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STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway tells the story of the men and women who built, operated and travelled on the Great Western Railway, a network that, through the pioneering vision and genius of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, set the standard for rail travel.
This story is brought to life with famous GWR locomotives, imaginative story-telling displays, videos – mixing rare archive film footage with the stories of ex-railway workers – hands-on exhibits, interactive displays and a large number of rare GWR objects memorabilia.
*On loan from the National Railway Museum.
Visitors are taken into the world of the railway worker at Swindon, passing through a series of reconstructions, carefully assembled using original equipment, supported by video and interactive displays.
The STEAM experience starts with the hushed tones of The Offices where – in the GWR’s heyday before the First World War – clerks toiled to support the workforce of over 12,000. This is followed by the General Stores – an ‘Empire within an Empire’ – which kept Swindon and the GWR supplied with everything from pen nibs to railway sleepers. As the story unfolds, visitors begin to grasp the scale of the operation needed to build and maintain the railway. At its height, the Swindon Works was producing three locomotives each week.
Moving through to the recreated Swindon Works, visitors will get a sense of the heat and grime experienced in the Foundry. Then, passing through the Carriage Body Shop – with its evocative smell of wood – the sights and sounds of the Machine Shop are evoked. Lathes, drills and slotters were used to manufacture parts to the highest standards. Visitors complete this part of their journey in the Boiler Shop – where the noise endured by the workers meant that many were deaf by the age of 30 – and the Erecting Shop.
We have plenty for all of the family to get involved with at STEAM: change the signals in our authentic GWR Signal box, be an engine driver as you step aboard our steam train simulator and even operate model railway layouts.
STEAM’s 1930s Station Platform conjures the vitality, excitement and glamour of travelling on the Great Western Railway.
Here you’ll find iconic locomotives, King George V and City of Truro. To add to the glamour and further illustrate the opulence and elegance of GWR travel, a 1934 Buffet Car and Queen Victoria’s Royal Saloon await.
Expect to hear train whistles, doors slamming and station announcements as you are truly transported back in time.
Located on our mezzanine floor, the Wall of Names is a memorial to the men and women who worked inside the Swindon Works. It is a permanent reminder of the human aspect of the story. Visitors can also look out over the main Bristol railway line and watch the comings and goings of the modern railway network.
In addition to our award-winning permanent displays, we host a variety of family activities, special exhibitions, concerts and weekend events throughout the year.
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