Saturday 1457 – 25th August 2012.
I drove down to Chippenham today to visit my mum who hasn’t been too well but I’m glad to say that she was in very good form today. I always pass Swindon on my way to see her and this never fails to produce flashes of memory for me as I lived there from about the age of 2 or 3 until I was 17 when I left to do my nurse training.
On this day I thought about steam trains and determined that I would call into STEAM the Museum of the Great Western Railway (GWR) on my way back home.
Unfortunately they have moved it !! The Cheek! It used to be in Faringdon Road on the edge of the Railway workers cottages and that’s where I’d expected it to be so I parked nearby ( it was late afternoon) and walked in the pouring rain to where I thought it was .
So I walked a bit through the railway cottages until I got to where I knew some of the huge old workshop buildings are, which are sadly not all in the best state of repair or are being repaired as you can see by the scaffolding.
I followed the signs there and at last came to STEAM (Apparently it moved to bigger premises in 2000 but of course I was still living in Ireland then so didn’t know.)
I loved the quick look I got of the museum as it shows not only the gorgeous trains ( which I shall photograph properly another day) but also gives a glimpse of what life was like back then. I’ll be sure to make a return visit soon.
I have long been a lover of steam trains, indeed trains generally, and my love started because I lived so close to these GWR works which were key to the economy of Swindon. As children we played on a piece of open land that had a small stream in it ( for stickleback fishing 😀 ) and which also had the railway line up on a bank along one edge of it. How I loved to see and hear the trains; some steam and later the diesel engines.
The sight and smell were wonderful to me as a child and still are to me today.
My family lived in one of the back-to-back terraced houses probably built-in the early 1900’s to house the increasing number of workers needed at the ever-expanding railway works. In its heyday, in the 20’s and 30’s, these works employed over 14,000 people.
Our street was a few streets back from the now famous model railway village built 150 years ago from beautiful Bath stone to house the railways skilled engineers and which is now protected for posterity along with its pubs!
A school friend of mine lived in one of the little houses in the 50s/60’s and they certainly weren’t as well looked after as they have to be now ! You can read about the village here and this is a little piece from that article
“Driven by commercial considerations (the GWR was not a philanthropic organisation!), builders Rigby’s constructed the housing to a standard which they considered would warrant the rent which skilled engineering workers could be expected to pay.
Each road was named after the destinations of trains that passed nearby – Bristol, Bath, Taunton, London, Oxford and Reading among them – and was built-in two blocks of four parallel streets, not dissimilar in appearance to passing trains.”
Just look at the photo below to see the doors to some of the houses. You would want to get on rather well with your neighbours wouldn’t you!
A great trip down memory lane for me and I hope you’ve enjoyed this little taster of Swindon’s great railway heritage. Here are a few links where you can read more about its history. Fascinating stuff.
The Museum- http://www.steam-museum.org.uk/
A time- line of Swindon – http://www.localhistories.org/swindontime.html
Swindon works in Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swindon_Works
See you next week from wherever I might be…..
You can find my photography blog Photomania here I hope you’ll pop over and take a look if you haven’t already.