Steam or Didcot Rail Centre?

Discussion in 'Railtours & Preservation' started by ge-gn, 19 Jun 2019.

  1. ge-gn

    ge-gn Member

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    Mods, please move if in incorrect sub forum.

    In a couple of weeks my 6yo son and myself are heading to Monmouth on holiday by rail. Was just contemplating a break of journey and see there is the two museums mentioned in the title which could be suitable. Does anybody recommend one more than the other for 2-3 hours before we head onwards. It will be a Monday, and I note it is just an exhibition day at Didcot.

    Any advice gladly accepted. Thanks.
     
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  3. pdeaves

    pdeaves Established Member

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    Many people speak highly of Steam. Personally I think it is a bit 'dumbed down' and would recommend Didcot. Didcot wastes less time in walking to the site from the station.

    Other peoples' opinions may vary.
     
  4. ArchieWoodbine

    ArchieWoodbine Member

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    Are there any specific locos which you're keen to see? Steam has City of Truro, Caerphilly Castle and Kind George V, which are all pretty famous in their own right. However I'd say Didcot has more and a wider-range - you can also usually get into the cabs of more of them at Didcot.

    Didcot is adjacent to the station; whereas Steam is about a 10-15 minute walk. Steam is more of a traditional, static-exhibit museum; whereas Didcot feels a lot more like a working shed which just happens to be open to the public.

    You'll be in and out a lot at Didcot, so may not be ideal if the weather is poor. On balance, I'd reccomend Didcot out of the two.
     
  5. brstd4260

    brstd4260 Member

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    I'd agree with the previous 2 responders. Didcot definitely has the feel of a "proper" steam shed. There's a much better range of loco's to see. The café is pretty reasonable and not expensive. Even though it's a "static day", there's always the chance of shunting moves taking place. The volunteers are always friendly and willing to talk about the locos and the centre, and there's a good chance of getting on the footplate of a working loco, albeit not in steam. Don't get me wrong steam is good in it's own way, but Didcot stands head and shoulders above it.
     
  6. trebor79

    trebor79 Established Member

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    Steam will be better for a 6 year old. There's more to it than just the locomotives and they have dressing up and other activities that kids live.
    Didcot would definitely appeal more to a hardened rail enthusiast.

    I went to Didcot as a 9 year old and my abiding memory was that it was a bit of a disappointment. I think my least favourite rail trip of my childhood. Lots of stumbling around a yard, it was an operating but the rides were short and I think had Steam existed then, I would have enjoyed that more.
    Mind you, that was 30 years ago, no doubt it's changed a bit.

    I'd still take my 5 year old to Steam over Didcot though.
     
  7. tiptoptaff

    tiptoptaff Established Member

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    If DRC aren't running on the day you're going, I recommend STEAM over DRC. Especially with a young child
     
  8. nickswift99

    nickswift99 Member

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    Not appropriate to the OP (but might be useful for anyone who stumbles across this thread later) STEAM has the advantage of being right next to the Outlet Mall so something for the rest of the family to do who aren't interested in railways.
     
  9. tiptoptaff

    tiptoptaff Established Member

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    OP might find it useful, more variety for a spot of lunch!
     
  10. Peter C

    Peter C Established Member

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    Didcot Railway Centre, in my opinion, is far better. It's a museum of sorts, yes, but I'd class it more as a small heritage railway. They have a big engine shed, in which you can get up close to the locos and even "cab" some of them, two running lines, a carriage shed, and a broad gauge transfer shed. They also have an old GWR coaling stage.
    STEAM is definitely just a museum with some interesting things. In terms of going to each of the places by rail, Didcot is far easier; the centre is accessible by going along the underpass at the station (no footbridge at Didcot Parkway). The only downside is that there is a small flight of steps to go up to reach the centre.
    I've spent many a day at Didcot, but have only ever been to STEAM once as I think that Didcot has far more to entertain any visitor.

    Just my thoughts and all that. :)

    -Peter
     
  11. Peter C

    Peter C Established Member

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    I think that if you went to Didcot now, you'd like it a lot more. Considering what they have to work with (an old BR yard which they've used for 30 years I think), they've done a jolly good job! If you went to STEAM, there would be no ride at all.

