Over the past few days a steady stream of curious locomotives have been seen on the railways heading towards London. Coming together to mourn the passing of a mighty railway depot.
Built eleventy-one years ago, this gigantic swathe of railway tracks and sheds just outside Paddington is soon to be redeveloped from looking after Intercity 125 services into one that will look after Elizabeth line trains.
Although it will remain a depot, an era is coming to an end.
Ahead of its closure someone thought it’d be nice to let the public go past normally secure gates and wander around the railways for a day. Would anyone turn up? Just a few thousand did.
This was the Old Oak Common Open Day.
Wandering around an empty depot is undeniably of some interest, but a depot full of unusual trains is much more interesting.
So they created the “Legends of the Great Western”, a special line up of trains from the era of steam to a train so new it hasn’t even carried passengers yet.
And behind them an entire flotilla of trains of varying ages, types, sizes and fuels.
A gathering of trains invariably brings a gathering of train geeks, out to get photos and tick off lists in notepads, and today was a mecca of railway geekdom.
A few of the railway geeks were audibly less than delighted with the idea of a few thousand other people being around, when they wanted to get photos of locomotives sans humans. The ambition for photos lacking any humans causing the occasional shout at people to get out of the way, or loudly curse that they have wait just a few moments as a family walked past.
The majority of people though were here for fun, to see and touch and smell the trains they rarely see. For most wandering around it was the delight of the unusual that was causing smiles and delights.
To look up at locomotives at an angle never seen when standing on railway platforms.
The chance to walk on the railway tracks — those steel lines of danger we must never normally touch, to walk on uneven concrete, rough ballast, wooden sleepers. To smell the oil and tar. Sounds of steam engines tooting horns, of diesel engines growling, of electric motors whining.
So many railway museum depots are quiet as rarely more than a handful of engines are operational, but today the crowds were surrounded by the sounds of the locomotives vying with each other to attract attention.
Games of whistles were played out as a Tornado lead choruses of steamy renditions of familiar tunes.
A newly named engine in honour of the depot was driven out of the shed to applause, and then the shed was opened up to delight visitors with a chance to go up high and look down on engines.
And of course, to see the mighty eight engines in a line up that’ll never happen again.
(yes, there’s nine, the railmotor was offering shuttle trips, and snuck into my photo. Oh, the horrors!)
It was a day to see a wide range of engines, or better yet to simply soak in an atmosphere of railways past, present, and future.
Some photos (click to enlarge)