Didcot Railway Centre
Locomotives 5051, 29 (visiting), 2999, 3738, and others sitting in front of the engine shed.
Didcot Railway Centre is located in Oxfordshire
Didcot Railway Centre
Location in Oxfordshire
LocationDidcot, Oxfordshire, England
Coordinates51°36′49″N 1°14′41″W / 51.613509°N 1.244772°W / 51.613509; -1.244772
TypeOperational Railway museum
Key holdingsGWR 6000 Class No.6023 King Edward II
GWR 4073 Class No.4079 Pendennis Castle
GWR Firefly Class Firefly
OwnerGreat Western Society (site leased from Network Rail)
Public transit accessDidcot Parkway
WebsiteDidcot Railway Centre

Didcot Railway Centre is a railway museum and preservation engineering site in Didcot, Oxfordshire, England. The site was formerly a Great Western Railway engine shed and locomotive stabling point.


The founders and commercial backers of the Great Western Railway (GWR) supported Isambard Kingdom Brunel's scheme to develop an integrated railway and steamship service which allowed trans-Atlantic passengers and freight quicker passage between London and New York City. However, whilst backing the scheme the railway had to make a profit, and so it took a number of detours and added both mainline and branch line traffic to increase its domestic earnings. This earned the railway the nickname The Great Way Round from its detractors.[1]

Whilst the route from London Paddington to Reading was relatively straight, the then obvious most direct route to Bristol would have taken the railway further south, thus avoiding both Didcot and Swindon. However, passenger and freight traffic both to and from Oxford and onwards to the West Midlands in part dictated a more northerly route. Also, Brunel had originally planned to cut through Savernake Forest near Marlborough, Wiltshire to Bristol, but the Marquess of Ailesbury, who owned the land, objected – having previously objected to part of the Kennet and Avon Canal running through his estate (see Bruce Tunnel). With the railway needing to run near to a canal at its midpoint – as it was cheaper to transport coal for trains along canals at this time – and with the need for the branch northwards to Cheltenham via Stroud, Swindon was the next logical choice for the junction (and later railway works), 20 miles (32 km) north of the original route. This dictated that the Oxford junction also be moved northwards, and hence via Didcot.[1] The Great Western Railway built the first rail line through Didcot in 1839 and opened its first station in 1844.


Didcot Railway Centre, Oct 2001

Due to the technical operational difficulties of running and maintaining a mainline service from London to Bristol, as well as the need for servicing locomotives going to Oxford, Didcot became an obvious midpoint maintenance and stabling point. Having built a timber-framed 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge shed on the original site during the railway's development west in the 1800s, in June 1932 a new steel-framed half-brick 4-road through shed (210 by 67 feet [64.01 m × 20.42 m]), was completed by the GWR under the Loans and Guarantees Act (1929). With shed code DID, it also included a repair shop (84 by 42 feet [25.6 m × 12.8 m]), coaling stage (43 by 36 feet [13.1 m × 11.0 m]), sand furnace (10 by 10 feet [3.0 m × 3.0 m]) and 65 feet (20 m) turntable and associated offices (210 by 15 feet [64 m × 5 m]).[1] During World War II, a standard steel-framed with corrugated iron-panel covered ash shelter was erected:[1] this was dismantled in early GWS days.


After World War II, the site remained virtually unchanged during the nationalised ownership of British Railways (BR), but for taking on the new code of 81E. The standard allocation of locomotives remained the same, with Halls, Dukedogs and Panniers making up the bulk of the depot's fleet.[1]


With the replacement of steam with diesel traction under the Modernisation Plan, the shed became redundant and was closed in June 1965.[1]

Formation and site lease

The Great Western Society (GWS) was offered the use of the former Didcot locomotive depot, taking it over in 1967. In the 1970s, the society negotiated a long-term lease with BR which was to expire in 2019. But this was subject to a six-month termination clause which could force the GWS to quit the site, and which could be operated at any point in time by lease-holder Network Rail (NR).

