STEAM The Museum of GWR tells the story of the development of the railways in Britain with an emphasis on the Great Western Railway and the pioneering work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The museum is located inside the Grade II-listed building that was built for the Great Western Railway in the 1840s and which functioned as the railway works from 1843 until 1986. For many years, this was the world’s largest railway maintenance works.
The museum is very well presented and it is designed to appeal to a wide range of visitors and not only to railway enthusiasts.
What to see at STEAM The Museum of GWR
The museum’s collection includes over 400,000 items including several notable locomotives and railway carriages.
Parts of the old railway works have been restored and you can see the old offices and the museum includes a recreated station with a full-size platform, which shows how railway stations would have appeared over 100 years ago.There are also several notable historic locomotives on display including the Caerphilly Castle, City of Truro, King George V and a replica of North Star. Historic railway carriages include a 1934 buffet car and Queen Victoria’s royal carriage.
In 1904 the City of Truro was the first train in the world to travel faster than 100mph (161km/h). This locomotive is now on display above a pit that allows visitors to the museum can walk underneath it and see it from a unique vantage point.
There are lots of hands-on exhibits and activities for children including a train engine simulator, shunting puzzles and an activity where you can design your own railway viaduct.
The museum documents the human element of the railway and displays at the museum show what it would have been like to work at the site. There are also exhibits telling the story of the Victorian railway pioneer Isambard Kingdom Brunel as well as others who followed in his footsteps.The museum’s name indicates that its main focus is the steam era when the greatest expansion of the railways took place even though the railway works also operated during the diesel era.
Visiting STEAM The Museum of GWR
STEAM The Museum of GWR is located on the site of the former Swindon Railway Works west of the town centre. It is around a 10-minute walk from the railway station. The McArthurGlen Swindon Designer Outlet is right next door (also on the site of the former railway works) and many people combine a visit to the museum with shopping at the outlet centre.
Parking is free but you need to take your museum entry ticket to the information desk as the outlet centre next door to validate your free parking ticket. However, parking is not free if you’re visiting the museum during a special event such as Christmas at STEAM, the Great Western Brick Show or the Swindon Railway Festival.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible.
The Platform One cafe serves meals and hot drinks although the location adjacent to the outlet centre means that there are plenty of other places to eat and drink nearby.
There is quite a lot to see here and you can easily spend between two and three hours exploring the museum.