Staff and volunteers at Didcot Railway Centre are looking ahead to an even bigger year in 2024 after a successful year of drawing crowds, hosting an array of events and showcasing historic locomotives.

Finishing 2023 on a high, throughout December the centre has run nine Steam into Christmas days.

And on December 14, the centre hosted a special performance of A Christmas Carol, performed by actor and director Gerald Dickens – great, great grandson of Charles Dickens.

READ MORE: 121-home plan on Oxford border could come forward in 2024

In the new year, construction on a new access ramp is expected to be completed suited to wheelchairs and buggies.

This will replace a former staircase.

Staff and volunteers are also looking forward to the return of the centre’s first locomotive and celebrating the 100th anniversary of express passenger locomotive Pendennis Castle.

Clive Hetherington, chief executive of Didcot Railway Centre, said: “Our visitor numbers have been far above expectations this year, which is very promising indeed.

"Enhancing our accessibility for all with the installation of our new ramp, which will be opened by Network Rail chairman Lord Peter Hendy early in the year, will boost visitor numbers even further in the new year, along with many new events.

Oxford Mail: Steam Days take place at the centre throughout the year Steam Days take place at the centre throughout the year (Image: Oxford Mail)“Our Christmas events were entirely sold out this year, having been 75 per cent sold in 2022.

"Our Dickens Christmas Carol re-enactment was the first time we’ve run any form of attraction, concert or event in the evening and this is something we’re hoping to do more of in the new year too, along with food like fish and chips.

“In the spring, the first engine the four teenage boys who founded the Great Western Society here ever bought - for £750 in 1964 - will be returning to steam from overhaul following a major restoration.

"In honour of this, we’ll be hosting a big 60s themed party.

“Before that though, in February the Pendennis Castle engine will be turning 100. This is a very famous engine.

"We celebrated the 100th birthday of the Flying Scotsman this year. The two engines have actually met at a great exhibition and after testing, the Pendennis came out superior. They’ve both gone round the world.

“Attractions aside, a major restoration will be taking place with our engine shed. It was built in 1932 but now the roof needs replacing.

"This won’t come without a cost, so there will be lots of events to raise money.”

Oxford Mail: Christmas events have been taking place recently Christmas events have been taking place recently (Image: Oxford Mail)Staff and volunteers at the centre are also excited to watch upcoming television series Masters of the Air and George Clooney-directed film The Boys In The Boat, both of which were filmed at the centre.

Mr Hetherington said: “We’ve got two dates lined up when Paddington Bear will be visiting in good time for the next feature film out next year.

"We’re expecting an even better year than this year as there’s so much going on and something for everyone.

“Even now we have a growing youth group of 27 working to restore an engine as a project at weekends.

"We’ve even featured recently in the new Great Western Railway version of Monopoly, along with other areas on their lines.

“A big push of ours will be to appeal to people locally too, as we really want to encourage people to explore what’s on their doorstep.

"We’ve had so many good reviews from people who live in Didcot and we’re certainly not an expensive day out for families.

“It’s common for people to explore outside of their hometowns and local areas but in 2024, we’re really going to be reaching out to our neighbours with special offers like free entry for children who live in the town, so keep your eyes peeled.”