We let off some steam at the Great Western Railway museum in Swindon

14 May 2013

“Today and tomorrow, we’re going for a bit of a drive, Flat Kathy,” said Paula, as we climbed into the car.

“Ooh, I love outings – where are we going?”

“Today, we’ll be driving to Swindon, about 130 km west of London, where we’ll go and see the steam railway museum. Tonight, we’ll have supper in Bath, where there is a family get-together, and tomorrow, we’ll continue on to Bristol, which is about 60 km west of Swindon on the west coast of England. In Bristol, we’ll go and see the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean, the SS Great Britain, designed by Brunel.”

GWR express passenger steam locomotive, Caerphilly Castle
This is a passenger steam locomotive, the Caerphilly Castle, on display at the museum

“Remember all the things you learnt about the Brunels, who built the Thames Tunnel, etc?” asked Morton.

I nodded.

“Well, when Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a young man,” continued Morton, “railways began to be used more and more for the transport of goods. As a result, he became involved in railway engineering, and especially in the construction of railway bridges. In 1833, just before the Thames Tunnel was completed, he was appointed chief engineer of the Great Western Railway, which was to run from London to Bristol, and onwards to Exeter, as well as to Neyland in Wales. He had an ambitious vision that the Great Western route would in fact extend even further from Wales, across the Atlantic Ocean, by means of the Great Western steamships!”

Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the Great Western Railway Museum in Swindon
Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the Great Western Railway Museum in Swindon

“They surveyed the entire route, before going ahead and constructing the line. The locomotive works were located at the village of Swindon, because here the gradual ascent from London became a steeper descent into the Avon valley at Bath. So that is why we now have the Great Western Railway museum in Swindon.”

It was an interesting museum indeed! There were interactive displays, hands-on exhibits, and film footage that told the stories of some of the people who had worked on the railway; among all the steam locomotives and carriages, life-like figures were dotted about, startling me a bit, until I realised that they weren’t real!

Click on any of the photos to access the slideshow with captions.


3 thoughts on “We let off some steam at the Great Western Railway museum in Swindon

  1. Dearest F.K., This post is dated May, but it only just popped into my in-box with about twenty other posts from you. Not sure what happened, but glad to see you’re having adventures still.

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    1. I’m so sorry about that, Sybil. You see, I’d noticed that Reggie had gotten the dates wrong on my previous posts about our trip to Namibia. I got quite upset about that, so I instructed her to correct them. I apologise if you were inundated with so many posts!

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