Old Oak Common Depot Open House Revisited…

Tempus fugit indeed! Here it is January 2018 already and I am finally working on a blog entry which I promised back in October 2017! If you will recall I had been in London in September of that year and was able to attend an open house at the Great Western Railway’s High Speed Train Depot in North Acton, London. (Link here)

The Great Western Railway serves a good part of the west and south-west of England. London Paddington station is the railroad’s main hub and just west of there is the Old Oak Common Depot. 

Current system map for the Great Western Railway

The depot was built in 1906. During the more recent past the GWR’s High Speed Train Class 43 was serviced here. The Class 43, the first units were built in 1975, is being phased out and being replaced with new Hitachi Class 800 Electro-Diesel Intercity Express Trains. Servicing of the Class 800 will be done at another depot, thus the imminent partial closure of the Old Oak Common Depot. 

 Two Intercity 125 Class 43 trains at London Paddington station. 

Two Intercity 125 Class 43 trains at London Paddington station. 

 A new Hitachi built Class 800 Intercity Express Train. 

A new Hitachi built Class 800 Intercity Express Train. 

So for a last hurrah the Great Western Railway decided to commemorate decades of service at this depot with an open house. According to informed sources about 17000 curious folks took them up on their offer and pluncked down £20 (about $28) each for a ticket to this event. Of note is that all proceeds from this event were donated to charity by GWR!

As mentioned in the original blog about this event, my friend Michael and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a look ourselves. (You can read his account here). 

One of the more interesting items was a “Steam Motor”. I had never heard of such a thing, but here it was. Apparently these were built for low traffic branch lines, just before diesel traction became viable for railroad use. Here is more information about them

The Didcot built GWR Steam Motor in action. The video section of the roll out of the Class 180 was done by CoachAlex1996 (AlexMetroman)

As I mentioned it was crowded. 

Vendors had set up their stands along side the service road. Just about everything railroad related could be had. From model trains to T-shirts to rail themed dinnerware to train gag gifts to toffee apples, it was for sale.  And of course there were some rides:

Model trains for sale in all scales and gauges. Fascinatingly enough most of the items for sale are models of US locomotives and rolling stock. And for a mere Corinthian bagatelle this large scale (45mm) model of a British Railways Class 52 diesel-hydraulic locomotive can be yours: 

Allow me an aside. Notice the young lad on the right taking a photograph of “Western Champion”? I was gratified to see a good number of young folks seemingly expressing an interest in trains, real and models. Mostly males, but there were a few young ladies among the crowd. Here in the US it seems to be a hobby only for old men like me. 

Here are a few photographs of the locomotives and DMU’s on display:

 A  British Railways Class 8  diesel shunting locomotive. The first one was built in 1952. 

A British Railways Class 8 diesel shunting locomotive. The first one was built in 1952. 

 A  UK Class 56 diesel electric locomotive , built from 1976 through 1984.

A UK Class 56 diesel electric locomotive , built from 1976 through 1984.

  A UK Class 57 diesel electric locomotive.   These are essentially rebuilt Class 47 locomotives and a good number are still in everyday service.

A UK Class 57 diesel electric locomotive.   These are essentially rebuilt Class 47 locomotives and a good number are still in everyday service.

 Britains version of high speed trains: On the left is an Intercity 125 diesel train. Some of those are now over 40 years old and still in service. In the middle is a Class 180 diesel multiple unit train, the first one having been built in 2002. On the right is a  Hitachi built Class 800  electro-diesel train. These are brand new and are slated to replace the Intercity 125 units.

Britains version of high speed trains: On the left is an Intercity 125 diesel train. Some of those are now over 40 years old and still in service. In the middle is a Class 180 diesel multiple unit train, the first one having been built in 2002. On the right is a Hitachi built Class 800 electro-diesel train. These are brand new and are slated to replace the Intercity 125 units.

 A closer look at a new Class 800 train.

A closer look at a new Class 800 train.

Of course a railway event of this size would not have been complete without “Tornado” being on display. “Tornado” is a Class A1 steam locomotive. It was built starting in 1994, finished in 2008, with the premise being to show the possible improvements in steam locomotive technology had steam continued to be used. The entire enterprise was undertaken by the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust. I am not sure that the whole idea worked, however I do know that “Tornado” steam runs are always totally sold out.

Some of the work shops were also open to the public on this day:

 An underfloor  MTU diesel engine  for a diesel multiple unit. 

An underfloor MTU diesel engine for a diesel multiple unit. 

A Siemens “Heathrow Express” Class 332 in for service at the depot.

All in all a very interesting day. 

All photographs by Ralf Meier, unless otherwise noted. Camera used: Sony Alpha 7 R II

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