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Didcot Railway Centre

   
Town/City : Didcot
County : Oxfordshire
Country : England
Post code : OX11 7NJ
Phone : 01235 817200
Web Site :  www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk

180 years after it was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1835, the Great Western remains Britain's best loved railway. It was built on a heroic scale by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, with a broad gauge, beautiful bridges and sumptuous stations. It served some of the most scenic areas of England and Wales and called itself The Holiday Line. It invented the Cornish Riviera as a tourist destination. In the 20th century the GWR's Cheltenham Flyer was the world's fastest train. Its locomotive policy in the first half of the 20th century was an object lesson in the benefits of standardisation and evolutionary design. With the end of steam on the horizon by the 1940s, the GWR had built a fleet of diesel railcars and experimented with gas turbine locomotives.

Today Didcot Railway Centre encapsulates the long history of the GWR. The replica of the 1840 broad gauge locomotive Fire Fly offers an experience of travel at the beginning of the railway era. The collection of more than 20 standard gauge locomotives from the 1890s to the 1940s include many of the standard classes typified by tapered boilers, copper-capped chimneys and Brunswick green paintwork. They are completed by Didcot's preserved fleet of chocolate and cream carriages. On a steamday you are guaranteed a ride in vintage carriages from the 1930s or 1940s.

But Didcot is much more than a train ride. The original engine shed, built 1932, is an exhibition hall which displays locomotives in their authentic surroundings. As the only complete GWR locomotive depot that has survived, Didcot also has a coal stage and turntable in working order. Within the railway centre, buildings have been brought from around the GWR system and re-erected. These included two signal boxes, one of which is regularly opened with staff to explain how semaphore signalling works. There is a picnic area where you can sit and watch the trains go past.

The railway centre also includes a comprehensive museum of small relics and artifacts from the GWR. These include the colourful posters which decorated stations, an amazing variety of silverware, glass and crockery used in restaurant cars in the age of elegant dining, and the everyday items crafted in brass or steel and marked with the magic initials GWR.

An interactive Science, Learning and Railways exhibition in two railway coaches explains the theory of steam locomotion to young and not so young visitors. The original air raid shelter from 1940 has been restored as an experience of that dark era when the railways helped to ensure victory, but emerged so run down that nationalisation was inevitable. In 1948 the GWR became part of British Railways, but the brand is so potent that the privatised train operating company has re-adopted the name Great Western.
Whether you want to be entertained, educated or to admire engineering excellence, a visit to Didcot Railway Centre is a great experience.

As always, it is suggested to check the website www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk for details or updates, or to telephone the centre on 01235 817200

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The entrance to Didcot Railway Centre is at Didcot Parkway railway station on the London to Bristol main line. For information about events, please refer to our website, www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk or telephone 01235 817200.

Didcot Railway Centre Gains TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, Hall of Fame Award

Didcot Railway Centre is delighted to announce that the Centre has been recognised as a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, "Hall of Fame" winner.

The Certificate of Excellence award celebrates all round excellence for a given attraction, and is given only to establishments that consistently achieve great visitor reviews.

The 'Hall of Fame' was created to honour those businesses that have earned a Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years; being created in 2015 for the fifth anniversary of the Certificate of Excellence. It was not offered in 2016 or 2017.

Being awarded the Certificate of Excellence for many years, this induction into the 'Hall of Fame' is a huge source of pride for the entire team at Didcot Railway Centre. We would like to thank all of our past guests who took the time to complete a travel review.

There is no greater seal of approval than being recognised by our visitors. With the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence based on visitor reviews, the accolade is a remarkable vote of confidence to our living history museum, and to our continued commitment to excellence.

Ann Middleton, Commercial Manager, said, 'We are proud and delighted to have qualified for a Certificate of Excellence, Hall of Fame entry, from TripAdvisor. We really value our visitors' opinions of Didcot Railway Centre and are always striving to improve where we can'.

Two Centenarian Locomotives make tracks to Didcot Railway Centre for half-term steam days

31 and 813 03 smallDidcot Railway Centre is hosting two very special visiting locomotives for its Half-Term Steam Days on 26, 27, 30 October, 2 and 3 November. The pair are both over 100 years old and were built by Hudswell Clarke & Co in Leeds, but they have had very different careers.

