- Didcot Railway Centre
Railways around DidcotLegend to Paddington Moreton Junction Main to relief line crossovers DN&SR Didcot East Junction Didcot Parkway Didcot Railway Centre Didcot West Junction to Oxford Didcot North Junction Foxhall Junction Didcot Power Station Milton Park to Swindon
Didcot Railway Centre, located in the town of Didcot in the English county of Oxfordshire, is based around the site of a comprehensive "engine shed" which became redundant after the nationalisation of the UK railways, due to the gradual changeover from steam to diesel motive power.
The Great Western Society was offered the use of the Didcot Motive Power Depot site and took it over in 1967. The society has a comprehensive collection of ex Great Western Railway (GWR) locomotives and rolling stock. There are two short lengths of running track, each with a station at both ends.
The shorter of the two lengths – the 'branch line' – has a wayside halt station named Didcot Halt at one end while at the other end is the transshipment shed dating from broad gauge days, when it was used for transferring goods from broad to "narrow" (i.e. standard) gauge rolling stock and vice-versa. It has been carefully moved and reconstructed from its original site nearby. This is where the broad gauge (7 ft 0 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm)) Firefly replica, completed in 2005, can normally be found.
The other length of track has a pre-fabricated concrete station platform (from Eynsham) at one end next to the entrance, and a newly built platform at the other end. Long-term plans include the reconstruction of the Brunel-designed building from Heyford station on this platform.
The site retains many original GWR features including the engine shed, turntable pit and coaling stage from the 1932 rebuilding. The turntable itself is a Southern Railway one which came from Southampton Docks.
The centre regularly holds events such as steam and diesel railcar days. Members of the Great Western Society are active in the preservation of locomotives and rolling stock - as of 2005 several locomotives such as King Edward II are being restored from scrapyard condition. Certain 'new-build' projects to create locomotives that did not escape wholesale scrapping are also undertaken at Didcot, such as the completed Firefly locomotive mentioned above, a 'Saint' class locomotive (using a 'Hall' class chassis and boiler), a 'County' class locomotive (using a 'Hall' class chassis and an LMS '8F' class boiler), and a steam railmotor (using an autocoach that was rebuilt from a railmotor in the 1930s).
The railway centre is accessed from a subway at Didcot Parkway railway station, which links the centre by rail to London and much of southern and central England. Wheelchair and pram access is practically nonexistent; they have to be carried up a flight of concrete steps. Although this contravenes the Disability Discrimination Act, the Great Western Society is unable to improve it since the site is owned by Network Rail.
History and future of the site
After being given use of the site from 1967 onwards, the Great Western Society (GWS) negotiated a long-term lease from the early 1970s which will expire in 2019. However, the present lease is subject to a six-month termination clause which could force the GWS to quit the site, and which can be operated at any point in time by Network Rail (NR).
In an attempt to secure a long-term future for the society, in 2002 the GWS opened negotiations with NR to either purchase the site or extend the lease. In a letter dated May 2007, NR informed the GWS that they were prepared to sell the site subject to Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) approval. It had been thought the site could be subject to need as a depot, either due to the rebuilding of Reading station; a Crossrail project depot; or the Intercity Express Programme. After expressing some concern at the slow speed of negotiations at the GWS annual meeting in September 2008, NR wrote to the GWS to advise that the site was no longer available for sale, and although a lease extension was still on offer it was still subject to the previous six-month termination clause. The GWS have written to their local MP Ed Vaizey, and placed any long term development plans on hold.
- Operational steam locomotives
- GWR 4300 Class 5322 2-6-0. In service at Didcot, boiler ticket expires in 2018.
- GWR 5700 Class 3738 0-6-0PT. In regular service at Didcot, boiler ticket expires in 2017.
- GWR 5700 Class 3650 0-6-0PT. In service at Didcot, boiler ticket expires in 2018.
- GWR 6000 Class 6023 King Edward II. Recently returned to steam for the first time in preservation, boiler ticket expires in 2020.
- GWR Firefly Class "Firefly". Early Broad Gauge 2-2-2. Built in 2005.
- Steam locomotives under overhaul
- GWR 4073 Class 4079 Pendennis Castle - undergoing overhaul
- GWR 7200 Class 7202 2-8-2T - undergoing restoration
- GWR 1361 Class 1363 0-6-0ST – dismantled, awaiting work to start
- GWR 5101 Class 4144 2-6-2T – boiler lifted, work to be done over the winter
- Steam locomotives under construction
- Steam locomotives on static display
The following locomotives have all been restored to working order since withdrawal from British Railways but their boiler certificates have expired, hence they cannot be steamed until they have each undergone a major overhaul.
- GWR 2884 Class 3822 2-8-0. Out of action due to tube problems. Boiler ticket meant to expire in 2012. This locomotive is famous for appearing in the Queen music video Breakthru
- GWR 4073 Class 5051 Earl Bathurst
- GWR 6959 Class 6998 Burton Agnes Hall
- GWR 4900 Class 5900 Hinderton Hall
- GWR 7800 Class 7808 Cookham Manor
- GWR 5600 Class 6697 0-6-2T
- GWR 6100 Class 6106 2-6-2T
- GWR 4575 Class 5572 2-6-2T
- GWR 1400 Class 1466 0-4-2T
Gas turbine locomotive
- Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns 0-4-0ST No. 1 Bonnie Prince Charlie. Awaiting overhaul, painted in lined light green livery.
- Kitson & Co. 0-4-0ST No. 1338. Currently out of service awaiting an overhaul. Accurately painted in GWR green livery, since the locomotive was owned by the GWR during operational service.
- George England 0-4-0WT No. 5 Shannon. Awaiting repairs to its boiler and a cracked firebox.
- GWR No. 1340 Trojan. Avonside 0-4-0ST Operational and used on Autocar trains. Accurately painted in GWR green livery, since the locomotive was owned by the GWR during operational service.
- ^ Latest news – Didcot Railway Centre
- ^ Fire Fly – 2-2-2. Didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk (2010-11-27). Retrieved on 2011-03-02.
- ^ http://www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/news/latest.html#news01
- ^ No. 1 – Bonnie Prince Charlie. Didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk (2007-12-25). Retrieved on 2011-03-02.
- ^ 1338 – 0-4-0ST. Didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk (2010-11-01). Retrieved on 2011-03-02.
- ^ No.5 – Shannon/Jane. Didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk (2010-07-11). Retrieved on 2011-03-02.
- ^ 1340 – Trojan. Didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk (2007-10-07). Retrieved on 2011-03-02.
- Didcot Railway Centre website
- Listed building information from Images of England
- Map sources for Didcot Railway Centre
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