These benches are located en route from Swindon station to the Steam museum which tells the story of Swindon’s now defunct railway works.
Indeed we are looking at where the works used to be. I was particularly interested in seeing how this area had changed as I used to pass through on my way to my voluntary work at Heelis, the National Trust’s HQ.
Back then, this area was a mass of railway lines as it was where chains were tested for use on the railway. Some of these chain testing pits are still there to the left of this photo, but the rest of the area was concreted over when they started to build what’s now called the Old Railway Quarter around 10 years ago.
I always enjoy coming here to look for clues to the site’s previous use. The buildings you can see at the end are part of Historic England’s HQ and housed the drawing office of the old railway works.
Whenever I find a reminder of the old railway works, I always feel a sense of loss, even though this area is being redeveloped with some sensitivity to what went before. It’s hard to imagine the noise, bustle and activity which was swept away and replaced by this much quieter – albeit award winning – scene.
I was particularly keen to photograph this because I think its days are numbered.
It shows the area where the finished engines would be moved outside and positioned onto the appropriate track to move them around the rest of the site.
I used to walk past here every week on my way from the railway station to my voluntary work at the National Trust HQ at Heelis.
It pleased me that this piece of our railway heritage was still there. However, houses are currently being built on this part of the site and already much of the track has been ripped up.
The buildings on the right of the picture are part of the Steam Museum. It’s a shame they couldn’t have acquired this area to demonstrate what used to happen when this was leaving and breathing industry.
The corner buildings of the railway village are taller and a little more ornate than the rest of the street. Some look like they may have housed people higher up in the railway’s hierarchy. Many have a pub serving local ales.
The railway company had its own education centre and library and railway workers were actively encouraged to improve themselves through study and acquiring further qualifications. Sadly this magnificent building is now derelict and no-one seems to want to develop it, except possibly into flats. A community building in keeping with it’s former use is what residents would like, but that doesn’t cover the costs the building needs spending on it to be made fit for purpose again.
The outside of the old railway works and the part which houses last Saturday’s pictured hooters. This is on one of the main thoroughfares into the outlet centre and the benches merge so well with their backgound they look like they’ve been camouflaged!
The railway company also provided housing, a school, a further education centre and more for its workers right next to the factory where they worked. These houses date back to 1842, but are substantial and the choice of stone used mean they look almost new today. I believe there are restrictions on what can and can’t be grown in the front gardens so that the appearance of the ‘village’ is kept consistent.
There are a few rows of these ‘back to backs’ which are all slightly different in appearance.