Experience an electrifying February half-term at STEAM

A special exhibition programme exploring the modernisation of the Great Western Railway (GWR) will begin at STEAM later this month.

‘Changing Trains’ will feature three new temporary displays to coincide with the 130th anniversary of a major change to the Great Western Railway.

In the early days of the railway, the GWR used wider track than the rest of the country, which resulted in major problems at some stations when two separate lines met as passengers and goods had to change trains in order to continue their journeys.

The GWR began to convert its track onto the standard gauge (or ‘narrow gauge’ as they called it) in line with other tracks, and by 1892 the transformation was complete.

The new programme of exhibitions will focus on the end of the GWR’s broad gauge track, the age of diesel and the electrification of the railway.

The first of the new exhibitions, ‘High Voltage – Electrification of the Western Network’, opens at STEAM on Saturday, 19 February.

Electrifying the western railway network has been a mammoth project. Over 100 bridges and tunnels were either demolished or modified to accommodate the new overhead power lines, while several stations required redeveloping and upgrading. High Voltage illuminates the story behind the electrification scheme and explores the obstacles which confronted the engineers.

This February half-term, STEAM will be sparking the minds and imaginations of its visitors with a week-long series of design and technology focussed family-activities, inspired by the new exhibition.

On Tuesday, 22 February, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery’s Art on Tour project is delivering a free drop-in ‘Family Activity Day’ between 10am and 3pm. Creative workshops themed around railways will be held in STEAM’s Hawksworth Hall. Visitors can take part in a variety of activities including linocut making, storytelling and postcard making.

A ‘Create a Comic Workshop’ will also be taking place on the day where eight to 13 year olds can create their own comics in a workshop with illustrator and cartoonist Jack Brougham. There is the opportunity to take part in a draw-along, create comic-book heroes and villains, and learn how to turn ideas into comic illustrations. The workshop takes place between 3pm and 5pm and costs £2 per child.

Families can learn more about electrical circuits on Thursday, 24 February when education specialists, STEMWorks will be conducting their action-packed electricity workshops for children aged seven to 12 years. Participants will design and build their own personal buzz wire game to take home with them. The workshops are a great way for children to gain a better understanding of electricity as well as developing their problem solving skills. Sessions last two hours and cost £7 per child.

On Friday, 25 February, families can learn about Morse code, semaphore signals and the art of deciphering secret messages in our ‘Psst, pass it on!’ sessions. STEAM’s Learning Team will be holding drop-in sessions throughout the day. Children can become code breakers, send their own private messages and uncover clues to find hidden secrets. The cost of the session is £2 per person, in addition to museum admission.

Councillor Robert Jandy, Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, said: “There is a superb range of educational activities taking place this half-term at STEAM, covering core educational subjects such as science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“The sessions will really bring the history of the railway to life for younger visitors and I would urge all families to visit the Museum with their children this February half-term.”

Tickets are now available to book online all the way up to 27 February.

For more information please visit our February Half Term page.

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