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13 November 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > History > Archive Films > Railway Works: 1960s

The Last Steam Engine film title

Railway Works: 1960s

This offering – although not strictly a BBC Points West film – is irresistible for all those who have a passion for steam engines. Filmed at the Swindon loco works in 1963, it shows the launch of the last BR steam locomotive to be made in the UK.

It all started when Richard Trevithick built a steam engine to run along a stretch of Welsh railway in 1804.

How soon this was followed by small boys and their enthusiasm for train numbers is anyone’s guess.

But it was a sad day for those small boys - and a few grown men too no doubt - when British Rail built Britain’s last steam locomotive at the railway works in Swindon in 1960.

children being shown railway engineering

Youngsters dream of taking the controls

Gone was the chance to get coal grit in your eye, or feel a wet blast of super-heated steam on your shins; to smell the grease of the engine and smell the bacon frying on the fireman’s shovel.

To think: thousands of youngsters denied such a life-altering experience.

So much so it seems somewhat fitting that it was BBC Children’s Newsreel that captured the day steam came to an end in Britain - and since a copy of the film is held securely in the Points West archive, we are proud to present here!

Swindon’s famous railway works came to the Wiltshire market town thanks to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great railway engineer, and more specifically because of his right-hand engineer, Daniel Gooch, who choose Swindon’s green fields for the Great Western Railway’s new engineering base.

Appropriately enough, Swindon’s first steam loco was called ‘Great Western’ and it rolled onto the rails for the first time in 1846 – 114 years before the steam-driven would come to an end.

Railway works

The railway works were not just concerned with steam engines though – they turned out everything a 19th Century railway company needed – from locos and wagons, to rails, platform trolleys, dining car cutlery and even GWR toilet rolls.

But for most steam enthusiasts Swindon is best known for designing and building some of the country’s most famous steam engines.
For its first forty years the works produced broad gauge locos, then accepted standard gauge and converted or scrapped its original stock and moved into the 20th century with a sharp eye for business and a reputation for building first-class locomotives.

In 1904, Swindon’s ‘City of Truro’ became the first locomotive in the world to reach 100mph – just 25mph short of today’s 125 diesels.

Under the guidance of George Jackson Churchward, Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent – and Truro’s designer - the Swindon works led the way with the development of express steam trains.

In the early part of the 20th Century it was ‘full steam ahead’ as Swindon took on 14000 people to turn out its famous Castle, Hall, Manor and mighty King class locos.

But in 1946 the town’s heyday was enveloped by nationalisation.

Evening Star steam loco

Evening Star in 1960

Despite remaining an important centre for engineering under British Rail, the building of the last steam locomotive in 1960 sounded its death knell, and 25 years later British Rail Engineering Limited closed the famous Swindon works.

Today, GWR’s engineering heroes – Gooch, Churchward, Collett, Hawksworth - live on in the streets and trading estates that have taken their names.

They were inspiring men who, in the true spirit of the Victorian visionary, underlined Britain’s manufacturing might and helped make Swindon a renowned centre for world-class engineering, the remnants of which continue to inspire Swindon’s industrialists today.


  • Use the right hand links to other local Where I Live sites to see more archive film from Points West.

last updated: 05/12/2008 at 14:43
created: 06/12/2005

Have Your Say

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cathy morris
i guess i came over this site by mistake, i was actually looking on the web for dorset cuttlery, when i saw wiltshire swindon, my interest was captured, but my uncle worked at the railways, sure was before the 60's, he is now dying from that asbestos disease, and i know of two others, so much we no about now, as we progress as the years go by, just thought i would say that :) luv you uncle jon xxxxxx

Morris Minor
Fantastic to look back on what was a truly remarkable factory - but at the time I just took it for granted when people said that they worked inside.I wish that i had paid more attention to the goings on at Swindon Works during the 60s,70s and mid 80s.I love to read books from former workers such as Hugh Freebury and Alfred Williams and Gordon shurmer - inspiring reading.

wonderful just wonderful

Chris Medlicott
Absolutely magical!

wicked innit get more gwr film ya aall word up me homies 3850 rocks

is there a video of a castle at speed?

Paul Montague
Anymore Archive Railway Clips would be uch appreciated

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