In an attempt to secure a long-term future for the society, in 2002 the GWS opened negotiations with NR to either purchase the site or extend the lease. In a letter dated May 2007, NR informed the GWS that they were prepared to sell the site subject to Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) approval. It had been thought the site could be subject to need as a depot, either due to: the rebuilding of Reading station; a Crossrail project depot; or the Intercity Express Programme. After expressing some concern at the slow speed of negotiations at the GWS annual meeting in September 2008, NR wrote to the GWS to advise that the site was no longer available for sale, and although a lease extension was still on offer it was still subject to the previous six-month termination clause. The GWS then wrote to their local MP Ed Vaizey, and placed any long-term development plans on hold.[2] As of 6 October 2011 Richard Croucher (Chairman of the Great Western Society) signed a new 50-year lease with Network Rail, therefore preserving the site for at least another 50 years.

Museum and railway centre

Reconstructed mixed-gauge, 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge / 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) track
Travelling Post Office
A reconstruction of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's atmospheric railway, using a segment of the original piping

Today the GWS have developed the site, which still retains many of the original GWR buildings and features, as both a working steam locomotive and railway museum, engineering maintenance centre, and railway line offering short rides to visitors.

Access via Didcot Parkway station brings the visitor into the southern end of the site, at the start of the ramp coal wagons would take up to the coaling stage. Beyond this is the original 1932 four-road engine shed, and beyond this the original repair shed and 1988 constructed locomotive works, both of which have restricted access due to safety concerns. Beyond this lies a Ransomes & Rapier 70 feet (21 m) turntable, originally built for the Southern Railway at Southampton Docks, installed in the original pit.

The centre regularly holds events such as steam and diesel railcar days. Members of the Great Western Society have been active in the preservation of locomotives and rolling stock. Certain 'new-build' projects to create locomotives that did not escape wholesale scrapping have also been undertaken at Didcot, such as the completed Firefly locomotive, a 'Saint' class (using a 'Hall' class chassis and boiler) and a 'County' class locomotive (using a 'Hall' class chassis and an LMS '8F' class boiler).

There is a small relics museum and archive on site, operated by the Great Western Trust.[3]

The Railway Centre is used a period film set and has featured in works including Anna Karenina, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and The Elephant Man.[4]

Running lines

The former broad-gauge transfer shed is now used as a station building on the branch line
The broad-gauge transfer shed in its original location, with the provender store behind

There are three short lengths of running track, each with a station at both ends:


This starts at a typical GWR wayside halt, named Didcot Halt, and runs north on the western edge of the site to a platform, named Burlescombe Station, at the transshipment shed. Dating from broad gauge days, the shed was used for transferring goods from broad to "narrow" (i.e. 4 ft 8+12 in or 1,435 mm standard gauge) rolling stock and vice versa. It was moved to its present location carefully from its original site nearby.

Broad Gauge Line

The broad gauge line of 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) starts from the transshipment shed, and runs halfway back down the branchline. The 2005 replica GWR Fire Fly is housed within the shed when not running


Starting from the Main Line Platform opposite the site entrance, using a pre-fabricated concrete station platform from Eynsham, this runs on the eastern edge of the site to a newly built platform, named Oxford Road Station, near the transshipment shed. The reconstruction of the Brunel-designed building from Heyford station on this platform has been commenced.


Railways around Didcot
Moreton Junction
Main to relief line crossovers
Didcot East Junction
Didcot Parkway
Didcot Railway Centre
Didcot West Junction
Didcot North Junction
Foxhall Junction
Didcot Power Station
Milton Park

The railway centre is entirely surrounded by active railway lines and has no road connection of any kind. Public access is on foot from a subway at Didcot Parkway station, which links the centre by rail to London and much of southern and central England. Wheelchair and pram access has been difficult due to the presence of a flight of concrete steps on Network Rail property. To comply fully with the Disability Discrimination Act, the Great Western Society began construction of a ramped access in 2023.[5]


