Bringing the Past back to Life

The first two weeks of October have been very busy for STEAM’s Learning Team and our volunteers. Our bi-annual ‘We’ll Meet Again’ school event has seen a complete transformation across the Museum taking us back to World War Two. Schools really loved the activities, the atmosphere and the volunteers who brought the ‘past to life’. We asked Dave, one of STEAM’s valuable ‘Meet the Railway Workers’ and ‘We’ll Meet Again’ volunteers to tell us why he loves volunteering with STEAM. What follows are some of Dave’s thoughts about volunteering for STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway.


Bringing the Past back to Life – Dave Smith

The two great passions since I was a child have always been ‘Steam trains and History’, little did I know that in later life I would be a volunteer at STEAM and combine the two, how fortunate am I!

It isn’t just steam trains, it’s the all encompassing history of the Great Western Railway – God’s Wonderful Railway – with the rich heritage of our Railway Town of which I’m extremely proud. I am always pleasantly surprised that no matter how much research I do, there is always something new that comes to light. A new fact….maybe a date, an address or a name.

F Shop - Blacksmiths Shop

I enjoy meeting the public and never tire of answering their questions and encouraging their curiosity, I love telling the story of the works and the great engineers, along with the ordinary hardworking people who lived and worked here, some going back generations.

I was recently asked to give a talk to a small group, I encouraged them to visit STEAM – ask questions, walk through the Railway Village, look at the layout and notice how small the houses are, they look quite fresh and attractive now but in the past it wasn’t quite the same! One house (Two-up/Two-Down) housed two adults, eight children and two lodgers! Look at the community centre, the medical centre and of course the wonderful Mechanics Institute.

R7 016

Take time to look and see, feel the lives of the workers. I believe it is a passion that all the ‘Meet the Worker’ volunteers share.

I have so many stories to tell about the engineers and the workers of our world famous Great Western Railway.

As a team each of the volunteers – ‘Meet the Workers’ – all manage to bring the past back to life and enhance each visitor’s experience.


Railway Village – A few useful Facts

Medical Fund Society, Milton Road c1910

As part of his interest in history Dave has collected some of his research about the local area and condensed it into a few useful facts. Have a look below and let us know if you know anymore!

  • Mr Rigby from Millwall, London was the builder/speculator who built the Railway Village. He also built the Queens Tap, the public house directly opposite Swindon Railway Station.
  • The original plan for the Railway village was to feature 300 houses. In the end just 270 were built, each costing no more than £116 to build.
  • The very first driver on the GWR, Jim Husrt, lived at 18 Taunton Street. He was a personal friend of Daniel Gooch which made him unsackable!
  • John Reed, the engine driver for Queen Victoria lived at number 1 Bristol Street in the 1890’s. He was also famous for apprehending a would be assassin!

Come and visit us at STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway to learn more about our great heritage!


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