while. If you know of volunteers that please feel free to pass details of the reunion on to them. If you wish to bring pictures from the past feel free as I am sure there will be many memories for people in those pictures, we will provide a board where you can leave copies if you wish.

Free Entry Weekends in January 2017

Free Admission


On the remaining weekends until the end of January we are offering free entry to Didcot Railway Centre. The gates will be open from 10.30 am until 3.30 pm. We will welcome a donation if you wish to leave one, and our shop and refreshment room will be open as normal.

Please be aware that the Great Western Trust Museum is closed for refurbishment at present and will re-open on 11 February, which will also be the next day on which passenger trains are in operation.

The Great Western Railway’s history is encapsulated in Didcot Railway Centre’s unique collection of buildings, engines, carriages, wagons and other artefacts displayed in over 20 acres alongside Didcot Parkway Station. From Brunel’s Broad Gauge to the modern trains running past, the Centre is home to over 180 years of railway and social history.

Little Engineers' Workshops - Coal

Little Engineers

On Sunday 22 January Didcot Railway Centre will be running a Little Engineers' Pre-School Workshop, for children aged 3-6 years. The event is entitled 'Coal'. The workshops will be held at 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm and 2:30pm in the Science, Learning and Railways carriages, and in between the workshops there will be visits to the Coal Stage for participants.

The Small Print:

Great Western Society member awarded BEM

Viv Cooper

Our warmest congratulations go to Viv Cooper who has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year's Honours List.

The Official Listing reads ‘Vivien Alma, Mrs COOPER - Volunteer, Great Western Society, at Didcot Railway Centre. For services to Railway Heritage. (Maidenhead, Berkshire)’

Joining the Great Western Society in her teens, 53 years ago, Viv quickly became involved with administration, which has continued to the present day. The first locomotives and coaches purchased, or cared for on behalf of fellow members, were based at Totnes in Devon. Here Viv would also help with cleaning the locomotives as well as promoting the Society at open days, on sales stands and in other forms of publicity.

Once the Society moved to the Didcot Railway Centre, which is now its home, Viv, for some years, took on the duties of liaising with British Railways for open days and filmings plus arranging VIP entertaining. For many years her home telephone number was the Society's main point of contact.  Viv has covered most aspects of administration in the Society, including forty years of producing newsletters for members and latterly transferring them to digital format. Currently company secretary for the Society's rolling stock holding company, Viv is now gathering together the Great Western Society's own history. She has always felt part of a team to make the Great Western Society and Didcot Railway Centre successful and accepted the BEM on behalf of all the volunteers.

Married with three daughters and four grandchildren, Viv lives in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

The main photograph shows Viv in May 1964 with No 1466, just a couple of months after the Great Western Society had purchased its first locomotive, and apparently before health and safety had been dreamed of - The inset shows Viv on the same locomotive in less perilous pose in January 2017.

Mike Peart, one of original four 'schoolboys' founders of the Great Western Society adds his congratulations “Volunteering is obviously the secret of eternal youth! Well done Viv”.

 

Recreating the golden age of the Great Western Railway