Thames Valley Branch

Thames Valley Traffic Notes

Didcot is the main railway centre in the Thames Valley area. As well as the Great Western Society depot there is much for those interested in current railway operations. Two train operating companies provide passenger services.

First Great Western operate HSTs, Adelantes, Turbo units and Class 57/6s. All regular locomotive haulage has ceased apart from the night sleepers, which use the Class 57/6s. Most express services use HSTs. Following refurbishment Adelante units have taken over Worcester services from the Turbos. The IEPs have been testing on night time trials. Closer to London some night sevices are now in the hands of class 387 electrostars, between Paddington to Hayes and Harlington.

Cross Country services are diagrammed for Voyager and Super Voyager units. This franchise is now operated by Arriva.  For more information see http://www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk.

DB Cargo/b> (formally English, Welsh and Scottish Railway) operates Didcot yard. The bottom corner of Didcot yard abuts the station. Locomotives are stabled in the yard and adjacent to the station. The 08 shunter is probably just stored as DB Cargo is phasing them out. Class 59s may appear on Appleford or Oxford Banbury road stone trains. These usually run via the west curve, but morning workings from the Mendips may run via Reading West. Class 60s regularly appear on the empty tanker train 6B33 Theale to Robeston.

DRS DRS locomotives are fairly rare. The occasional workings of the Northern Belle are most likely to provide a pair of DRS 57s or 68s.

Freightliner work intermodal, and some infrastructure trains through Didcot. Class 70s are used on some intermodals.

GB Rail Freight have a number of aggregates workings including Pengam, Angerstein Wharf, Colnbrook and Harlow Mill. Days and times vary. Mossend.

Two further infrastrucure workings have gone over to GBRF. These are:

10:10 6M26 Eastleigh mainly to Stud Farm via Reading West
13:40 6M40 Westbury to mainly Stud Farm via the West Curve

Colas have a day time working through Didcot. This is the 07:55 Westbury to Bescot departmental, with one of Colas's class 70s. This is booked through Didcot North Junction at 10:17.

Devon and Cornwall class 56s have become less common of late. However they are still seen from time to time.

Network Rail test trains appear from time to time. The HST is a regular visitor. Less regular are is the Class 950 track assessment unit. Themtest trains are often hauled by Colas 37s.

Reading is a town with major junction railway junctions. Reading station is on the Great Western main line between Paddington and Bristol/South Wales. Reading station is the junction where the lines to Basingstoke and Cornwall lines diverge through Reading West and split to the south of the town, at Southcote Junction. There is also a west curve to enable trains to and from Didcot to take the Basingstoke line. Reading station and the surrounding area has undergone a major revamp, with extra platforms, the flat junction being replaced by a flying junction, and the turbo maintenance moved to the north side of the main line. The Great Western main line is being electrified. The first electric unit is due to be delivered to Reading depot this Autumn to allow crew training to commence. Extensive photographs of the upgrade can be found on our Gallery page.

Also at Reading the former Southern Railway lines to Waterloo and Guildford head off in an easterly direction splitting at Wokingham. Three train operating companies provide services. First Great Western is generally similar to Didcot, but with more First Great Western workings. The exception is that the two prototype sprinters have been refurbished for use on the stopping service to Basingdtoke. Turbos may still be seen on this service, when the sprinters need servicing. Two car units can be seen on services to Newbury and also on the various branch lines between Reading and London, as well as strengthening services. The maintenance depot for the Turbos on the site of the former Reading Yard has been commisioned.
Some Cross Country services terminate at Reading. Others continue on to various South Coast destinations.

South West Trains provide services to and from Waterloo. Class 458 or 458/5 electric units are usually used. The 458/5 units are rebuilds of the class 458 units or the Gatwick express units, Class 455 units may also be used.

   458024 at Reading with 10:42 to Waterloo   David Evans-Roberts
   458531 and 458534 at Reading with 5Z11 Wimbledon Park Depot Sidings to Reading test run on 22nd January 2014   David Evans-Roberts

Freight. More freight goes through Reading West as Freightliner traffic from Southampton to the North does not go through the main station. Freight traffic is similar to that described for Didcot. However Reading does see far more stone traffic than Didcot and a day's observation will certainly provide both sub classes of Mendip Rail's Class 59s, and possibly an DBS Class 59/2. Freightliner operate a cement train from Earles sidings to Theale and return.

Oxford no longer has a 08 shunter to shunt Hinksey Yard.

   59206 & 59202 at Reading with 7A09 07:12 Merehead-Acton yard 'jumbo' stone train   David Evans-Roberts
Photography: Oxford station is particularly good for photography as freight traffic uses the two centre roads. Another good venue is Hinksey Lakes, where a footbridge overlooks Hinksey Yard. Hinksey Lakes is situated off the Abingdon Road in Oxford. Park either in Lake Street or in the car park adjoining the public park. From the car park follow the footpath/cycle track to the left. Turn right into Lake Street and then left again on a path adjacent to the lake. Shortly turn right on to a footbridge which crosses both the lake and the railway line.

The presence of a large numbers of electric masks in Moreton Cutting make photography difficult. Also the bridge parapets are about two metres, so a step ladder is essential for photographs. On the London side there is a pavement for your ladder at the Dunsomer Hill bridge. The middle bridge being a bridleway has no need for a pavement. Bridge 5168 at the Didcot end has reopened, but has no reasonable views in either direction.

The footbridge at Didcot North Junction has been replaced with a taller bridge for the forthcoming electrification. The bridge parapets are higher than the old bridge. A small stool is reccommended.

Princes Risborough: A single car Class 121 unit 121020 (55020) or 121034 (55034) is used on peak hour services (07:19, 08:23, 09:16, 17:00 and 18:04) to Aylesbury Monday to Friday.
Chiltern runs loco hauled services mainly on weekdays, but some at weekends using Class 68s. The weekday times of loaded trains at Princes Risborough are 06:45 07:48, 08:02, 08:30 09:02, 12:02, 14:02, 17:02 and 19:58 southbound, and 09:15 10:43, 13:40, 16:45, 17:45, 18:01, 18:45 and 18:50 northbound.

Other passenger services use Chiltern Railways Class 165, 168 or class 172 multiple units.
Some services run to/from Oxford Parkway. On our gallery page a wide selection of photographs by Stuart Hicks shows the newly opened line between Bicester Village and Oxford Parkway.

   20227 and 20142 at Banbury on tail of 7X09 Asfordby Test Centre to Amersham on 16th May 2012   David Evans-Roberts
Deliveries of the trains for London Transport are operated by GB Rail Freight using Class 20s from pool GBEE, made up by locomotives from Harry Needle and other privately owned Class 20s They run as required from Asfordby Test Centre to Amersham via Banbury and reverse at Princes Risborough to take the Aylesbury line. The trains (Code 7X09) are booked to arrive at Princes Risborough at around 23:30.

Chiltern Line Freight Although the Chiltern line does not carry a lot of freight traffic, it dose make up for it in variety. MOD stores traffic travels to and from Bicester. Also on this line is stone traffic bound for Oxford Banbury Road. Once the new line between Bicester and Oxford is open these trains may revert to running via Didcot North Junction.

Other traffic is routed from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury.and on to Calvert. Calvert traffic comprises containerised waste or spoil in bogie box wagons.

Information and photographs provided by David Evans-Roberts Thames Valley Web Correspondent. If you spot any errors or have information about new services please email me.

last updated: 24/10/16