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A Day Out At... 9: Didcot Parkway

Ian Fowler

IAN FOWLER visits this Oxfordshire Station.

You may recall I did originally choose to name these features ďNerdís Day OutĒ as that is what my great friend, former colleague and legend of this parish Nick Duxfield christened our regular six monthly outings (in our own time I hasten to add Ė the owners might be reading this..) where weíd basically spend a day out taking photos of trains and watching the world go by.

Iím concentrating on the contemporary scene rather than days gone before. Iíve got to also pay tribute to my dear old dad who diligently took me to a variety of locations as a small boy to watch the trains, even though his own interest was minimal at the time. We went to Stratford once on a very cold January day. It was freezing but enjoyable. So thanks, Dad!

Iíd love others to be able to fill in the gaps for me, so please do email any of your own information on this location so we can expand and update this feature in due course, selling the concept to a publisher for millions of dollars and not split it with Stuart!

GETTING THERE (From GM HQ at Ford)

By Rail
Slightly longer, more expensive but easier is Southern up to London Victoria, London Underground Circle Line to Paddington, then a Great Western Railway service direct to Didcot Parkway. Slightly quicker, considerably cheaper but more of a pain is Southern to Havant, South West Trains to Guildford, Great Western Railway to Reading, then change on to another Great Western Railway train to Didcot Parkway. Finally, there is an even more exotic route that involves Southern to either Eastleigh or Southampton Central, South West Trains to Winchester (if changing at Eastleigh, ignore this bit if you opt for Southampton Central), CrossCountry to Reading and then Great Western Trains to Didcot Parkway. Basically, pay your money and take your choice!

By Road
From Ford, A27/M27/M3/A34/A4130. It takes about 2hrs. You can always break the journey by swooping in on Eastleigh to see if thereís anything in the yard (adds 20mins or so) making use of the short stay parking bays at the front of the station. There is ample on-site parking either to the east of the station or to the west once you get to Didcot Parkway, but it is chargeable (and policed!) and there really isnít much of an alternative by way of on street parking that hasnít already been nabbed by commuters.

LOCATION

National Rail Enquiries information on Didcot Parkway

PLATFORMS

The platforms are laid out thus:

Platform 1

For westbound (down) Great Western Trains HST services from London Paddington to the West.

Platform 2

For eastbound (up) Great Western Trains HST services from the West to London Paddington.

Platform 3

For northbound Great Western Trains DMU services to Oxford and beyond plus the occasional HST to either Oxford/Hereford.

Platform 4

For eastbound Great Western Trains DMU services to Reading and London Paddington. Sometimes used as an alternative to Platform 3 for northbound equivalents.

Platform 5

For eastbound Great Western Trains services when Platform 4 is in use.

REALTIMETRAINS

It could be argued that this addictive website has taken all the surprise out of observing the real railway, but it is an absolute godsend when deciding when you should go home! Itís very mobile friendly too. Recommended!
www.realtimetrains.co.uk

WHAT CAN I SEE?

Be aware that in order to access the station at peak times, there are automatic ticket barriers (there is an occasionally open gate on Platform 1 but this cannot be relied upon) in place. This means you can either try and explain that you are a railway enthusiast/trainspotter/gricer/however you like to be referred to, and hope they take pity on you, letting you on for free or simply buy a return ticket to the nearest station and use these tickets to gain access on and off the station.

Didcot Parkway is located on the Paddington to Oxford route and is the diverging point for trains heading from Paddington to the West via Swindon. There is a yard adjacent to the station where there is usually a bit of action going on, particularly as a lot of (if not all) of the trunk wagonload services were moved away from Wembley to Didcot when DB Schenker changed the regional hub for such traffic. There is usually a shunter lurking about as well as a couple of locomotives on the stabling point and the local RHTT is also based here so might also be about, subject to season and time of day.

You cannot mention Didcot without thinking of the Power Station which closed in 2013. You can watch some of the cooling towers being demolished here (action at 1:30). The closure of the power station saw the loss of coal traffic to and from the power station Ė such traffic being well documented online and in print.

You MUST locate yourself at the east end of the station as there is an avoiding line for the northbound stuff that is only visible at this end of the station. If you are a number taker, then youíll be fine on most things but the CrossCountry Voyagers may cause you a problem.

Youíll see lots of Great Western Trains HSTs which are almost all in the standard FGW blue with one or two notable vinyled exceptions. The good news (particularly if you are in the business of selling green paint) is that FGW has been rebranded as "Great Western Railway" which means everything is going green in due course. These services link London Paddington to a variety of locations including Bristol Temple Meads, Cardiff Central, Swansea, Weston Super Mare, Exeter St Davids, Paignton, Penzance, Cheltenham Spa, Hereford Worcester Shrub Hill and Oxford. Class 165/166s provide the traction for the Paddington/Reading to Didcot Parkway/Oxford/Banbury secondary services.

There are lots of CrossCountry Voyagers (Classes 220/221) that pass through on the avoiding lines on north/south services.

