Collection highlights


The photographic collection consists of around 80,000 photographs relating to the Great Western Railway and British Railways (Western Region). The majority of the collection consists of over 70,000 photographic prints with the remainder consisting of negatives, glass plate negatives, slides and photographic printing blocks. One of the most notable subjects covered are locomotives, with images covering both steam and diesel locomotive manufacture from the late 1830s to the 1960s.

Further themes in the photographic collection include the development of Swindon Works, rolling stock, Second World War, people, social history, railway infrastructure, docks and road vehicles.

You can browse the STEAM Picture Library online and even purchase images as bespoke prints and gifts: 

  • Locomotive Photographs

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    This photograph is one of the Museum’s most popular images. It shows seven King Class locomotives lined up outside Swindon Shed in 1930.  At this time the King Class were the Great Western Railway’s most powerful express locomotives. They were introduced in 1927 and worked the GWR main line.

    The locomotives in this image from left to right are No 6005 King George II, No 6008 King James II, No 6017 King Edward IV, No 6020 King Henry IV, No 6022 King Edward III, No 6023 King Edward II and No 6024 King Edward I.

    Purchase this photo as a bespoke print of gift: 

  • GWR Station Photographs

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    Stations and halts were some of the most photographed locations on the Great Western network. STEAM holds around 4000 of these photographs covering approximately 80% of all GWR stations. The images show stations in their infancy, as bustling termini and near to closure.

    A highlight of this collection are the photographs of Paddington Station. Ranging from the late 19th Century they show Paddington as the busy London Station it still is today. Paddington Station has always been a hive of activity. It was instrumental in both World Wars, it hosted royalty and was the gateway to the West Country.

  • Second World War Photographs

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    STEAM has a collection of about 2000 photographs relating to the Great Western Railway’s involvement in the Second World War. It is a comprehensive catalogue of work that the GWR undertook for the war effort. The images show a network under direct attack, the emerging role of women and the advances in industrial and military technology.

    Many of the images are official publicity photographs taken by the company to document its wartime activities.  Many were published in the GWR staff magazine and designed to keep the morale of the workforce up. The GWR also took photographs that were never published.  These show the twisted wrecks of bombed locomotives or stations damaged by air raids. They were kept within the company archive and are now a valuable resource to railway historians.

    Some of these photographs have been published in a book written by members of the Museum’s Curatorial team.  Wartime GWR is out now and available to buy from the STEAM Shop – both in-store and online.

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