Didcot Railway Centre Gears Up For Brunel Bicentenary

By Nicola Tann | 03 April 2006
a photograph of a man wearing a large top hat and smoking a cigar

On the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Didcot honours the engineer with a season of special events. Photo © Institution of Civil Engineers.

Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire is gearing up for an exciting Easter 2006 to celebrate the 200th birthday celebrations of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the launch of a new Science, Learning and Railways project.

On April 9 2006 staff at the centre are setting aside the day to celebrate their biggest hero, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Victorian engineer who designed the breathtaking Great Western Railway to which the Centre has long been connected.

There will be a ‘Steam Day’ as part of the bicentenary celebrations, an opportunity for families to have a look around the replica of the broad gauge Firefly locomotive. Visitors can enjoy the smell, sound and smoke of smaller steam engines and travel in 1930s carriages on demonstration tracks.

A train moves along the tracks in a cloud of steam

The replica Firefly locomotive in action at Didcot. Photo courtesy of Didcot Railway Centre

“We are hoping to attract all sorts of groups for the Brunel celebrations,” says Pat Bosely of the centre. “We’re linked so closely here to Brunel - being right on his Great Western Railway - and our site is really geared up for family interests.”

Families might be interested in the new Science, Learning and Railways Centre, which was opened on 28 March. It is an old railway coach with lots of hands-on exhibits for children and families, with models to build and pretend trains to drive.

On special event days there is a continuous programme of operations. During the day you can see the activities of a steam locomotive depot including the engines being coaled and watered.

A family watching a big black train pass with steam and smoke

A family enjoying the sound and smells of one of those great old locos at Didcot. Photo courtesy of Didcot Railway Centre.

There are also special Easter celebrations, with egg hunts for the children, the vintage Great Western diesel railcar in service and a demonstration of the Travelling Post Office - showing how mailbags used to be exchanged at speed without the need for the train to stop.

Didcot Railway Centre is open every day during the school holidays from April 1 to 17 2006. Opening times are 10am to 5pm weekends and Steam Days, other days 10am to 4pm. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. There is a Refreshment Room, serving lunches and snacks, and a picnic area. For more information visit www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk

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Nicola Tann is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer for Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

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