Didcot Railway Centre is home to the Great Western Society’s unique collection of steam engines, coaches, wagons, buildings, small relics and a re-creation of Brunel’s broad gauge. The site is a former Great Western Railway engine-shed and locomotive stabling point which today has been converted into a comprehensive railway museum and preservation engineering site.
The GWS have developed the site, which still retains many of the original GWR buildings and features, as both a working steam locomotive and railway museum, engineering maintenance centre, and railway line offering short rides to visitors.
Access via Didcot Parkway station brings the visitor into the southern end of the site, at the start of the ramp coal wagons would take up to the coaling stage. Beyond this is the original 1932 four-road engine shed, and beyond this the original repair shed and 1988 constructed locomotive works, both of which have restricted access due to safety concerns. Beyond this lies a Ransomes & Rapier 70 feet (21 m) turntable and pit, originally built for the Southern Railway and istalled at 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. Certain ‘new-build’ projects to create locomotives that did not escape wholesale scrapping are also undertaken at Didcot, such as the completed Firefly locomotive, a ‘Saint’ class (using a ‘Hall’ class chassis and boiler) and a ‘County’ class locomotive (using a ‘Hall’ class chassis and an LMS ‘8F’ class boiler).
There are three short lengths of running track, each with a station at both ends:
Branchline: starts at a typical GWR wayside halt, named Didcot Halt, and runs north on the western edge of the site towards the transshipment shed. Dating from broad gauge days, it was used for transferring goods from broad to “narrow” (i.e. standard) gauge rolling stock and vice-versa. It was moved to its present location carefully from its nearby original site.
Broadgauge Line: the broadgauge line of 7 ft (2,134 mm) starts from the transshipment shed, and runs halfway back down the branchline. The 2005 replica GWR Firefly is housed within the shed when not running
Mainline: starts opposite the site entrance, using a pre-fabricated concrete station platform from Eynsham, and runs on the eastern-edge of the site to a newly built platform at the other. Long-term plans include the reconstruction of the Brunel-designed building from Heyford station on this platform.
Didcot Railway Centre
- Monday Open on selected dates throughout the year, but follows the normal opening times
- Tuesday Open on selected dates throughout the year, but follows the normal opening times
- Wednesday Open on selected dates throughout the year, but follows the normal opening times
- Thursday Open on selected dates throughout the year, but follows the normal opening times
- Friday Open on selected dates throughout the year, but follows the normal opening times
- Saturday We are generally open from 10.30am until 4pm on all Open Days and on Steam Days in the winter, and until 5pm on Steam Days in the summer. Last admission is at 3.30pm on all days.
- Sunday We are generally open from 10.30am until 4pm on all Open Days and on Steam Days in the winter, and until 5pm on Steam Days in the summer. Last admission is at 3.30pm on all days.
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