    -Peter
     
  12. trebor79

    trebor79 Established Member

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    Indeed, I still think that Steam is a more child friendly offering. I can understand why Didcot appeals to adults.
    Steam also offers a lot more insight into the social history etc than just being purely about bashing sheds and canning locos.
     
  13. Peter C

    Peter C Established Member

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    Fair point. Personally, I have a small interest in the social history behind the railways, but I prefer being able to get up close and see how stuff works than just be told or having to look at it from afar. I understand that STEAM is very good at what it does but Didcot will always be the better one for me.

    -Peter
     
  14. ge-gn

    ge-gn Member

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    Thank you all for the informative replies. As I mentioned, we will be on our way to our holiday. I was swayed by Steam, but given the advice here that it is a good walk from the station has put me off. Also, on checking the website, they state no large bags allowed. I will be equipped with a rucksack, so they definitely lost a punter there.

    Strikes me that Didcot will be a “stick your bag up the corner somewhere” outfit. Don’t mean that rudely, and of course I will check ahead.

    Incidentally, my lad loves many aspects of the railway, but I think possibly the social history side may be beyond him at the moment.

    Many thanks, and still open to opinions and advice.
     
  15. Roger100

    Roger100 Member

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    I liked Steam and have been there a few times. It's obviously a different experience than Didcot, and has quite a few exhibits based on loco manufacture, and other operational stuff. And it's nicer when it's raining. But having moved hundreds of miles away to the north east, Swindon and Didcot are a bit of a trek.

    I now live near Durham so Shildon and York are easy to get to, and free to get in. But I still miss Swindon and Didcot, having grown up and lived on the GWML for most of my life.
     
  16. FGW_DID

    FGW_DID Established Member

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    Another plus point for Didcot is the relatively newish Signalling Centre / Museum which now houses the old Swindon Panel. Quite a lot of interactive bits in there.
     
  17. tiptoptaff

    tiptoptaff Established Member

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    There will be no ride at Didcot either, as it's not a running day.

    OP - a rucksack will be absolutely fine at STEAM. They have a cloakroom in any case. The walk isn't that far.
     
  18. Peter C

    Peter C Established Member

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    Yep - I was there last Saturday for the 175th events and they allowed people to have a go and moving some of the stuff around. Very interesting! :)
    OK - You do have to check that it will be a running day at Didcot. I've been there before on an exhibit day and it was alright. But for small children that could be very boring.

    -Peter
     
  19. reddragon

    reddragon Member

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    Depends on what your 6yo is like. Mine all liked Didcot RC at 6 as it involves some action, movement, climbing, some dirt, a playground of sorts, cafe and shop.

    Steam might suit a more sedentary child quite unlike any of mine!
     
  20. ge-gn

    ge-gn Member

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    Haha, I like this post. Sedentary my 6yo is not, and as well as railways he also enjoys dirt and climbing amongst other things!

    I think we are going to do Didcot. We will be on quite a long journey so losing time walking to Steam isn’t really an option, when we have another 3-4 hours of travel after leaving.

    I think he would enjoy Steam. He certainly enjoyed the NRM, but I think we will save it for another time. Perhaps it’s a good one to visit in the winter.
     
  21. reddragon

    reddragon Member

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    An added advantage is you gain entry without leaving the station and there are no ticket barriers on that exit, so you can break your journey without a check.
     
  22. trebor79

    trebor79 Established Member

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    Visited Didcot with my 5 year old, babe in arms, wife and parents today.
    It was great. It's come on a lot since the last time I visited decades ago. Plenty there for the hardened enthusiast and the family visitors. The boy was cheerfully invited onto the footplate of the loco running on the demonstration line which he was over the moon about. We also had a ride on the steam railmotor which was interesting and a first for me.
    Nice to wander around the shed and they were farting about with a rail crane too.
    Interesting signalling exhibition and a great artefacts museum.
    Nice home cooked food in the cafe.
    Very reasonable admission fee.
    A grand day out.

    Still think STEAM is worth a visit.
     
  23. Flying Phil

    Flying Phil Established Member

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    So.... how did you get on after all??
     
  24. ge-gn

    ge-gn Member

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    We went to Didcot. And spent a happy 4 hours there. And he enjoyed it very much. Think he quite enjoyed the down on the ground experience of it. Would like to visit on a operating day some time.
     

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