WHILE the majority of visitors to the railway centre see the large items on display such as carriages and steam locomotives, there are many other aspects of the old Great Western Railway that our museum volunteers catalogue and investigate, helping to compile a rounded history from the beginning of the railways to virtually the present day.

The coming of the railway changed life unbelievably for many over the GWR’s empire and it these oddities that often show how life has changed since the 1830s.

On our reproduction stations at Didcot we want to have some typical GWR litter bins, so logically we start to look at old photographs to see what style the GWR used.

Can we find any? Well No. If you look at photographs from before WWII these just aren't the litter bins on show.

Why you may ask?

Well, eating habits and the coffee culture of today was non-existent: if a passenger did take a sandwich on their journey they often made it themselves or if they did purchase one from a station buffet, then they took any packaging home with them.

Newspapers were read but taken home and not just left lying about.

Have our standards improved since those times – discuss! However that doesn’t help with our quest for a period litter bin.

Another element that has all but disappeared is the well-kept gardens that adorned stations large and small.

Some of the flowers and shrubs were grown by the station teams themselves, but the majority came from the GWR’s own nursery, and I believe the GWR had a house style they liked their gardens to adopt.

The GWR would make virtually anything they needed to run the railway and everything was stamped GWR somewhere.

Obviously, this didn’t apply to the plants from their nursery, but I am sure if they could have then they would have done.

Standardisation and home-grown objects produced by the GWR helped to create what was arguably the best railway in the world with a very high degree of belonging and pride in the GWR employees. Have things improved?

I hope that in future articles I will be able to look at more of the non-railway side of the GWR and don’t forget that our small relics museum shows many of these facets of the GWR.

Currently this part of the railway centre is closed for a revamp but will be open for our January 1 and 2 steam days but will then not be open until the February half term openings.