St.Albans and District Model Engineering Society

Club Outing To Buckingham Railway Centre, at Quainton.


St Albans MES has for many years arranged a day out for members usually with a railway or boating theme. In recent years members visits have been to Fawley Museum, Crich tramway museum, Portsmouth Dockyard, Isle of Wight railway, Severn Valley Railway and Chatham Dockyard.

This year’s day out was to Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton in Buckinghamshire and had been suggested by Simon Saunders who had been on a previous visit.

Twenty members, family and friends visited the museum on Sunday 16th June.

A really fine sunny and warm day.

Rather than hiring a coach this year members had made their own way there with everyone arriving at the specified time of 11.00am.

The Buckinghamshire Railway centre is one of the smaller Heritage railway centres but with still plenty to see and train rides as well. The train consisting of four ex BR coaches was pulled by an ex National Coal board loco and travels for about a quarter of a mile and back again.

There are several locos, carriages and wagons on the site awaiting restoration including a giant South African loco.

Arrangements had been made for members to be taken on a tour of restoration areas and workshops that the public do not normally see. Members showed a lot of interest in the machinery needed for loco restauration, particularly the enormous lathes and milling machines. It did appear however that there were a large number of locos currently in pieces awaiting restoration but which did not have either the manpower or the funds for completion. It was suggested that a number of the locos would be put back together without restoration, given a coat of paint and shown to the general public as display items only.

There is also a very good museum of railway items.

A very interesting addition on this particular day was the exhibition of vintage commercial vehicles which had completed the annual Ridgeway run and a display of old but restored bicycles.

The railway centre struggles to raise funds for restoration work. Most locos once restored are loaned out to other preserved railways as this is a much bigger income than the money raised from visitors.

There are major changes about to happen at Quainton.

Running through the railway centre has always been a BR line from Aylesbury to Oxford that was occasionally used for carrying goods. Due to the building of HS2 which runs just north of the railway centre this line has been closed. BR has given the track bed down to Aylesbury to the Railway centre. An adjacent field of some six acres has also been given to the railway centre by HS2 and will be used for special events which will bring in more needed funds. Points from the centres existing lines are being installed to allow locos and rolling stock to be moved to the line to Aylesbury.

It is hoped that in the long term the railway centre will be able to run passenger trains from Quainton down to Aylesbury. It is the intention to run visitor trains along part of this line starting on August bank holiday this year.

A interesting day out with a lot to see and a promise of expansion as a major heritage railway centre in the coming years.

Mike Grossmith.

June 2024