“ Kemble Drive, Swindon SN2 2TA Tel: 01793 466646 Fax: 01793 466615 „
I don't think that the railway museum needs much explaining. It is a museum about railways, particularly the railway in Swindon and the history of the Great Western Railway and Brunel.
If you've ever been to Swindon you will notice that EVERYTHING is named after something to do with the railway...the Brunel Centre is the main town centre shopping area, there's a club named after Brunel, the radio station is called GWR... so it's only right that Swindon have a railway museum to celebrate it's history and the fact that many people in Swindon wouldn't be there if not for the railways. The railways brought in a lot of immigration because workers were so desperately needed and of course offered jobs to many of the people who were already living there.
Anyway, away from the boring background stuff and onto my review.
I have no interest in trains or railways but I was spending the day with my youngest sister and I wanted to do something both fun and educational and for some reason the railway museum came to my mind...I thought it would be educational, even if not the most fun she's had.
Fortunately it was not only educational, it was also a really good day out.
In my opinion railways aren't the most thrilling thing so if you're actually someone who does find the railways interesting then going to the railway museum will be extra good for you. If you're like me then you can still have a really fun day out.
There is an awful lot of factual information in the museum, which of course you expect, so for those of you with a thirst for knowledge you won't be disappointed but what I thought was the best thing about the museum was the amount of interactional stuff there was there.
There are trains that you can go on, there are games where you control the train signals and my favourite part of the entire museum, there's a whole area that's made up to look like an old fashioned railway station complete with a real old train that you can go into, sit in, play in food cart. If you're a child at heart like me and bring a child along you may even want to role play that you're living back in the old days and taking a train journey somewhere.
I did find the wax models of people a little bit creepy but they did add to the authenticity of the scene.
If you go during the summer holidays there are additional things put on for the children, like a little train ride.
Children £4.10 (free if they're under five)
Student, senior and family discounts available.
The Museum of the Great Western Railway (GWR) - aka 'Steam' is a must for those interested in railways and the railway industry. Situated in an old engineering shop in the old Great Western railworks next to the McArthur Glen Shopping Centre, the museum has been open since June 2000. It is gradually replacing the smaller museum located in the town centre and when I visited (August 2000) they were in the process of moving the exhibits from the old museum to the new one. The museum was partly funded by the Lottery with support from Swindon Borough Council. Rather than displaying a load of static exhibits such as locomotives and coaches, the museum attempts to describe how the Engine works operated, the jobs the workers did, and the conditions they worked in. There are a number of locomotives and coaches you can look at and others which can be clambered on. Starting in the entrance area, the first section is an introductory video describing the operations of the works from the viewpoint of the employees themselves. Mention was also made of the large number of women employed in the foundry during WW2. At its peak, the GWR was the biggest employer in the town. You can imagine the trauma of the works closing on local employment. Moving on there are reconstructed areas showing how the offices, stores, foundry, carriage shop, machine shop and erecting shop must have looked back in the 1920's. There were a huge number of clerks who processed all the invoices and orders in big ledgers. There were no computers in those days !! One little room contained models of a senior Manager and an employee who was being disciplined for his lateness record. A taped reconstruction described the consequences of getting the sack in those days - loss of company house, loss of pay and the shame of it all. The GWR had a maximum time limit of 10 minutes for visiting the toilet and they monitored these times !! In the centr
e area of the museum was the Caerphilly Castle built in 1923. At that time, the GWR were churning out 3 locomotives per week. They built locomotives, coaches - the lot. Again moving on there were exhibitions of how the railways were build by the great Victorian engineer - Isambard Kingdom Brunel - all by hand, how a signalbox worked and how the GWR managed all the freight it processed. At the back of the museum was a reconstructed Ticket Office and an area describing catering before the advent of refreshment cars. Brunel wrote a stroppy letter back in the 1840's complaining about the quality of coffee sold in the Refreshment rooms - nothing much changes !! And finally to a section about going on holiday. The GWR works closed for 2 weeks each year and Swindon became a 'ghost town' when everyone went on holiday to Devon/Cornwall or the south coast by train. Going on holiday by train was big business for the GWR up to the 1950's. It is them who coined the phrase 'The Cornish Riveira'. This takes the visitor back to the beginning. There is a gift shop and other facilities available. The toilets in particular were very clean. Charges: £4.80 per adult. Kids under 5 are free. There are other prices which I can't remember. If the thought of shopping in the outlet mall is too much - give the museum a try. Both adults and children should find something of interest there. If you come by car, you can park in the McArthur Glen Outlet Mall car park. To get away without paying any charges, try and spend at least a tenner before returning to your car.This shouldn't be too difficult - its a very good shopping centre! If you come by train (there are at least 2 trains per hour from London Paddington or Bristol Temple Meads), there are walkways you can follow which take you from town centre to the museum.