STEAM swindon
Europe,  UK

STEAM – the Great Western Railway museum

STEAM swindon

Housed in a fabulous Grade II listed building in the former Swindon Works, STEAM tells the story of the Great Western Railway.

The network was originally designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was regarded as one of the most advanced in the world.

Opened in 1843, Swindon Works were the heart of the network and at its peak in the 30s, the site covered over 30 acres and employed over 12,000 people.

The museum covers pretty much everything to do with the railway. From the design and building of the network itself through to building the trains and everyday life on the site. You can visit the offices, foundry and pattern shop, see the mammoth machines and tools used to build the locomotives (at one point, the site was producing three locomotives a week!) and examine the finished product – including taking a peek underneath via a large viewing pit.

train at STEAM swindon Under a train at STEAM

But it’s not only about the machinery – the museum also emphasises the social history of the network and does a great job of explaining the importance that the railway had to society as a whole. For example, large numbers of women were employed at the works during the World Wars.

Ladies of great western railway

Access to train travel meant that for the first time, workers could easily visit new places on their days off. The ‘Speed to the West’ section of the museum explores the railway’s era as a ‘Holiday Line’ and includes loads of fabulous vintage advertising posters and replica seaside pier with working amusement machines.

Great Western Railway pier arcade at STEAM

Events and Exhibitions

What’s in store – as well as the exhibits on public view, the archive at STEAM is packed full of pieces of the railway’s past. Running until 6th July 2014, this exhibition puts some of these treasures on display and is free with standard admission.

A Railway at War – the role of the GWR and its employees during WW1 – STEAM are putting on a special exhibition to mark 100 years since the start of the World War One. From 22nd August 2014, the exhibition will explore the impact of the War on the railway – not only on those who fought but also on those left behind.

Great Western Brick Show – On the 4th and 5th of October 2014, STEAM will be taken over by LEGO. The Brick Show is one of the largest display of LEGO fan models in the UK – you’ll be able to see all of the models, get involved in building them yourself, enjoy presentations by LEGO experts and enter exclusive competitions. On-the-door tickets start at £10.00 for adults and £8.50 for children but advance booking is available via the Great Western Brick Show website.

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  • STEAM is open seven days, 10.00am to 5.00pm (closed 24/25/26 Dec and 1 Jan). Last admission is 4pm.
  • Free car parking is available at Swindon Outlet Centre – check with STEAM reception for more details.
  • Ticket are £10 for adults and £6 for children under 16. Concession prices are available.

 

 

Co-editor Emma is LWT's resident history lover and fact nerd. She loves travelling overland - especially by train. Her trips tend to be planned around good food and a little bit of adventure.

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