Steam locomotives

Class Number (& Name) Image Status Notes
Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns 0-4-0ST No.1
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Static Display Built 1949 for dockside shunting. Awaiting overhaul. Painted in lined light green livery.[6]
George England 0-4-0WT No.5 Static Display Built 1857, latterly owned by the Wantage Tramway. Steamed in 1970s but examination indicated that too much historic material would need replacing to return it to working condition, so remains on static display in 1920s red livery.[7]
GWR Steam Railmotor No.93 Static Display Built 1908. Restoration completed in 2012. Often runs with trailer carriage No. 92. Boiler ticket expired in 2021.[8]
GWR 1000 Class 1014
County of Glamorgan
Under Construction 1946 design. Replica using original GWR and LMS locomotive components.[9]
Kitson & Co. 0-4-0ST No.1338 Static Display Built 1898. Ex-Cardiff Railway.[10]
GWR 1340 Class 1340
Operational. Built 1897. Ex-Alexandra (Newport and South Wales) Docks and Railway. Painted in GWR green livery. Returned to steam in 2021 after an offsite overhaul. [11][12]
GWR 1361 Class 1363 Under Overhaul Built 1910. Undergoing a major overhaul with significant work being undertaken on both the boiler and frames.[13]
GWR 1400 Class 1466 Under Overhaul[14] Built 1936. This was the first locomotive bought by the society. Under overhaul offsite and hoped to be back in service in 2024.[15]
Hunslet 0-6-0T No. 2409
King George
Operational Built 1942 as 0-6-0ST for colliery use; rebuilding as 0-6-0T at Didcot completed 2022.[16]
GWR 2900 Class 2999
Lady of Legend
Operational 1902/06 design. Completed at Didcot 2019[17] using components from No. 4942 Maindy Hall (1929). Runs as a 4-6-0 but intended to run as a 4-4-2 for periods of time.[18]
GWR 5700 Class 3650 Under Overhaul Built 1939. Ten-yearly overhaul began in 2018.[19]
GWR 5700 Class 3738 Static Display Built 1937. Out of service from 2013 due to boiler crack.[20]
GWR 2884 Class 3822 Static Display Built 1940. Appeared in the Queen music video Breakthru. Withdrawn from service in 2010.[21]
GWR 4073 Class 4079
Pendennis Castle
Operational Built 1924. Boiler ticket expires 2031. This locomotive was repatriated from Australia in 2000 after spending 22 years in the country.[22]
GWR 5101 Class 4144 Operational Built 1946. Boiler ticket expires in 2025.
GWR 4073 Class 5051
Earl Bathurst
Static Display Built 1936. Currently carrying its former name, Drysllwyn Castle.[23]
GWR 5205 Class 5227 Static Display Built 1924. One of the Barry Ten, it was purchased in 2010 to provide parts for the construction of the new-build GWR 4700 Class No. 4709. After donating its axleboxes to the project, it moved to Didcot in 2013 following storage at a private site. Currently on display in ex-scrapyard condition as a reminder of the challenge that preservationists had to conquer. The Standard No. 4 Boiler, pony truck wheel set, 2 pony truck axleboxes, 4 horn guides and 2 eccentric sheaves are being transferred to the new build Churchward County GWR 3800 Class 3840 "County of Montgomery".[24]The remainder of the locomotive has been sold to an individual who intends to restore the locomotive to working order, including manufacture of parts to replace those removed for use in new build projects. The locomotive is expected to remain at Didcot Railway Centre. [1]
GWR 4300 Class 5322 Static Display[25] Built 1917. Used by Railway Operating Division in France during World War I. Withdrawn in 2014 due to boiler problems.[26]
GWR 4575 Class 5572 Static Display Built 1929.[27]
GWR 4900 Class 5900
Hinderton Hall
Static Display Built 1931.[28]
GWR 6000 Class 6023
King Edward II
Static Display Built 1930. Returned to steam in 2010 after completion of a lengthy restoration from scrapyard condition, was originally purchased as a spares donor for sister engine 6024 King Edward I. Boiler ticket expired in 2020.[29] BR blue livery.
GWR 6100 Class 6106 Static Display Built 1931.[30]
GWR 5600 Class 6697 Static Display Built 1928. Only member of the 5600 class to be purchased directly from British Railways for preservation.[31]
GWR 6959 Class 6998
Burton Agnes Hall
Static Display Built 1949.[32]
GWR 7200 Class 7202 Under Restoration Built 1934.[33]
GWR 7800 Class 7808
Cookham Manor
Static Display Built 1938.[34]
GWR Firefly Class Fire Fly Static Display Built 2005 as working replica of 1840 Broad Gauge 2-2-2.[35]
GWR Iron Duke Class Iron Duke Static Display Built 1985 as working replica of early Broad Gauge 4-2-2. On loan from National Railway Museum.
Breakdown Crane RS1054 Under restoration Built 1930. Ex LMS Cowan Sheldon 50 ton steam crane.
Steam Crane 23059 For restoration Built 1954. Thomas Smith and Sons (Rodley) Ltd, Leeds.

