At Didcot Railway Centre we have a wonderful collection of Great Western Railway memorabilia in our GWT Museum, which is usually open when the centre is open.

We also have a collection of objects from our own history, including a set of our own newsletters and magazines going back to the 1960s.

I was looking through the archive the other day and found an old Great Western Echo with an article about our catering building.

Our current refreshment room is such an important part of the centre that it is difficult to imagine what we did before it opened, although reading the article, it seemed that much time was spent in local hostelries at lunchtime so the new facility improved productivity considerably.

As it also appeared that the pub didn’t like people in overalls, this probably worked out better for everyone.

On the menu were 'succulent temptations of hamburgers, hot sausage and egg sandwiches, percolated coffee and other delights'.

The catering department was run by a committee with help from a small number of ladies and gentlemen who did their best to open for the workers on Saturdays and for the public as well on Sundays.

Reading the article now, there is an ongoing theme as we were apparently struggling to find catering staff even then.

It was a similar story in our shop which was run by a team of volunteers then and is still a 100 per cent voluntary operation today (we are still looking for volunteers to help).

The first shop was a converted garden shed with an uninterrupted view across the front of the Engine Shed towards the main demonstration line beyond, with the east curve of the GWR main line acting as a backdrop immediately behind that.

Luckily the shop did not have a rear window so avoided the view of the toilet block!

The original shed was reused as a sales stand and survived until very recently when it was eventually replaced by a purpose-built facility housed in a carriage.

In the early 1980s, we opened our second shop in a portacabin that had been acquired when we were awarded grants to carry out improvement works in association with the Manpower Services Commission.

In time this was also replaced by the purpose-built brick building that is still in use today. However, the second shop also went on to enjoy a new life as a sales stand for our Heavy Freight Group Sales Team, specialising in the sale of back numbers of the GWS Echo Magazine and a large range of T-shirts.

The shop and refreshment room are now open daily for visitors and are an important source of income for the railway centre.