Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Looking Down on the GWR Works

It is difficult to believe that at the time this aerial photograph was taken in the 1950s, the railway industry was officially in decline.

Visiting Swindon Junction in 1840, Brunel and his superintendent of locomotives, Daniel Gooch decided this would be an ideal place to establish a repair and maintenance depot.  The works opened in January 1843 with 423 men on the pay roll.

Today the Churchward estate occupies what was once the site of  'A' Shop completed in 1920 and reputed to be one of the largest covered workshops in the world.  These were the heady days of the GWR when more than 14,000 worked 'inside' the vast railway factory complex.

The railway industry was nationalised in 1948 by the post war Labour government and the 100 year old GWR works was renamed British Railways Workshops.  In 1960 the Evening Star was the last steam loco built for BR at Swindon and three years later a large part of the Carriage Works closed.  The end came at 4.30 pm March 26, 1986 when the hooter that had sounded the beginning and end of the working day for so long, kept going until the steam ran out. Buildings preserved along Rodbourne Road include the former 'V', 'P' and 'O' Shops which reopened in 1997 as the Designer Outlet Village.

And the former railway works is proving to be a popular eating out venue.  In 2007 Bottelinos, the pizzeria chain of restaurants, opened in the former Pattern Store while in 2011 Anthony & Allyson Windle opened The Weighbridge.

1886 View of Swindon GWR Works from railway line

1881 GWR Swindon Works:  Road Wagon Shop

c1886 The Iron Foundry at Swindon GWR Works

For more old views of the GWR Works visit

You might also like to read

The Railway Factory

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