This story is brought to life with videos - mixing rare archive film footage with the stories of ex-railway workers - and hands-on exhibits and interactive displays, famous locomotives and GWR memorabilia. The museum is peopled by character figures life-cast from Swindon people - many of them former railway workers.
Stepping into the 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.
General StoresThis 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.
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.
Carpenter in Carriage ShopVisitors 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.
To emphasise and celebrate the skill and achievement of the Swindon workforce, the final part of this display is the GWR express passenger locomotive, 'Caerphilly Castle'. This famous locomotive stands on its own, displayed in 'ex-works' condition - all gleaming paint and brass - illustrating the magnificent end-product of many thousands of hours of labour.
The Railway Station:
Coming down from the viewing platform, visitors can explore a reconstructed station platform - where a short train - comprising the famous 'King George V' and a 1934 Buffet Car - awaits.
Also on view are an 1897 GWR Royal Carriage and a 1934 Diesel Railcar.
Train whistles, doors slamming and station announcements bring the platform alive with the sounds of travel.
In August 2008, the last steam locomotive built for British Railways, No 92220 Evening Star, will be replacing King George V in this display.
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