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Broad Gauge at Didcot




A visit to Didcot Railway Centre is always good, when in need of a little inspiration!


In this case, I was invited along to help introduce my grandson to the delights of steam trains. At 3 months age, he seemed to enjoy a ride in the steam railmotor but was not too sure about the joggling over points.


Meanwhile, I slipped away for a look around the Transfer Shed, where various Broad Gauge replicas are stored. Outside the shed, a length of broad-gauge track shows the details of the construction, with longitudinal baulks and packing under the rails themselves.




With the sunlight slanting through the skylights, the shed had almost as much atmosphere as the goods shed at Farthing




Near the front of the shed, the 'Firefly' replica showed how rapidly locomotive designs developed in the early years - the original of this locomotive dating from 1840. In the atmosphere of this shed, it's not difficult to feel like a time-traveller.




Carriage designs took rather longer to develop, with the earliest type of 3rd-class carriage being an open wagon, while the open 2nd was not much better!




Inside the shed, the Gooch single 'Iron Duke' was dozing peacefully, with the mahogany boiler-cladding glowing in the sunlight. The remarkable increase in dimensions from 'Firefly' is very obvious, when these engines are seen together. The driving wheels have increased from 7' diameter to 8' and, perhaps more remarkable, the boiler diameter was almost 4' 10". Notice, too, how that 'ship's funnel' towers over the diminutive carriage.




I was intrigued to note that the curious inverted spring between the two leading axles of the Gooch design found an echo in the gas turbine locomotive no.18000, which was standing outside:




Finally, what is this? sacrebleu...




Only joking - the King actually looked quite splendid in this colour!



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  • RMweb Gold

The broad gauge is interesting. I stood on the footplate of the Iron Duke with the boiler in steam. You realise engine crew must have been brave. No cab little protection and speeds unheard of a generation before. Previously the fastest you could go was on a galloping horse (apart from falling off a tower!) with the railway speeds double that were achieved on the GWR. 



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Like you, I've been on a Broad-Gauge footplate, in my case 'Firefly'.  It's certainly hard to imagine what it must have been like at 60+ mph but I expect the adrenaline took over and, in all that excitement, I suspect the rain was hardly noticed.  Keeping a look-out for signals must have been very difficult, though.


I believe that Joseph Armstrong, who had been a driver himself, considered that it was healthier for the crew not to have an enclosed cab.  In the days of coke-burning locomotives, producing lots of carbon monoxide, this may well have been true.



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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike, looks like you had a good day at Didcot. Indoctrinating your grandson at just 3 months old, well that's quite early! But clearly a smart move.


I really like your "time travel" image. And thanks for those shots of the interior framing of the transfer shed, which are helpful in my current building work.


I really don't know about that dark blue on the King, but at least it is better than the light blue scheme... 

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Hi Mikkel,   I'm pleased that the photos of the framing will be helpful,  Have you thought of using wood for your constructions?  Plastic always seems too smooth to me, so several of the old Airfix buildings on my layout have a surface skim of modelling clay for the outside stonework.



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I think that King looks just the job. That particular blue is very attractive and highlights shape and detail very well. 

I always enjoy my visits to Didcot, especially on those deserted days when you can just wander at will. 

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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike, yes I've been experimenting a bit with wood for the buildings, although I'm still undecided. I like the plastic for painted timber buildings, but I agree it can be a bit too plain for representing more "rough" and unpainted timber.


BTW, it's interesting that the transfer shed at Didcot isn't painted white inside as the GWR supposedly did on such structures. But maybe not in Broad Gauge days?

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When my son was young, we often used to enjoy wandering around Didcot on quiet days, as you suggest, HymekBoy.  There's an incredible collection of bits and pieces that are just as interesting as the major items.


The famous engraving of the chaos at Gloucester transfer shed seems to suggest an unpainted interior, Mikkel.  Some very early photos also suggest unpainted structures, such as the engine shed at Cheltenham.  I have noticed that wooden kits seem to be quite popular in USA for model buildings.  Perhaps laser-cut kits will become more popular in Europe, now the technology is well-established.

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