2009-06-06 Didcot

During our roundtrip through the UK on our 2009 holiday I payed a visit to the ex-GWR Works at Swindon. This visit lasted only the morning and driving back to the camping I still half a day left. A quick glance in "Railways Restored 2009", the UK preserved railways bible, revealed that I was to pass Didcot Railway Center. I couldn't resist...

Since Didcot Railway Center is dedicated to maintain and expand a "unique collection of Great Western Railway steam engines, coaches, wagons, buildings and small relics" this visit proved to be such a valuable addition to my Swindon visit that it made the day.
DSC02146 Didcot map  Didcot Railway Centre is based around an original Great Western Railway Engine Shed built in 1932. Many features of this original depot survive to this day, together with some later additions. DSC02148  Unfortunately it had started raining on the way to Didcot, so the quality of the photos in this essay is not very convincing. Nevertheless I had a great time. DSC02149  On the way from the entrance to the engine shed I passed a collection of wagons of true English character.   Small to European (continental) standards it may appear negligibly tiny to our fellow American railroadfans.
DSC02150  Yet through the modeler's eye this is a gem DSC02151  Almost a century old DSC02152b DSC02153  ... medium ...
DSC02154b DSC02155  The Railway Center is based around the  shed in the background but the stretch of land it is on is big enough to perform shunting operations and to maintain two, albeit extremely short, passenger services. This pannier tank was kidding around with various loads DSC02156  O yes, invasion of Normandy. DSC02158
DSC02161  A view to the outside world from within the shed DSC02159  The shed provided the much needed shelter against the rain, which was not driving very hard but nevertheless persistant. DSC02163  4144 was built at Swindon in September 1949 and withdrawn in March 1965, being sent to Woodham Bros. of Barry for cutting up. It survived there until it was bought in 1974. Its rebuild was completed in 1997. Its current status is "static display" DSC02166
DSC02167  4-6-0 "Cookham Manor" No 7808. Built: 1938. DSC02168 DSC02174b DSC02175  During the Great War, 5322 was one of twenty GWR 2-6-0s built in Swindon in 1917 and sent when new to France. This was in response to a call from the army in the summer of 1917 for the British railways to supply locomotives to help with transporting supplies from the Channel ports to the front line. The saying "Old Soldiers never die" was never truer than with this engine. Demobbed in 1919 at Chester, it was withdrawn from Pontypool Road depot in April 1964. Miraculously this gem was saved from scrap in 1969 and restored to working order. In 1975  she was stopped for various reasons. Since the the early 90s various bits have been overhauled, the cab was completely refurbished, the wheels and motion have been tended to, the boiler has been removed and the tender stripped down. Slowly the engine was returned to its 1919 appearance until she was finally ready to return to traffic in November 2008.
DSC02178  The oldest horse of the stable: 1857. No 5, "Shannon". It spent most of its working life (1878-1946) on the Wantage Tramway Company. On static display since 1975 DSC02188  Cute is the word DSC02182  Construction of the "Halls" began in 1928. Construction of 80 'Hall' class engines was initially authorised. After February 1943. No 6959 onwards were produced to a redesign. A total of 330 'Hall' class engines were built, right up to 1950.  5900, 'Hinderton Hall' was built at Swindon in 1931. It spent much of its life in the West Country, being one of several which received boiler improvments before withdrawal, from Bristol in 1963. It was rescued and brought to Didcot in June 1971, fully restored by 1976, and saw considerable service again. It is now on static display, and no doubt will steam again after it has reached the head of the overhaul queue. DSC02183
DSC02184 DSC02187  The rain outside was persistant DSC02189  When I was watching this 7202, a 1943 "stretched" version of  no 5277, in the lifting shop... DSC02192  ... a class 08 diesel shunted in the meager remains of a Castle class under restoration.  The Kings were the most powerful locomotives on the Great Western Railway. 6023 “King Edward II” emerged from Swindon Works in June 1930. It was withdrawn in 1962 and made it into preservation, as so many others, via Barry scrapyard. The locomotive has already had its single chimney design restored and is well on its way to return to working order with only work on the boiler to be undertaken. The Didcot internet site proudly announces it to be "anticipated that the locomotive might steam for the first time in preservation in 2008".  Well gentlemen, it is 2009 by now.