Diesel locomotives

Class Number (&Name) Image Status Notes
GWR Railcar No.22 Operational Built 1940.[36]
Hunslet DL 26 Operational[37] Built by Hunslet of Leeds in 1957 for the National Coal Board and arrived at Didcot in 1978. It was the only diesel shunter at the site for many years until the arrival of 08604. Most of its duties tend to be light shunting. Repainted 2023.
British Rail Class 08 08604
Operational[38] Built Derby Works as D3771, allocated to: Longsight (9A) June 1959; Stockport Edgeley (9B) July 1959; Longsight (9A) April 1965, unofficially named Ardwick; renumbered 08604 February 1974; stored Swindon Works 1981; Tyseley TMD February 1984, unofficially renamed Javelin, officially then named Phantom; Bescot November 1988; Derby Etches Park November 1992; withdrawn in July 1993. Sold to GWS and moved to DRC 1994.
British Rail Class 14 D9516 Operational Built 1964. After a post-BR industrial career, bought for preservation by Gerald Boden and based at Great Central Railway and then Nene Valley Railway. Bought from the Wensleydale Railway in 2014.
British Rail Class 52 D1023
Western Fusilier
Static Display Built 1963. In 1973 it became the final diesel hydraulic to receive a general repair at Swindon Works. Upon withdrawal in 1977, it was preserved by the National Railway Museum. Arrived at Didcot in January 2023 on a 5 year loan from York.[39]
GWR 18000 18000 Static Display Arrived 29 July 2011. Owned by Pete Waterman[40]

Other rolling stock

The GWS has an extensive supporting collection of GWR rolling stock, including three of the GWR Super Saloons that serviced the boat train traffic to Plymouth.


