Didcot Railway Centre hosts a collection of steam trains, coaches and wagons. There is a museum of railway relics as well as an interactive learning centre. On certain days throughout the year they have engines running for visitors to have a ride on. They also hold Thomas The Tank Engine days. Visit their website for their timetable of ‘running days’.
We enjoyed looking round the museum and seeing the volunteers working on various restoration projects. They were very knowledgeable, happy to answer questions and show what they were doing. There were lots of old railway relics to enjoy too.
Another part of the Railway Centre we particularly like is the air raid shelter. My stepdaughter Lilian loves history and particularly enjoys places that really bring history to life. Lois had just been reading about the war the night before our visit so this was perfect timing. Hearing her tell her little brother what the gas masks in the display were used for was very cute!
During one visit Lois and Cody took part in a ‘Young Engineers’ workshop. They learned about coal and how it is used to power the steam engines. They then spent the rest of the visit picking up stones around the site to see if they were coal or not! We also visited the interactive learning exhibit which is housed in two static train carriages and put our knowledge of steam and the Great Western Railway to the test. Apparently I am not very good!
Didcot Railway Centre site is great for little explorers who like to roam around freely, without parents having to worry about not letting them touch things, etc. The track where trains run on ‘running’ days is behind a fence. The rest of the tracks aren’t generally used so visitors are fine to wander around them. Having said that, occasionally steam engines are moved around on them so do keep an eye out. There are also some deep holes near the engine sheds which are used to carry out maintenance underneath the engines, so again you need to keep a close eye on children in those areas to avoid any accidents. The fact that children can explore freely though is fab. Mine love to try and balance along the tracks and play with the old signals.
I love the fact that you can get so up close and personal with the engines instead of them being set back behind ropes or fences. The children loved being able to stand next to the huge wheels to compare them against their own height and to touch the metal to see how cold it was.
As well as being able to touch the engines there are also some that have stairways so you can climb up into the cabin. The kids were fascinated by all the levers and pressure gauges. They loved to see where the firemen would have put the coal to get the steam going. Some of the engines are incredibly tall so the cabins were quite high up!
There are lots of benches dotted around the site for tired legs to stop and have a rest. There’s a lovely little tea room for a well earned coffee for the grown ups. Visitors can bring their own food and make use of the picnic tables. Next to them is a new play area with 2 wooden trains and a ticket office, great for role play and ‘letting off steam’ (see what I did there?!).
The Railway Centre has toilets with baby changing and a little shop on site as well as the tea room. There is no disabled access due to an unavoidable flight of stairs to access the entrance which is a real shame. It is, however, a lovely place to visit for all train enthusiasts, both young and old, with lots to see and do. You can easily spend a good few hours or even all day here, especially on a steam ‘running’ day. Take a picnic and make a day of it.
UPDATE: The new Signalling Centre exhibition is now open for visitors!
- Toilets / Disabled Toilet Yes
- Pushchair / Wheelchair Friendly Yes once you have got to the top of the unavoidable flight of 18 steps to the entrance. There is no lift.
- Disabled access Hearing loop in shop. Carers get in free. Blue badge parking outside main station entrance.
- Dog Friendly Yes dogs are welcome on a lead.
- Refreshments available Cafe serving hot and cold refreshments.
- Car Park Large multi-storey car park. Follow brown signs.
- Shop Yes.
- Baby facilities Baby changing facilities.
Address: Station Road, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 7NJ
Price Band: ££
Disclaimer: Didcot Railway Centre were not involved in this review. All photos, words and opinions are that of my own.