DSC02198  Unbelievable that this is a sister engine from Caerphilly Castle I saw this morning at STEAM, but it is discernable from it is beautfully crafted driver rods and slide bars DSC02206-08  The "skeleton" of the 6023 was shunted next to its tender (right) DSC02210  I am not expert but I guess this tender needs some attention. What can be seen here is the coupling between loco and tender. The middle hook is used to take up the main force between loco and tender, the left and the right are spares in case of breakage of the main hook. The connection is put under strain by very strong springs to keep loco and tender tightly together to transfer the loco's power to through the tender to the train. The elliptic holes allow the hook to give way in curves. DSC02211  A saddle tank loco. The saddle tank had two distinct advantages: it could easily contain more water than a conventional rectangular tank and the heat of the boiler more or less preheated the water.1363 is the oldest genuine Great Western engine at Didcot. Its class was designed for hauling heavy loads around exceptionally tight curves.
DSC02212  45XX class were similar to 44XX but with larger driving wheels for extra speed. They were successful in service, being capable of 60 miles per hour. From 4575, they were fitted with larger, sloping-top tanks for increased range. A total of 175 were built. 5572 was built at Swindon in February 1929 and withdrawn by BR in April 1962 DSC02213  These engines pioneered the 2-8-0's in Britain. They were immediately successful and set the standard for the majority of heavy goods locomotives until the end of steam. Never glamorous but very reliable and powerful, they were used throughout the GWR system. By 1919, when production temporarily stopped, 84 had been built. After 1938, when the design was slightly modified by Collett a further 83 were constructed, to finally complete the class by 1942. 3822 was outshopped at Swindon on 25th April 1940 and was re-launched into traffic on the 16th March 2002. DSC02214  One of a class of only two engines, unusually employing Kitson-Hawthorn valve gear with the link and valve above the running plate, built for the Cardiff Railway in 1898. DSC02215  5322 doing its shunting job in the yard
DSC02219  Boys' toys DSC02222  Two train services were in operation. Both operated between two stub stations. This is an autotrain: a consist of a locomotive and a coach. The coach is fitted with a cab at one end which enabled the driver to operate the loco from the other end of the train, eliminating the need of turning or running round at each terminus. DSC02234  ...much like this DSC02225  The interior of the coach
DSC02226  The driver's compartment DSC02227 DSC02230 DSC02233
DSC02236 DSC02253 DSC02245 DSC02246
DSC02239 DSC02247 DSC02240 DSC02241
DSC02243  Originally buffers were made of leather filled with horse hair. The world was still simple then... DSC02244  View into the inside motion of the loco DSC02248  The simplest of controls DSC02238  The mesmerising play of dual gauge rails
DSC02252  Symphony in brown. There is no other colour than brown in this photo, yet there are no two colours alike. Note the GWR logo in the bench. DSC02256  Another "pannier" was hauling this service DSC02257  The stylish interior of its stock DSC02269  Driving past the "Earl Bathurst", no 5051, shrouded in steam
DSC02270  Arriving DSC02271 DSC02281  Meanwhile no 5322 was still shunting DSC02289  View towards the engine shed
DSC02295  Later no 5322 went back into the shed, resulting in this powerful photo DSC02297 DSC02299 DSC02303  In the coach repair shop
DSC02305 DSC02306  The transfer table DSC02309  Which has its own "locomotive" DSC02310  The turntable
DSC02312 DSC02313  Cute DSC02314  Well, the visit to Didcot made the day, despite the rain. I had a wonderful time. If you're anywhere near Didcot on a running day: be there!!