Didcot is a busy freight location with plentiful intermodal traffic originating or terminating at Southampton passing through. These services are inevitably hauled by Class 66s or Class 70s. Some of this traffic is east/west with Felixstowe/Tilbury or London Gateway alternative ports.

You might also see aggregate trains being hauled by Class 59s or 66s, Network Rail services hauled by Class 66s or Class 70s (and these can be operated by any number of TOCs nowadays) or Automotive traffic behind a Class 66.

The RHTT can pass through with a usually filthy diesel on either end (usually Class 66s or Class 67s) and with the Didcot Railway Heritage Centre nearby, you canít rule out some special working to and from there either.

However, my favourite working (personally) is the colourful Theale-Robeston tank train which can also throw up a Class 60. Hooray!

The station feels safe and there is a convenience store next to the station as well as an outlet within the station itself. There are usually a few like-minded folk at the station.

MODELLING POTENTIAL

There arenít any scenic breaks so it would be really hard. However a layout depicting Didcot would be gargantuan so I canít imagine one in practice.

WHAT YOU COULD RUN

Hereís a list of Locomotives and Multiple Units currently available from RTR manufacturers that can be seen at Didcot Parkway. The really interesting bit is trying to find the appropriate coaches, wagons and buildings on our website so Iím going to leave that up to you!

Class 08

Class 08

Bachmann B32-119 Class 08 08907 DB Schenker - OO Scale

Class 43

Class 43

The only GWR/FGW HSTs (so many acronyms!) currently available in OO Scale are the Locomotion Models Limited Edition Set.

Dapol DA2D-019-002 First Great Western HST Train Pack - N Scale

Class 59

Dapol DA2D-005-002 Class 59 206 DB Schenker - N Scale

Dapol DA2D-005-002D Class 59 206 DB Schenker (DCC-Fitted) - N Scale

Dapol DA4D-005-002 DB Schenker Class 59 206 John F Yeoman - OO Scale

Class 60

Class 60

Graham Farish GF371-350A Class 60 60035 EWS - N Scale

Graham Farish GF371-358 †Class 60 60021 Colas - N Scale

Heljan HN6002 Class 60 EWS - O Scale

Class 66

Class 66

Bachmann B32-981 Class 66 66416 Freightliner Powerhaul - OO Scale

Hornby R3345 Freightliner Class 66 - OO Scale

Dapol DAGM220 DB Schenker Class 66 001 Diesel Locomotive - N Scale

Dapol DA2D-007-002 Freightliner Class 66 504 Powerhaul Diesel Locomotive - N Scale

Dapol DA2D-007-002D Freightliner Class 66 504 Powerhaul Livery (DCC-Fitted) - N Scale

Dapol DA2D-007-003 EWS Class 66 200 Diesel Locomotive - N Scale

Dapol DA2D-007-003D EWS Class 66 200 Diesel Locomotive (DCC-Fitted) - N Scale

Dapol DA2D-007-004 Freightliner Class 66 612 Unbranded Diesel Locomotive - N Scale

Dapol DA2D-007-004D Freightliner Class 66 612 Unbranded (DCC-Fitted) - N Scale

Graham Farish GF371-383A Class 66 66101 DB Schenker - N Scale

Graham Farish GF371-384 Class 66 66209 EWS (Weathered) - N Scale

Graham Farish GF371-385 Class 66 66546 Freightliner - N Scale

Graham Farish GF371-396 Class 66 (Low Emission Variant) 66731 InterhubGB GBRf - N Scale

Class 67

Class 67

Hornby R3272 EWS Class 67 Royal Sovereign Claret - OO Scale

Hornby R3348 EWS Class 67 016 - OO Scale

Hornby R3349 EWS Class 67 024 - OO Scale

Class 70

Class 70

Bachmann B31-588 Freightliner Class 70 005 Powerhaul Diesel Weathered - OO Scale

Bachmann B31-590 Class 70 70015 Freightliner (Air Intake Modifications) - OO Scale

Bachmann B31-591 Class 70 70805 Colas (Air Intake Modifications) - OO Scale

Graham Farish 371-635 Class 70 PowerHaul 70006 Freightliner - N Scale

Graham Farish 371-636 Class 70 PowerHaul 70003 Freightliner - N Scale

Class 165

Nothing Iím afraid. Sorry!

Class 166

Bachmann have the tooling to make this and in fact have both Network SouthEast and Thames Trains variants listed in their current catalogue, but nothing of a FGW or GWT nature.

Class 220/221

Not currently produced but historically Bachmann have produced a CrossCountry version and Graham Farish or Dapol could do as they have the tools...

MODEL SHOPS

Didcot and the surrounding area is devoid of Model Shops, the nearest being WHSmith at Reading or Howes based at Kidlington, north of Oxford.

SUMMARY

Didcot Parkway is a decent location, particularly if you are into (or need a lot of) Great Western Trains HSTs. You can usually rely on 2 or 3 freight trains an hour too.

RATING

Iím giving Didcot Parkway 3 British Rail Pork Pies out of 5.

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