It’s amazing what you can find in antique shops and it’s often the smaller personal items that tell the best stories.

Over Christmas, Richard, one of our guards, was busy thinking of topics for this column when his friend James sent him a postcard of Didcot Junction.

It is a black and white photograph taken from near the new footbridge looking towards London.

You can just see the old Didcot Station on the right hand side while on the left are the old coal stage and engine shed of the Didcot depot.

They were nearer to Didcot Station than our railway centre buildings and it is strange to see the old depot before our coal stage was built in the 1930s.

There are some rather splendid GWR signal gantries and point work, as well as two extremely tall telegraph poles on what is now Platform 1 of Didcot Parkway Station.

Henry Taunt, who produced the postcard, was based in Oxford and produced many images of the local area, mainly views of Oxfordshire and adjoining counties.

He published postcards from 1860 until 1922, the year he died. The postcard James sent is no 891, so if there is a full list of all his cards somewhere, we might be able to pin down the date more accurately.

Henry Taunt loved the River Thames and produced the first pocket guide to the River Thames to be illustrated with photographs.

In the 1860s it covered the upper Thames, but later editions expanded its range. In 1872 he published A New Map of the River Thames and in 1893 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in recognition of the cartography and accuracy of measurements. Sadly he was declared bankrupt the following year but in 1894 he was back trading from a new address.

Richard has done some detective work on the postcard. There are no people in sight so there is no clue there. The picture was taken well after the abolition of the broad gauge in 1892, while the new-looking 4-wheeled coaches on the left hand side were introduced in about 1900-1905. Most of the engines of the type shown in the picture (a Dean 4-2-2 tender engine), with that particular type of boiler, were withdrawn by 1912, so the most likely period for the picture is roughly 1900-11. Quite a lot of Taunt’s photos are in the National Monuments Record in Swindon, so that gives Richard a good excuse to visit them and see what he can find out.

Postcards give a wonderful insight into every day lives and Richard has another story about the sender and recipient of the card. But that is for another week.