Unfortunately, getting there took longer than expected. Someone activated the alarm on a South West train that was in front of my service between Guildford and Reading which delayed my train and I then missed the connection to Swindon, eventually arriving mid-afternoon. Still enough time to see everything and meet traders but less time than I would have liked.
For those not familiar with the STEAM museum, it’s a celebration of GWR and the men and women who built and operated it, all set in a beautifully restored Grade II railway building in the heart of the former Swindon railway works.
Wonderfully restored GWR steam engines and rolling stock (including No 4073 Caerphilly Castle, No 4003 Lode Star, No 9400 Pannier Tank, a brake van and shunting wagons) take centre stage with archive film footage, hands-on exhibits, maps of the GWR network, memorabilia and AV demonstrations bringing them to life. A signal box where you can learn to operate signals was a highlight for quite a few children on the day I was there. If you’re a fan of GWR and/or steam engines it’s a must-visit museum.
This lot however are the permanent STEAM museum exhibits. What drew me this particular Sunday however were the model railways, model making demonstrations and traders who were there for the annual Railway Festival.
My entry price was £12 on the door which is great value for a museum and model railway exhibition.
I spent a bit more on a rotating table vice which I’ve needed since breaking my last one. I was also hoping to pick up some rolling stock but N gauge stock for sale seemed thin on the ground and I ended up consoling myself with a pair of delightful GWR cufflinks.
I usually work in N and OO so the chance to see the gauge 3 St. Ives (pictured left) was also not to be missed and it didn’t disappoint.
Along with the big boys. There was also the lovely Ridgacre Branch N gauge layout. Although small, this end-to-end layout is perfectly formed and feels just right. It’s also very ingenious with the fiddle yard hidden away but accessed by a fold up section of hill. Clever.
Overall, the show was quieter than I expected. This was, perhaps, due to my late arrival but several exhibitors also commented that it had been a quiet day. Apparently, it was much busier on the Saturday.
I left just before pack up time and caught my train home which luckily ran to time and more smoothly than the outbound leg.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.