Didcot Railway Centre is based around the original Great Western Railway Engine Shed built in 1932, using loans provided by the government to relieve unemployment, to replace an earlier, less commodious facility. Many features of this original depot survive to this day, together with some later additions.
The shed itself is immediately visible once you have entered the Railway Centre.
The shed contains four tracks each providing 200 feet (60m) of covered space. Each track can accommodate three tender engines or around six tank engines.
The most striking features inside the shed are the smoke hoods running above the tracks and designed to carry all the smoke from the locomotives out through the wooden chimneys on the roof. Note that the hoods above one of the tracks were removed by British Rail before the Great Western Society arrived at Didcot.
Operational locomotives not in use on an open day, and those restored for static display can generally be seen in or around the Engine Shed, which you are most welcome to visit.
Behind the Engine Shed is the small Lifting Shop containing a 50t hoist, where, for example, locomotive boilers can be lifted from the frames. Due to the nature of the work being undertaken inside, it is generally not possible to enter the lifting shop for safety reasons.
The boiler of 2999 "Lady of Legend" being lifted during the locomtive's (re)construction
Inside the Locomotive Works
The Locomotive Workshop is not an original Great Western building, but was built by the Great Western Society in 1988.
All our major locomotive restoration is undertaken in the Works and the Lifting Shop.
Access for visitors to the Works is necessarily restricted asheavy engineering work is undertaken here, but you may be able to glimpse inside from the the barrier at the entrance to the building.
In addition to the main buildings of the 1932 Engine Shed, there are other original features to look out for as you walk around the centre, such as the sand drying furnace. There are also other features which were necessarily added by the Great Western Railway at a later date, such as the second world war Air Raid Shelter and the remains of the Ash Shed, used to shield the light from hot ashes being removed from locomotives, from the gaze of passing hostile aircrew.
Much more information about the features of the Centre, the collections, and the activities of the Great Western Society, can be found in the Didcot Railway Centre Guide which can be purchased from the Shop or the Ticket Office.