It is probably the most important letter in Swindon’s history, words which ultimately resulted in the town becoming what it is today.
And exactly 175 years since it was written on 13 September 1840, copies of Sir Daniel Gooch’s letter to Isambard Kingdom Brunel advising him to build the GWR central repair workshops in the town will be given out at this year’s Swindon Railway Festival, which takes place at STEAM Museum in Kemble Drive on Saturday 12 September and Sunday 13 September, 10am to 5pm on both days.
Following Gooch’s letter, GWR directors gave the go-ahead for the railway works to be built in Swindon on 25 February 1841. Construction started immediately and new Swindon was born.
A year’s worth of celebrations to commemorate the birth of Swindon’s railway works will take place next year. Swindon175 will include a programme of events from January next year.
The Railway Festival will have a host of attractions for all the family including live steam from Hatch Heritage & Steam Engineers and the evocative sound of their traction engine steam whistles, which will welcome visitors on each day of the festival.
Twenty-five large model railway layouts will be displayed throughout the Swindon Borough Council-owned museum and there will be a wide range of trade stands for those looking for model railway items, railway art, books and memorabilia.
Pete Waterman, music producer, author, railway enthusiast and Patron of STEAM, will once again be back at the festival and exhibiting his Just Like the Real Thing models, while signed copies of his railway books will also be available.
Carolyn Lovett, Events Manager at STEAM said: “We’re really looking forward to opening the doors of our 14th Railway Festival. This year is going to be simply buzzing, with so much going on for all ages – from little ones to grandparents.
“Our special guest model railway this year is Hewisbridge by the 57 Group which is one of the many new layouts on display for the first time. The model railway layouts have been beautifully made with a painstaking attention to detail. I’m sure our visitors will be impressed.”
More attractions at the festival include special displays by many preserved railways in the UK and a whole range of railway modelling demonstrations such as locomotive and wagon construction, signalling, soldering and weathering.
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Economy, Regeneration and Skills, said: “It is very fitting that this year’s Swindon Railway Festival coincides with the 175th anniversary of Gooch’s historic letter which has such an important bearing on the town’s future.
“I encourage people to bring all their family and friends to this exciting event to join us in marking this anniversary as they enjoy all the fun of the festival.”
Refreshments include hot meals and snacks with a special barbecue, real ale bar and café in the festival’s outdoor arena, as well as STEAM’s Platform One Café.
See details can be found on the STEAM website at: www.steam-museum.org.uk or by calling the museum on 01793 466637. Daily admission prices for the festival are as follows: Adults £12; Seniors (over 60) £9; Children (3-15 yrs) £8; Family tickets £28 (2 adults, 1 child) and £32 (2 adults, 2 children). Under threes go free.
here is a 10% discount on Swindon Railway Festival tickets for STEAM Season Ticket holders when purchased direct from the museum. Advance tickets are available from Swindontickets (booking fee applies) at www.swindontickets.co.uk