In our 2009 UK roundtrip I had incorporated three rail related visits: to Swindon ex-GWR works, to the Welsh Highland Railway and to the National Railway museum in York. On June 6, I drove to Swindon.
1 Swindon works were openend in 1841. By 1843 the works already employed 400 men. In the Uk was normal practise that the larger railroad companies built their own motive power and rolling stock. In 1846, the works produced its first locomotive. From 1861 they even produced rails in Swindon's own mill. By June, 1868 the new carriage and wagon works were finished and the first coaching stock were wheeled out just over a year later. Swindon's future as a major manufacturing and repair centre was assured for the rest of the century. Expansion of the Swindon Works continued, checked only by the First World War. In 1920 the huge 'A' Shop was completed, covering 11.25 acres (45,500 sq m) and heralding probably the heyday of the works, which now employed over 14,000 people. After de the second world war a gradual decline set in. The payroll was down to 2,200 in 1973. On 27th March, 1986 the works finally closed. The site has since then been redeveloped amongst others into a shopping center and STEAM, the GWR museum. Most of the buildings are still there as an impressive testimony of its sheer size.
2 Inside the shopping center there is abundant evidence of its railway origin
3 And also the result of it
"Hinton Manor", no 7819 preserved at the Severn Valley Railway. Hinton Manor was turned out from Swindon in February 1939 at a recorded cost of £4,914. It went new to Carmarthen and to Oswestry in July 1943 where it spent most of its time. With 7822 it provided the power for HM The Queen's visit to Pwllheli on 10 August 1963. It then moved to Machynlleth in 1963 and in January 1965 to Shrewsbury, being withdrawn at the end of the same year and moved to Barry for scrap early in 1966. Recorded mileage at the end of 1963 was 925,050.
In 1973 it was saved from the scrapyard. Restoration to running order followed and it returned to (preservation) passenger service in the late summer of 1977. It saw a great deal of service until it was stored in October 1994, awaiting major repairs. In 2008 the loco has been cosmetically restored, and has been moved to Swindon for four years in the MacArthur Glen shopping complex. The Severn Valley Railway Rolling Stock Trust, as owners of 7819, is keen to return the loco to service on the SVR when it returns from Swindon.
5 A furniture shop with a distinctive industrial roofing
6 and some remarkable details betraying its origin
7 The impressive panorama of (part of) the work. The part to the left is still not redeveloped (see the fences)
8 Impressive transfer table
9 It's the detail that counts
10 A few of the buildings have been redeveloped into STEAM, the museum of the Great Western Railway, which opened in June 2000
11 The Great Western Railway (GWR) linked London with the south west and west of England and most of Wales. The GWR was known admiringly to some as "God's Wonderful Railway" and jocularly to others as the "Great Way Round". It was founded in 1833. It was engineered in broad gauge of 2140 mm, but from 1862 onward standard gauge (1435 mm) came in use. The last broad gauge services were operated in 1892. The GWR was nationalised into the British Railways 1947.
12 The museum tries to replicate the atmospere of the work in its heydays. The museum is aiming for children, telling the so much told story of the development of railways in England. This museum proved of lesser interest for those familiar with this story
14 The store rooms
15 One room contained a lot of models and artifacts from the GWR. You could spend hours here
16 A model of the Castle class
18 Maybe the most impressive exhibit was this overhead crane with its elaborate riveting detail.
19 The pattern shop. Patterns were made of wood and represented the end form of a cast part. The wood pattern was embedded in sand forms (negatives). After removal of the wooden pattern the sand form was filled with molten metal. After cooling down the sand was hammered away and the final part remained.
24 This partially disassembled exhibit gives some rare views on the inner construction of a steam locomotive
27 Valve motion for the outer cylinder, derived from that of the inner cylinder
29 Shining crosshead. See the fluid lines of the metal.
30 It was possible to walk under the Castle.
Central pivot of the leading bogie with its springing to return to the central position. The leading bogie not only carried part of the weight of the locomotive it also guided the loco's mass through curves and lessened the tendency of the loco to hunt (zig zag) in the track, both giving it better high speed performance
31 View towards the inner motion
32 The cranked driving axle
33 View up at the ashpan, through the fire grate towards the fire hole
34 North Star. This 2-2-2 broad gauge class was intended for passenger train work. This class was introduced into service between November 1838 and November 1841, and withdrawn between April 1864 and September 1871.
The North Star is a non-working replica, constructed for the 1923 Cavalcade. It made use of some of the parts of the original North Star, scrapped as recently as 1906, but is not capable of being steamed. Although it featured in the railway's centenary film in 1935, it was pushed by another locomotive.
35 Me leaning on North Star. The only driver reached an enormous size!! Note the absence of a flange on the wheeltyre. Inventions to guide longer locomotives through curves still had to come.
36 Pannier Tank loco
37 As most railways, the GWR tried to compete with the ever growing road traffic by adding their own faster means of transport.
38 Evening Star, rightly named so, as it was the last steam locomotive to be built for the Britisch Railways in 1960.To give a hint on the impact of the political decision to convert to diesel and electric: in 1958 new steam building programmes were in full swing; by 1968 all 22.000 steam engines, many of which had served only ten or less years, were spilled over Englands scrapyards.
41 Wow, this motion is so much different from most more crude examples
43 Again a flangeless wheel
47 The royal saloon. It was withdrawn from service early in the 20th century. Two original carriages were traced to a cliff hill top in West Wales from where they were rescued. Restoration is still going on.
48 Saying goodbye.
The hooter, which called the workers for the last time at 4.30pm on 26 March 1986. It could be heard for miles away and generations of Swindonians grew up with its sound
STEAM was but a minor museum. Though interesting in itself, it may not have been worthwhile going through all trouble of getting there like I did. But when you happen to be around: visit it. After some two hours I left.