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Steaming Along On A Trip From Guildford To Oxford And Back

Published on: 3 Jul, 2018
Updated on: 9 Jul, 2018

By Bob McShee

Steam Dreams, the Albury based company who organise trips and holidays, ran one from Guildford to Worcester, on Thursday last week, with an opportunity to leave the train at Oxford, which my wife and I took.

The train arriving at Platform 8, Guildford station.

The advertised engine, 60009, Union of South Africa, is one of the 34 Class A4 streamlined engines designed by Sir Nigel Gresley. The most famous member of Class A4 being 60022 Mallard, which holds the record for the fastest steam engine in the world.

The train passing the foot crossing at the end of Pound Lane, Wood Street Village. Picture by David Rose. All other pictures by Bob McShee.

Because of the high risk of lineside fires, 60009 was coupled to a vintage diesel engine. This engine is due to be withdrawn from mainline running and be placed in a museum.

The train arrived at Guildford station, Platform 8, at approximately 9.30am, then proceeded to Farnborough North and Reading to pick up passengers, before arriving at Oxford at 11.30am.

The train leaving Oxford on its way to Worcester.

This should have given us over seven hours to explore the city of Oxford, however, Network Rail said that it would not be possible for the train to return from Worcester by the same route, and we would have to board a service train from Oxford to Didcot where we would rejoin the steam train. More about this later.

We walked from the station into the city centre and decided to have an early lunch before we went sight seeing, so we went to the White Horse pub. This pub dates back to the 16th-centuary, but is more famous for featuring in the Inspector Morse TV series, as well as episodes of Lewis and Endeavour.

The White Horse pub in Oxford.

After enjoying an excellent lunch, including for me a pint of real ale, we set out to board a ‘hop on, hop off’ sight-seeing bus.  As we had not visited Oxford before we enjoyed seeing all the famous colleges, museums, libraries and Christ Church Cathedral.

After leaving the bus we went to the Botanic Gardens, next to the River Cherwell, where we strolled through the many beds of beautiful flowers.

Giant water lilies in the Botanic Garden.

The Botanic Garden was founded in 1621 and was established for the study of medicinal plants, and is Britain’s oldest botanic garden.

We then ‘battled’ our way through the city centre to the railway station. The reason for the difficult walk back was due to it being open day at all the colleges, so the city was full of prospective students and their parents visiting them.

We arrived back at the station to catch the scheduled 5.35pm service train to Didcot to find that it had been cancelled by GWR. Then a fast train to Paddington arrived 10 minutes late, and stayed in the station for 20 minutes causing further delays to the following trains.

We were now running out of time to catch our steam train at 6.34pm at Didcot. Fortunately, the Steam Dreams steward who had met us on the platform managed to persuade GWR to make an additional stop at Didcot on the next fast train to Paddington, so we joined an overcrowded train to return to Didcot. All credit to the Steam Dreams and its steward for taking this action.

Our steam train arrived on time at Didcot and we were glad to return to our seats and enjoy a drink and a piece of cake. We had a fast journey to Reading, but were slightly delayed arriving back in Guildford by a preceding service train.

Despite the problem of the return train to Didcot, open day at Oxford and the very hot weather, we had enjoyed our day.  We look forward to another steam train trip when the ‘steam ban’ has been lifted.

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Responses to Steaming Along On A Trip From Guildford To Oxford And Back

  1. John Lomas Reply

    July 3, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    That does seem to be good work on the part of the train operator.

    I can’t be certain, but I think that would also have involved Network Rail having to change things.

    I believe trains from Oxford which don’t stop at Didcot use the bypass line which passes the other side of the railway centre and joins the mainline beyond the station; and special arrangements would have had to be made to use the other line which enters the main line west of Didcot station.

  2. Michael Aaronson Reply

    July 4, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks Bob. A great read for old steam buffs like me – and not least because I waved at you from my garden as you went by in the morning!

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