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British Industrial History

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Didcot Railway Centre

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Didcot Railway Centre, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 7NJ. For more details see their Website.

The Didcot Railway Centre is located in the town of Didcot in Oxfordshire, and is based around the site of an old engine shed which became redundant due to the nationalisation of the UK railways, as well as the gradual switch from steam to diesel power.

The Great Western Society was offered the use of the site and took it over in 1967. The society has a comprehensive collection of Great Western Railway 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-type station named Didcot Halt at one end while at the other end is the transhipment shed dating from Broad Gauge days, when it was used for transferring goods from broad to narrow gauge rolling stock and vice versa; it has been carefully reconstructed from its original site nearby. This is where the Firefly replica, completed in 2005, can be found. The other length of track has a prefabricated 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 station building from Upper Heyford on this platform.

The site retains many original GWR features including the engine shed, turntable pit and coal stage from the 1932 rebuilding. The turntable itself is a Southern Railway item from the 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 and as of 2005 several locomotives such as King Edward II are being restored, in addition to the restoration of rolling stock such as coaches.

The railway centre is accessed through Didcot Parkway railway station, which links the centre by rail to London and much of the south and central England. Wheelchair and pram access is practically non-existent; they have to be carried up a flight of concrete steps. Although this contravenes the Disability Discrimination Act, the Great Western Society are unable to improve it since the site is owned by Network Rail.

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