Type Number (&Name) Image Status Notes
Churchward Auto Trailer No. 92 Restored to run with Steam Railmotor 93. Built at Swindon, 1912.
Collett Auto Trailer No. 190 Operational, subject to works attention. Built at Swindon, 1933.
Hawksworth Auto Trailer No. 231 Operational, subject to works attention. Built at Swindon, 1951
Bristol & Exeter Railway Broad Gauge Coach No. 250 Enough of body remains to reconstruct a small compartment. Built between 1852 & 1892
Dean 4w 1st 2nd Composite No.290 Restoration began in 2011. Built at Swindon, 1902
Dean 4w Brake Third No. 416 Built at Swindon, 1891
Collett Third No. 536 Operational Built at Swindon, 1940
Dean 4-Wheel Third No. 975 Restored Built at Swindon, 1902. Restoration complete. Restored to recreate a Victorian train.
Collett Third No. 1111 No current restoration plans. Built at Swindon, 1938.
Collett 'Excursion' Third No. 1289 Built at Swindon,1937
Dean 8 Compartment Third Clerestory No. 1357 Awaiting major restoration in carriage shed. Built at Swindon, 1903.
Dean Third No. 1941 Operational. Built at Swindon, 1901.
Hawksworth Brake Third No. 2202 Operational. Built at Swindon, 1950
Hawksworth Brake Third No. 2232 Initially restored as a locker room for staff. Built at Swindon, 1950
Dean 6-wheel Family Saloon No. 2511 Operational. Was rescued and preserved from a house and placed on the underframe of a GWR 6-wheel van. Built at Swindon, 1894
Churchward “Dreadnought” 9 Compartment Third No. 3299 Major restoration commenced. Built at Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company, 1905. One of the first coaches acquired by the Great Western Society.
Churchward Non-Corridor Brake Third No. 3755 Restored and occasionally operated. Built at Swindon, 1921.
Churchward Non-Corridor Brake Third No. 3756 Under restoration. Built at Swindon, 1921.
Churchward Toplight Corridor Third No. 3963 No current restoration plans. Built at Swindon, 1919.
Collett Third - Bow Ended No. 4553 No current restoration plans. Built at Swindon, 1925.
Collett 8 Compartment Bow-Ended Third No. 5085 Built at Swindon, 1928.
Collett Brake Third No. 5787 No current restoration plans. Built at Swindon, 1933.
Collett All Third No. 5952 No current restoration plans; restoration may commence once 7371 is completed. Built at Swindon, 1935.
Dean 6-Wheel Tricomposite No. 6824 Stored on an LMS 6w underframe. Built in 1887. Was a convertible coach, originally built for the Broad Gauge.
Collett Composite No. 7285 Built at Swindon, 1941.
Collett Composite No. 7313 Restored. Built at Swindon, 1940. Wartime all-over chocolate livery.
Collett Brake Composite No. 7371 Under restoration. Built at Swindon, 1941.
Hawksworth Brake Composite No. 7372 Operational Built at Swindon, 1948.
Collett Brake Composite No. 7976 Built at Swindon, 1923.
Collett Special Saloon No. 9002 Operational. Built at Swindon, 1940. Used by Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower and the Royal Family during WWII.
Hawksworth First Class Sleeping Car No. 9083 Operational, Built at Swindon, 1951.
Collett Super Saloon No. 9112 Queen Mary No current restoration plans. Built at Swindon, 1932.
Collett Super Saloon No. 9113 Prince of Wales Under restoration Built at Swindon, 1932.
Collett Super Saloon No. 9118 Princess Elizabeth Built at Swindon, 1932.
Dean Composite Diner No. 9520 No current restoration plans.
Collett 'Centenary Diner' No. 9635 Built at Swindon, 1935.

Broad Gauge replica carriages

Type Number (&Name) Image Status Notes
Six-Wheeled, Second Class, Broad Gauge Covered Carriage BG1 On display Built at BR Cardiff Cathays in 1984 to 19th cent. design.
Six-Wheeled, Third Class, Broad Gauge Open Carriage BG2 On display Built at BR Cardiff Cathays in 1984 to 19th cent. design.

Non-passenger-carrying coaching stock

Type Number (&Name) Image Status Notes
Tool Van No. 1 In use as staff tool van. Built in 1908 at Swindon.
Tool Van No. 47 Stored under cover with 9083 and 2232, used as a stores van. Built in 1908 at Swindon.
Tool Van No. 56 In use as staff tool van. Built in 1908 at Swindon.
Collett Full Brake No. 111 No current restoration plans. Built at Swindon, 1934.
Hawksworth Passenger Brake Van No. 316 Built at Swindon, 1950
Hawksworth Passenger Brake Van No. 333 In use as sales vehicle. Built at Swindon, 1951. Acquired from Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway.
Churchward 'Monster' Carriage Truck No. 484 Built at Swindon, 1913.
Churchward 'Python' No. 565 In use as a workshop and stores vehicle. Built at Swindon, 1914.
Travelling Post Office No. 814 GWR TPO 814 Brake Stowage Van Didcot Railway Centre Not currently operational. Built at Swindon, 1940.
Dean Full Brake No. 933 Operational by 2019. Built at Swindon, 1898
Medical Officers' Coach, originally a Churchward Passenger Brake Van - Toplight No. 1159 Built at Swindon, 1925.
Collett Full Brake No. 1184 Being restored and modified to run with GWR TPO 814. Built at Swindon, 1930. Last bow-ended full brake.
Collett 'Siphon G' No. 2796 Restored. Operational Built at Swindon, 1937.
Six-Wheel Milk Tank S4409 Operational Built in 1931 as four wheeler. Rebuilt in 1937 as six wheeler. Chassis ex-Southern Railway. Most recently painted in Co-operative Wholesale Society green livery with lettering "MILK C.W.S SERVICE".
Special Cattle Van No. 752 Built in 1952 at Ashford. Diagram W17.
'Bloater' Fish Van No. 2671 Requires re-restoration. Built in 1925 at Swindon.
'Fruit C' Van No. 2862 Built in 1939 at Swindon.
'Fruit D' Van No. 2913 Built in 1941 at Swindon.
'Fruit' Van No. 47886 Operational. Built in 1892 at Swindon. Dean brake system.


