A snippet of audio heritage will be heard on Saturday to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the closure of the world-famous Swindon Railway Works in 1986, after a long slow decline.
The hooter was heard at an invitation only event at Steam Museum on Tuesday 22 March but at a public event at 4.30pm on Saturday 26 March in the car park at Steam Museum, the hooter will be sounded at the exact time the works for the last time.
The event has been organised by Steam Museum, Swindon Heritage and Swindon 175, which is coordinating events to mark the foundation of the GWR railway works and the start of New Swindon in 1841.
The original hooter was mounted on the what is now the Designer Outlet Centre, and can be seen there still. The recreation by Colin Hatch of Swindon firm Hatch Heritage Steam Engineers, using original GWR plans, is now located close-by on the roof of Steam Museum.
In its heyday some 14,000 men were summoned to and from work daily by the hooter, which last blew to signal the closure of Swindon Works in 1986. One man who was there on that day, armed with his camera, is Roy Nash, the unofficial works photographer who recorded everything and anything going on inside and outside the factory.
Now nearly 89 years old Roy said: “That day 30 years ago was very, very sad. John Walter had the job of sounding the hooter for the last time and everybody was gathered outside at 4.30pm on 26 March.
“The sound blasted out and the steam cloud rose into the sky – and it went on and on and on. It seemed to go on for about 20 minutes until every bit of compressed steam of the factory had been sucked out. It was like hearing the works dying in front of you as everybody drifted away home for the last time.”
Graham Carter, editor of the quarterly magazine Swindon Heritage, described the hooter as an icon of the town’s past. He said: “It will be the perfect tribute to generations of local men who toiled in the world’s greatest-ever railway works, and there could be no better way to start Swindon 175.”
Read a fascinating account of the Swindon Works Hooter by Graham by clicking here.
Two photographs taken within moments of each other on 26 March 1986. Top, Martin Parry of Swindon Viewpoint climbed onto the roof to capture the hooter going off for the last time. Below, Roy Nash recorded these works administrative workers dressed to go home for the last time, watching the hooter go off