Steamy memories – No ! not what you’re thinking !

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 . 

Alas the building is now used for something completely different and there was no-one around to ask where the museum is now.  

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.)



By this time I was absolutely soaked and the Museum was 10 mins from closing but an extremely kind member of staff allowed me 10 mins to take a few VERY quick iconic photos that I’m sharing with you.

 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- 

A time- line of Swindon –

Swindon works in Wikipedia

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.



22 comments on “Steamy memories – No ! not what you’re thinking !

  1. Tall Man is a steam nut, specifically GWR, even though he’s a Yorkshire Man. The Small House is full of books and model trains.

  2. Rachael says:

    What a lovely post! You certainly made the most of your ten minutes.

  3. John Smith says:

    What a surprise to see your post Helen, I knew that you liked trains, but this was just lovely to hear your family connections and to see your brilliant photos. For me, the GWR was the best, especially in the days of Gooch, Armstrong and Dean. Not forgetting GJ Churchward who’s designs influenced locomotive design throughout the last century. I aim to do some paintings of those good old days before I kick the bucket… 🙂

  4. boldbohemian says:

    I enjoyed your blog and photos very much!

  5. scillagrace says:

    I love the aesthetic of shiny, orderly elegance in these photos. Thanks for the history, personal and cultural, too!

  6. Mark Goodwin says:

    Excellent shots Helen….love em!

  7. Marleen says:

    Nice stuff. You should talk to Bart. He also has a love for trains and railways and knows an awful lot about the history of the railways, where they used to be, where the stations used to be etc…

  8. Carol Tacq says:

    I was in Swindon yesterday too, Helen – visiting my sister and brother-in-law who has been poorly again. I love the railway museum and railway workers cottages but haven’t visited either for a while. God’s Wonderful Railway has always held a fascination for me. Bourne’s ‘History of the Great Western Railway’ has some wonderful illustrations if you can get hold of a copy. Roger has a biography of Daniel Gooch, Brunel’s Chief Engineer on the GWR, which he would be happy to lend if you are interested. See you soon.

    • Helen Cherry says:

      Oh sorry to hear about you’re brother-in-law Carol. I had visited the previous museum before they moved it but this looks more extensive and I love the social history element of it and steam trains as you know 🙂

  9. ellyhuizinga says:

    Nice story Helen and pics. A pity you had not more time to visit the museum. I can imagine you love trains. Where I,m living I can see the trains passing by and it gives me always a feeling of wanting to go away. And in the winter all the people sitting behind the tiny windows , make you feel to want hop on the train also. Thanks for sharing. Elly

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