STEAM celebrates 100th anniversary of Swindon-built GWR Castle Class locomotives with new special events

By Jamie Hill - 13 August 2023

Arts and CultureHeritage

STEAM - Museum of the Great Western Railway is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the GWR’s Castle Class locomotives this month with three new events at the Museum to mark the landmark birthday.

On Friday, 18 August, the Museum will be holding family activity drop-in sessions in STEAM’s Caerphilly Castle Hall from 10am to 4pm. On offer to families throughout the day will be craft activities, opportunities to dress up in vintage railway costumes and 3D locomotives to build throughout the day. During the sessions, families can learn about the remarkable Swindon-built Castle Class locomotives which at one time were the most powerful engines in Great Britain. All activities are included in the Museum’s standard admission fee.

On the same day, from 5pm to 7pm, Bob Meanley, railway author and expert on Castle Class locomotives, will be at STEAM to help celebrate the centenary and will deliver a fascinating talk about the Museum’s Caerphilly Castle locomotive at 5.30pm alongside the famous engine. This will be followed by birthday cake and drinks. Members of the public are welcome to attend this free talk which is bookable in advance through the STEAM Museum website, and learn why the Castle Class revolutionised the fortunes of the Great Western Railway.

On Saturday, 19 August, STEAM welcomes award-winning professional railway photographer, Jack Boskett, to STEAM from 10am to 5pm who will be showcasing his new exhibition ‘100 Years and Still Steaming’. The photographic exhibition celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Castle Class and Jack will be on hand to talk to visitors about the array of stunning scenes with Castle Class locomotives he has captured and his secrets for achieving the perfect railway picture. Standard Museum admission fee applies.

Alongside these special events, the Museum has a new temporary exhibition which focusses on Castle Class locomotives looking at their glamour and the speed trials which GWR and the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) undertook in 1925.

Swindon Museums Manager, Frances Yeo, said: “This year marks one hundred years since the first of the Castle locomotives, No.4073 Caerphilly Castle, went into service and we’re delighted to be marking the occasion with these new events. Between 1923 and 1950, 171 Castle Class locomotives were built at Swindon railway works. The Castle Class locomotives were remarkable engines from the outset and were synonymous with glamour, speed and power. They won the speed trials held with the LNER in 1925 and then in 1929, the Cheltenham Flyer became the world’s fastest train, when it achieved an average speed of 66.2 miles per hour.”

Councillor Marina Strinkovsky, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Heritage, Art and Culture, said: “The Castle Class locomotives are an amazing part of Swindon’s legacy and one that is rightfully being celebrated.

“It’s amazing to think that 100 years ago trains were being built in a place where people can now eat, shop and learn about the history of our amazing town.

“If you’re interested in its history, or even if you’re already a big train buff, I hope you’ll find something to get involved with over the celebratory weekend.”

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