As well as our steam engines at Didcot Railway Centre, in most weeks over the summer there has been a chance to see steam specials passing through Didcot Parkway Station next door.

I was looking through an old Great Western Echo dated Winter 1967 – the Great Western Echo is the magazine of the Great Western Society (GWS) – and came across an article about a steam trip in November 1967.

It must have been at the end of October when it was announced that British Railways was stopping all steam hauled specials including those by privately owned engines, as the Echo notes that seven days later on Saturday 4 November, ‘an irrepressible Great Western Railway tank engine’ sallied forth with a train from a Western Region terminus. That tank engine was GWR 61xx Class, No 6106, which is now on display at the centre. 6106 was built at Swindon in May 1931, and withdrawn from Oxford depot in 1967. She was purchased in working order by a GWS member and sent to the small depot temporarily established by the society in the old Taplow goods shed.

Apparently for the trip 6106 had been restored to ‘more acceptable traditional colours’ – presumably Brunswick Green – after being painted in psychedelic livery for use in the film ‘The Bliss of Mrs Blossom’ starring Shirley MacLaine where she operated in a contrived snowstorm at Taplow, to the consternation of surprised main-line drivers.

Taplow was the starting point for that November journey, with the trip having been organised by the GWS by arrangement with British Railways, to move the stock from Taplow goods shed. 6106 travelled from her timbered goods shed to Kensington Olympia Station, by then the main London terminus for British Rail Motorail trains which carried cars and passengers from London on long distance routes to the north, Wales and the west country.

Last time I was at Olympia for the Museums & Heritage Show I could still see the Olympia Motorail Car Park which is still in use. 6106 was on home turf as she had been built for commuter services in the London area and typical duties were Paddington to Aylesbury via High Wycombe, and to Oxford, Windsor, Reading and Basingstoke.

The Echo article is illustrated by a photo of 6106 hauling six vehicles approaching Didcot so of course she made it to her current home.

Our ‘irrepressible GWR tank engine’ is now one of the 28 steam engines that we have at Didcot Railway Centre today.