I hope you enjoyed last month’s story of our early years at Didcot Railway Centre.

We moved to Didcot in 1967 but the Engine Shed was still being used by British Railways and we only opened on a few days a year.

There were still a number of Great Western Society (GWS) outstations and the centre was still very much an industrial site.

It was in the 1970s that the main development work started.

In 1972, the GWS’s outstations at Ashchurch and Caerphilly had closed and engines 5322 (100 years old last year), 6697 (a Great Western Railway Prairie Tank) and 7808 (Cookham Manor) had moved to Didcot.

However, Pendennis Castle had departed for a new home at Market Overton and we had full occupation of the whole depot.

The Lifting Shop was soon put to use to lift the boiler of Cookham Manor.

In an epic journey on April 19, 1974, locos 7202, 4942, 4144 and 3738 arrived in convoy from Dai Woodham’s yard in Barry.

Of great significance at this time was the installation of machine tools in the Lifting Shop, which involved the reconstruction of the line shaft to drive an 18 foot bed lathe from the Great Western Railway’s Worcester works.

In 1974 the society ran a complete vintage train with engines 6998 (Burton Agnes Hall) and 7808 (Cookham Manor) and a fully restored eight, later ten, coach train on the main line.

It was a massive achievement even though rules and regulations were much more sensible in those days and many British Railways (BR) personnel were very sympathetic towards us.

1975 saw the first extension to the Didcot site when permission was obtained from BR to lay track outside the then current boundary toward what is now the branch line and the carriage shed.

Due to the difficult nature of the ground, the extension became known as the UP (Union Pacific), as it was an epic engineering triumph.

In the same year the turntable from Southampton Docks was purchased and moved to Didcot.

In 1977 we started work on the Carriage Shed with the erection of the steelwork.

This helped us start to get our valuable carriage collection under cover as there is nothing worse than the open air for vintage vehicles. We also made a start on dismantling the Transfer Shed from its old location – now the site of the new multi storey station car park – and re-erecting it at the northern end of Didcot Railway Centre.

But that is a story for the next decade.