No 31 was constructed in 1913 for Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons and worked at the company's Hayes depot until the 1960s when it was to have been scrapped but was saved by the late Sir William McAlpine and it has worked on the family's large garden railway at Fawley Hill ever since. This is believed to be the locomotive's first working visit away from Fawley Hill and will provide a rare chance to ride in a passenger carriage behind No. 31 as she spent most of her working life shunting trucks loaded with construction materials, while passengers at Fawley Hill are conveyed in an adapted good wagon. No 31 will be in action at Didcot on 30 October and 2 & 3 November and appears courtesy of Lady McAlpine.

This locomotive can currently be seen making appearances on Channel 5's "Great Model Railway Challenge" programme.

The second visitor is No 813 which was built for the Port Talbot Railway in 1900 and was used on coal trains and to shunt colliery sidings until 1933 when she was sold to Backworth Collieries in Northumberland where she worked until 1966. The Great Western Railway took over the Port Talbot network in 1922 and when overhauled by her new owners, 813 received a characteristic GWR bunker, brass dome and copper capped chimney that partially disguise her industrial roots. 813 will be hauling passenger trains on 26, 27, 30 October, 2 and 3 November.

On 2 and 3 November, 813 will be reacquainted with coal trucks that played an important part in her history as she propels wagons loaded with coal up the steep incline to the Centre's coal stage – the only surviving working example of a type of building that was once commonplace at locomotive sheds. At the coal stage, the solid fuel can be transferred into tubs which then tip to fill the bunker of a locomotive waiting below.

The two centenarians will also be used to work demonstration goods trains on the Centre's two running lines over the course of the weekend and will double-head passenger trains each afternoon – the first time these remarkable survivors have operated together.

Other half-term highlights at the Centre include Apple Day on 27 October when Sustainable Didcot will be in attendance with their apple press, visitors are encouraged to bring their own apples for pressing; and Discovery Days on 28, 29, 31 October and 1 November when, with no trains running, visitors can take the chance to get close to the exhibits including Nos. 31 and 813 on display, the Centre's resident fleet of GWR locomotives housed in the original 1932 engine shed, fascinating artefacts in the museum with special talks on the object of the day, a section of Brunel's broad gauge track with replica locomotives, many restored GWR buildings carriages and wagons plus the interactive Signalling Centre and Science of Railways exhibition for families, the chance to dress up at the Ticket Office and even an original Air Raid Shelter built to protect enginemen in the Second World War!

FESTIVE TREAT AT DIDCOT RAILWAY CENTRE AS THOMAS & FRIENDS™ STEAM IN

Didcot Railway Centre is getting set to welcome some very special visitors to provide a fantastic seasonal treat for families.

Thomas The Tank Engine will be making the journey from the Isle of Sodor for the Festive Days Out With Thomas which will take place at Didcot on weekends from 30 November until 22 December.

Visitors to the Centre during the festive period can ride in a train of vintage carriages pulled by Thomas himself; meet The Fat Controller as he keeps a close eye on proceedings and say hello to Sodor Station Sweepers, Rusty and Dusty!

The Fat Controller will also be signing Junior Engineer Certificates and taking part in re-enactments of classic Thomas stories.

The Centre's second special guest will be Father Christmas himself and one of Didcot's resident steam engines will be in action running trains to take excited boys and girls to meet Father Christmas in his grotto housed in a wonderfully decorated festive station. There is children's entertainment, balloon modellers and a wrapped present for every child!

Advance booking is strongly recommended as these days are extremely popular – please see http://bit.ly/ThomasDidcot for full details and booking. Gates open at 9.30am and the fun continues until 3.30pm - you will need to reserve a time for your train ride to meet Father Christmas, but you can arrive anytime from 9.30am and stay as long as you wish!

Full details of opening times and prices can be found at bit.ly/DRC-Xmas . Entrance is through Didcot Parkway Station and subway.

 10 December Thomas 01 smallDidcot Railway Centre Christmas 06 small copyGrotto cropped

For further details, please refer to www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk or telephone 01235 817200.

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