Type Number (&Name) Image Status Notes
Tar Wagon No. 1 Requires re-restoration Built in 1898
6w Drinking Water Tank No. 101 Built in 1948.
Department Mess Van No. 263 In staff use Built in 1905. Rebuilt by BR from a GWR 25t brake van No. 56867.
Oil Tank Wagon No. 795 Restored Built in 1912 by Hurst Nelson. Most recently painted as Anglo American Oil Co Ltd - Pratts Perfection Spirit. Previously restored as No. 745.
'Rotank' flat wagon carrying trailer tank No. 3030 Restored Built in 1947 at Swindon. Most recently painted as Simonds Beer tank.
Goods Van No. 516673 Restored, used for storage Ex-LMS. Purchased from MoD Bicester as 4166 for storage by the locomotive department. Stored beside locomotive workshop at the end of line of unrestored stock.
Goods Van No. 517791 Restored, used for storage Ex-LMS. Purchased from MoD Bicester as 4167 for storage by the locomotive department. Stored beside locomotive workshop at the end of line of unrestored stock.
Four wheel 7-plank mineral wagon No. 10153 Restored Built by Gloucester RCW. Ex-Taff Vale Railway, only surviving TVR wagon. Most likely 1880s because of the handbrake gear.
Iron Mink No. 11152 Restored, not operating Built in 1900 at Swindon.
"Toad" Brake Van No. 17447 Part dismantled, stored under tarpaulin Built in 1940 at Swindon.
4 wheel 5-plank open wagon No. 18553 Operational Built in 1927 by Sheffield C&W.
'Mite' Single Bolsters Nos. 32337 & 32338 Non-operational Built in 1881 at Swindon.
'Coral A' crated glass wagon No. 41723 Awaiting restoration Built in 1908 at Swindon.
'Pollen E' Nos 84997-85000 Restored, on loan from National Railway Museum Built in 1909 at Swindon.
'Crocodile F' bogie well trolley No. 41934 Operational Built in 1908 at Swindon as Crocodile G, modified 1909 as Crocodile F, Diagram C12. Now rare.
'Hydra D' machinery wagon No. 42193 Stored in open Built in 1913 at Swindon. Now rare.
Grain Wagon No. 42239 Stored under tarpaulin awaiting re-restoration Built in 1927 at Swindon.
'Loriot L' machinery wagon No. 42271 Built in 1934 at Swindon.
Creosote Tank Wagon No. 43949 Built in 1901 at Swindon.
16ton 'Toad' brake van No. 56400 Built in 1900 at Swindon. Originally 14-ton but later 16-ton. Stored amongst other stock in staff use, verandah is covered by inside tarpaulin for protection.
20ton 'Toad' brake van No. 68684 Restored Built in 1924 at Swindon
Mink A ventilated van No. 101720 Restored Built in 1924 at Swindon. "Flour Traffic Only - Return to Wantage Road".
Open A open wagon No. 117993 Restored Built in 1930 at Swindon.


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  7. ^ No.5 – Shannon/Jane. Didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk (2010-07-11). Retrieved on 2011-03-02.
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  20. ^ https://didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/article.php/65/3738-57xx-class 3738
  21. ^ https://didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/article.php/66/3822-2884-class 3822
  22. ^ https://didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/article.php/67/4079-pendennis-castle 4079 Pendennis Castle
  23. ^ https://didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/article.php/70/5051-drysllwyn-castle-earl-bathurst 5051 Drysllwyn Castle
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  32. ^ https://didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/article.php/78/6998-burton-agnes-hall 6998 Burton Agnes Hall
  33. ^ https://didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/article.php/79/7202-72xx-class 7202
  34. ^ https://didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/article.php/80/7808-cookham-manor 7808 Cookham Manor
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  36. ^ https://didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/article.php/83/22-diesel-railcar GWR Railcar No.22
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