Reflecting on our early years at Didcot Railway Centre, my colleague Steve has continued his story...

After we moved to Didcot in 1967, the first real open day was held on May 10, 1969, and involved 1466 and 231 running past the Engine Shed in the middle of the centre, which was a long time before the current health and safety rules were put in place and must have been a fairly hair raising experience.

Subsequent open days used another of the existing lines that was a bit easier to keep safe.

The centre was still basically the original Engine Shed and had no public facilities.

A simple catering service was provided from the cycle sheds and a borrowed marquee, though evening refreshments were taken at the much-lamented Great Western Junction Hotel, then called The Dragon.

Regular open days continued for the next few years at Easter and in September, and 1971 saw the signing of a formal agreement with British Railways.

This resulted in the erection of a fence around the-then perimeter of the site, which was about half its current size. The fence ran down the station side of the coal stage, beside a path which was the only way to enter the depot, then along the back of where the refreshment room now stands until it turned right along the back of the turntable pit (no turntable in those days) and across to the current boundary fence alongside the east curve.

Once we had signed the agreement we started to develop the centre and in 1972 we laid our main demonstration line with material made redundant when the Worcester line north of Oxford was converted from double track to single.

The concrete platform sections at the main line platform were recovered from Eynsham on the former Fairford branch. This coincided with the arrival of 532 Blue Peter although the loco was not in a good enough condition to steam.

Sadly, we had to replace the original Eynsham concrete slabs recently but we have reused them for a second time for a new platform outside our Antiquary shop, which sells railwayana on our busy days.

In 1972 we erected a new catering building and although much smaller than at present, it came into its own on July 1, 1973, for the visit of Sir Nigel Gresley and Green Arrow, two popular London & North Eastern Railway steam engines. The two rail tours which they hauled, plus other visitors who arrived by service train and road, brought an estimated 7,000 people on to the site; far more than was really comfortable, and a record that stands to this day.