Monthly Archives: October 2014

Swindon Panel Saturday 25 October

Another successful day at Didcot Railway Centre today.

The blinding concrete has started to be laid around the foundation trenches of the building.

Coal for the loco department at DRC is delivered to the site by rail (not from the colliery, unfortunately, only from Didcot West Yard, where it arrives by road. There being no road access to the Railway Centre, all the supplies and large deliveries to the site make the last part of their journeys by rail, through Didcot station and into the steam centre.

The coal trucks are then shunted up the ramp to the coal stage, where the coal is then hand-shovelled into little barrow trucks to be tipped into locomotive tenders. Normally the coal lives in the trucks until it is used. However…. Didcot Railway Centre only has a small number of main line registered wagons that can be used for the movement of goods to and from the West Yard… such as building materials! So, in order to make use of the coal wagons, we needed to empty them of coal and pile it all in the coal stage ready for use from there.

A group of very hard-working volunteers set about this, and completely emptied about one and two-thirds wagons full of coal. That’s a lot of coal!

Elsewhere on the site another sub group continued the work of removing chairs from sleepers that was started last time. The sleepers will be used for shuttering around the concrete foundations.

A number of us will not be at the next Swindon Panel Saturday (8th November) as that is the day of our York NRM visit. However, if you’re not joining us in York, you are very welcome to join the civil engineering group at DRC for continued work towards the construction of the building.

More info on Swindon Panel Days at Didcot Railway Centre.

Building Progress – Foundations

The Building Inspector approved the ground works for the new building last Thursday so the placing of type 1 began on Tuesday this week which is what we shall continue with on Sunday. We also hope that we will start to prepare the shuttering for the concrete.

Half of the bricks are now on site. The second half, and the steel for the foundation, are planned for delivery to the GWS (by rail!) on Friday.

Swindon Panel Sunday is this weekend, so why not come down and see the progress for yourself? Or better still, join in and lend a hand, it’s jolly good fun!

Upcoming Swindon Panel Days are:

This weekend – Sunday 12 October
Saturday 25 October
Saturday 8 & Sunday 23 November
Saturday 6 & Sunday 21 December

(Corrected dates)

More details of Swindon Panel days is available here.


The nearly-finished digging-out of the foundations. [Richard Antliff]

On each of the four weekends leading up to Christmas Didcot Railway Centre runs Santa events at which children can visit Father Christmas. These events generate a substantial income for the GWS and help sustain them through the rest of the year. This is therefore a great fun opportunity for us to help support the Railway Centre at a critical time. Partners of members are also very welcome to help out.

The Santa events run on every weekend day from 29 November to 21 December, and you are very welcome to join in and help on any of them that you wish!
Nov: 29,30 Dec: 6, 7, 13,14, 20, 21

What’s involved?

There are many things you can do to help.
- be on hand to guide visitors into and through the main line station and then into the Transfer Shed (aka Santa’s Grotto!)
- help manage passengers joining the Thomas train so as to avoid queuing problems
- act as Father Christmas’s helpers within the Grotto
- put up decorations before the event
- generally make visitors feel looked-after

I’m interested! What do I do next?
Please contact us with your preferred dates so that we can advise the Railway Centre.

Swindon Panel Sunday – Building Progress

Thank you to everyone who came to Swindon Panel Sunday last weekend.

We have been digging out the ground ready for the foundations of the new building.

The ground has been dug out to a depth of about 2’6″, with trenches a further 12″ being dug where the supporting foundations and walls will go. These inner trenches have to be measured out and have a 45-degree angle side, ready to accept the first layers of foundation material. Everything has to be whackered down to ensure it doesn’t settle unevenly later.

The trenches were dug and profiled on the front and sides of the building during the day. The back wall trench has not been done so as to enable the mini-digger to track down into the trench to dig two remaining internal trenches that form a ‘+’ through the building.

The day was hard work but enormous fun. The weather was fine – not too hot or too cold – and the atmosphere was excellent! Everyone was very happy to making tangible visible progress on the building after a year or so of planning and design-perfecting.

The building construction is being managed by the Great Western Society’s Richard Antliff. Richard has been involved in a great many buildings and civils projects at the Railway Centre, and has the privilege of being the ‘most experienced person alive in the laying of baulk road’ – referring to the Great Western Society’s unique broad gauge demonstration track on which Fire Fly and Iron Duke have run for a good number of years. Richard has done excellent work on the design, drawing, consultation, planning permission, and much more in relation to this building, long before the first spade went into the ground.

We really are reaping the benefits of our wonderful host site at Didcot, with electricity, water, hot food, toilets all available and wonderful railway ambience in abundence – we are certainly very lucky among preservation organisations to have these facilities available from the very start.

We were visited by Ian Barefoot during the day. Ian runs a company called Perfection in Miniature, and through this he has made a model of what the building will eventually look like:

The pictures show our day, recording the progress of the building and showing that we really did build it.

This plan shows the building layout:

A – Main entrance
B – GWS signalling exhibition
BR-E – Bristol East 1930′s power signalling scheme diagram
C – Simulator operator’s room “broom cupboard!”
D – Swindon Panel Room
E – Swindon Panel
F – Back Desk
G – Display Areas
H – Doors to outside, where the panel will be brought in.

The next Swindon Panel Day is on Sunday 12 October, why not drop in and join us?