We all like to celebrate anniversaries.

At Didcot Railway Centre we commemorate many key events from the history of the Great Western Railway.

This year we celebrate 50 years since our own first open day at what was then called Didcot Motive Power Depot, on May 10, 1969.

British Railways still occupied the engine shed and the area used by us was very small in comparison with the current railway centre.

The open day was intended for members of the Great Western Society, with an admission charge of 1s 6d (7.5p), but non-members were also allowed in for 2s 6d (12.5p).

Visitors were permitted one train journey on the society’s auto train (and indeed first train purchased by the society) consisting of loco 1466 and autocoach 231.

This train ran alongside the engine shed, separated from visitors by a rope barrier. Visitors can still see autocoach 231 today.

There was nothing to stop visitors wandering across the main line running past the centre (the East Curve), but people seemed to be able to use common sense in those days. There were only the four original buildings - with no visitor amenities - even the turntable didn't exist then and we wonder what provision (if any) there was for our female visitors to go to the loo.

John, one of our directors, was a young visitor that day and rushed home to borrow 10s 6d before returning to join the society at a stand set up beside the sand drying furnace building at the front of the engine shed. Mike Snow, the then membership secretary, typed out the new membership card on a manual typewriter.

Just under 1,000 people visited on that first open day. The weather was not fantastic, with rain to start, but then turning dry, but cloudy.

This first open day was a trial run, deliberately a small-scale affair so that members would not have to contend with vast crowds. Our first public open day followed later in the year on September 20.

When we have trains operating, visitors can now have as many train rides as they like. There is also much more to explore.

The railway centre is primarily still run by volunteer members of the Great Western Society. On major open days, visitors can still join the society by visiting our enquiries office near the front of the engine shed. A membership form can also be downloaded from our website: didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk. A difference from 50 years ago is that our members do not have to pay an entrance fee to visit the railway centre, except for a small number of special events.