Carriage Building

Carriage Building

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle

 

Apart from many exhibits of interest to railway engine and rolling stock enthusiasts, the Museum of the Great Western Railway tells the social story of the railway community in Swindon, with recorded personal experiences and film archives. Lifelike exhibits show people at work and human interactions. There are exhibits explaining the construction of locomotives, of railway equipment and of the railways themselves. It also tells the history of the Great Western Railway and the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the famous Victorian engineer, who masterminded the Great Western Railway. There are many hands-on exhibits and interactive displays. Enthusiastic ex-railway workers are on hand, to give a personal insight into many of the exhibits. There is a series of reconstructions of areas of work, such as office, stores, workshop, signal box and foundry. The museum holds a massive archive of books, periodicals, photographs, drawings and plans, relating to the Great Western Railway.

 

STEAM is situated in the heart of what was once one of the largest railway engineering complexes in the world. Swindon Railway Works opened in January 1843 as a repair and maintenance facility for the new Great Western Railway. By 1900 the works had expanded dramatically and employed over 12,000 people. At its peak in the 1930s, the works covered over 300 acres and was capable of producing three locomotives a week. The railway dominated the fortunes of Swindon until after the Second World War, when new industries moved to the area. The completion of the last steam locomotive for British Railways - Evening Star - at Swindon in 1960, marked a watershed in the history of the works, and in 1963 a large part of the old carriage and wagon works on the eastern side of the Gloucester branch line was closed and sold for redevelopment. Despite a brief renaissance in the 1970s, the works finally closed in 1986.

 

The Grade II listed structure now occupied by STEAM is a complex piece of industrial archaeology. It consists of a number of buildings built over a long period. The earliest structure is the 1846 machine and fitting shop - part of Brunel’s original works complex. Known as the ‘scraggery’ this area is now occupied by the entrance hall and public facilities for the museum (when nuts and bolts were renovated for re-use, the process was known as ‘scragging’). The building still retains its queen-post roof and some original windows. To the south is the much modified blacksmith's shop, which also dates from 1846, although its conversion to a substation early in the twentieth century dramatically altered its character. The main body of the museum was a machine and turning shop created when the Great Western Railway roofed over a courtyard between the original Brunel Engine House of 1843 and the 1846 machine and fitting shop. Completed in two stages between 1865 and 1872 the ‘R’ Shop has a ridge and furrow roof supported by cast iron columns. Although modified in 1929/30 the building was a machine shop for most of its life, and was largely filled with belt-driven equipment until the outbreak of the Second World War. In the early 1960s the building was again modified, when it was converted into a Wheel Shop. The old wood blockfloor was removed, and a new concrete slab added.

Horse Dray

Horse Dray

Scammell Scarab

Scammell Scarab

 

The museum is home to a number of GWR pre-nationalization-era locomotives, two of which are the first members of their respective classes. The majority of these are part of the UK National Collection. GWR Star Class North Star – a replica of an early broad gauge locomotive. GWR 2301 Class 2516 - Built in 1897. GWR 3700 Class 3717 City of Truro Built in 1903 on static display, famed for setting a speed of 102.4 mph on the Wellington Bank in 1904. GWR 4073 Class 4073 Caerphilly Castle – Built in 1923 on static display. GWR 4200 Class 4248 – Built in 1916 on static display, largely dismantled to look like a locomotive in the works. GWR 6000 Class 6000 King George V - Built in 1927 on static display. GWR 9400 Class 9400 – Built in 1947. Agecroft No 3 - 0-4-0 ST locomotive built by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns in 1951 (works number 7681) - located outside the Old Swindon Works 20 Shop.

 

The rolling stock on display includes a Buffet Car No 9631 from 1934, Queen Victoria's Royal Saloon from 1897, a Mink Wagon Mink is from the identifying telegraphic code), a Toad Brake Van, Shunting Wagon and Coal Wagon (restored and displayed externally). STEAM is fully accessible – with lifts and ramps giving wheelchair and pushchair access throughout the museum. Disabled toilet facilities are available. It is an experience of sights, sounds, smell and touch. Free admission to carers or helpers assisting a disabled visitor. Free loan of wheelchair or motorised scooter. Personal guiding scheme for unaccompanied disabled visitors (booking required). Subtitled video and large print information panels throughout STEAM. Low-level counters at the Ticket Desk, Shop and Cafe. Induction loop system at the Ticket Desk. Easy to read signage. Guide, Hearing and Assistance dogs welcome (dog bowls available). There are automatic entrance doors and an adult changing room.

 

Location : Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon SN2 2EY

Transport: Swindon (National Rail) 15 minutes or bus. Bus Routes : 1, 1A and 8 stop at the designer outlet.

Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00

Tickets : Adults £8.50;  Seniors/Students £6.80;  Children £6.30

Tel: 01793 466637