An early start today as we needed to skirt London as we headed towards Cheltenham where we will reside for 2 nights. Leaving at 0800 should have given us a bit of slack but after a stop at the Roadside café stop, we lost 40 min and the 16 min on a stoppage on the M4, But, when we arrived at Didcot Railway Centre, we forgot about timings.
The Great Western Railway's history is encapsulated in the Didcot Railway Centre's unique collection of buildings, engines, carriages, wagons and other artefacts displayed over 20 acres alongside Didcot Parkway Station. From Brunel's Broad gauge to the modern trains running past the centre is home to over 180 years of railway and social history.
Up close and personal you can walk around the last working GWR Engine shed where the locomotives are so much more impressive than viewed from a viewing platform. There were 2 steam engines running over the 2 tracks and there was much else to see.
Maintenance is very important and must be carried out continually. When we arrived, teams we out there doing many jobs and we saw Margaret Crane painting one of the diesel engines. Margaret was just finishing an 8 day stint as a volunteer and she had basically painted 100% of the time. Many other volunteers were working on projects in the area.
Following our visit to Didcot we headed towards Cheltenham but not before we had our "cuppa tea". The next stop was at Swindon and Cricklaid. This was a real community railway that gave you the feeling that all there were very committed to their tasks. This was one of the first to undertake the complete reconstruction of a standard gauge railway with no legacy of track or buildings. Blunsdan is the main visitor centre but Hayes Knoll, another of the stations on the line, gives the opportunity to see various restoration projects progressing in the engine shed.
A long but fruitful day and to top it off, Brendan celebrated his birthday and Ian celebrated his wedding anniversary.