STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway
Photos of STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway
What will students see and do?
STEAM tells the story of the men and women who built, operated and travelled on the Great Western Railway. This network – through the pioneering vision and genius of Isambard Kingdom Brunel – set the standard for rail travel.
This story is brought to life with famous Great Western Railway (GWR) locomotives, imaginative story-telling displays, videos that mix rare archive film footage with the stories of ex-railway workers, hands-on exhibits, interactive displays and rare GWR memorabilia.
Visitors can step back through the story of Swindon Works, getting a sense of the heat and grime experienced in the foundry, then pass through the carriage body shop where the sights and sounds of the machine shop are evoked – lathes, drills and slotters were used to manufacture parts to the highest standards.
Visitors will complete 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.
STEAM’s 1930s station platform also conjures the vitality, excitement and glamour of travelling on the GWR. You’ll find iconic locomotives like King George V and City of Truro. To add to the glamour and further illustrate the opulence and elegance of GWR travel, there’s a 1934 buffet car and Queen Victoria’s royal saloon awaiting. Expect to hear train whistles, doors slamming and station announcements as you are transported back in time.
Additionally, located on the mezzanine floor is the Wall of Names, a memorial to the men and women who worked inside the Swindon Works. It is a permanent reminder of the human aspect of the story. From here, visitors can look out over the main Bristol railway line and watch the comings and goings of the modern railway network.
How does the trip link to the curriculum?
STEAM caters to a wide range of student age groups, from EYFS to Key Stage 4. It welcomes up to 20,000 school visitors each year, offering fantastic historic and interactive displays that explore the history of Swindon and the Great Western Railway (GWR). It is ideal for visits linked to the history of transport, the impact of the railways, industrialisation, local history, art, engineering and figures of historical significance, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
There are discovery sessions available. For EYFS, these include taking children on a fun seaside holiday, introducing the changes the railways brought and spotting the difference between a seaside holiday then and now.
KS1 sessions include:
– Brunel and Stephenson: The Great Engineers
– Train Makers
– Time Travellers: The Story of People in the Past
KS2 pupils can take part in:
– Railway Evolution: The Development of the Railway
– Railway Revolution: The Impact of the Railway
– Inside the Works: Life in the GWR Factory
– Life in a Victorian New Town: The Railway Comes To Swindon
– World War II: Air Raid Experience
– World War II: Evacuation Experience
– World War II: We’ll Meet Again
All of the discovery sessions promote cross-curricular learning through the handling of original objects and ephemera, as well as storytelling using characters, costumes, drama and role-play.
Each session has a clear learning outcome and will encourage children to enjoy themselves, use their imaginations to explore possibilities and learn more. Whatsmore, while the discovery sessions are mainly aimed at EYFS-KS2 pupils, staff are happy to discuss how they might be adapted to support KS3 and KS4 learning. Those who can’t make it to the site can also bring history to life in the classroom with the range of virtual learning sessions and object loan boxes.
Teaching resources provided
STEAM has several resources for students on its website, including a 360-degree virtual tour of the museum that features exclusive content like original film footage, interactive games and quizzes; worksheets for the museum’s detective trails; and themed word searches, memory games, online jigsaw puzzles and colouring pages.
There is also a digital picture library with over 1,500 historic images relating to the Great Western Railway and the Western Region of British Railways. These images cover a wide range of subjects, such as industrial engineering, social history, country views and people, as well as locomotives, trains and rolling stock.
Minimum and maximum group size
Discovery sessions allow a maximum of 34 pupils – larger groups will be divided into smaller ones and will incur slightly higher costs.
Details of risk assessment
Detailed risk assessments and details on the venue’s safe systems of work are available to download from the website.
Don't miss our downloadable A-Z guide on completing a risk assessment
STEAM has a range of facilities including a café, a dedicated space for groups to eat packed lunches and plenty of toilets. Alternatively, there are many dining options at the nearby Swindon Designer Outlet.
Admission only: £5.50 per pupil
Single discovery session (one hour) and admission: £9.50 per pupil
Double discovery sessions (two hours) and admission: £13.50 per pupil
One adult goes free for every six Key Stage 1 students, ten Key Stage 2 students and 12 Key Stage 3+ students.
Located in the Rodbourne area of Swindon, STEAM is a 10-20 minute walk from Swindon town centre or Swindon train station. Regular bus services run through Swindon town centre and some stop within a short walk of STEAM.
The main and closest car parks for STEAM are the Swindon Designer Outlet North and West Car Parks, which are a five-minute walk from the museum. In them, there are six dedicated coach parking bays available at no cost for pre-booked groups.
STEAM - Museum of the Great Western Railway, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon
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