Wiltshire

Swindon's hooters heard for first time in 30 years

Swindon hooter Image copyright Roy Nash
Image caption The steam-powered hooters at the town's railway works were last heard at 16:30 GMT on 26 March 1986

Two hooters - dubbed Swindon's alarm clock - have been heard across the town for the first time in 30 years.

The Great Western Railway (GWR) hooters at the town's railway works were last heard at 16:30 GMT on 26 March, 1986.

Three decades after the works closed, replica hooters have been installed on the roof of the steam railway museum.

Colin Hatch, who built the replicas, said a steam supply was blasted through the hooters to "make that iconic noise over Swindon."

Swindon Railway Works opened in 1841, and in 1867 the first steam-powered hooter to call employees to work was installed.

As the works expanded and the town grew, the hooters were made bigger and raised up so that everyone could hear them.

Image copyright Roy Nash
Image caption The works opened in 1841, and in 1867 the first steam-powered hooter was installed
Image copyright Roy Nash
Image caption Kevin Shurmer, a former railway worker, said: "When the hooter went off at half-past-four - that was a signal to the wives to get the tea ready, or else."

Kevin Shurmer, a former railway worker, said everyone "knew when the hooter went off".

"It was an alarm clock for Swindon's railway workers but also for people who didn't work there," he said.

"When the hooter went off at half-past-four - that was a signal to the wives to get the tea ready, or else."

Les Daniels, 77, was 14 when he started at the works as a boilermaker. He said the hooter was a "marvellous thing" but "terrifically noisy".

"It was run by steam off the central boilers and on one occasion I was working the lunch hour putting a new roof on," he said.

"The hooter went when we were [on the roof] and we had to change our clothes because we were soaking wet - the water coming out of the hooter was something phenomenal."

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Media captionSwindon's hooters heard for first time in 30 years
Image copyright Swindon Heritage
Image caption Replica hooters - three-quarters the size of the originals - have been installed at the Steam museum

To bring back the "iconic sound of Swindon", a replica - three-quarters the size of the original - has been built by Mr Hatch and calibrated and tested to ensure it matches his own memory and recordings of the sound.

The replica hooter was sounded by 83-year-old John Walter who was the last man to sound it 30 years ago.

It is due to be be blasted again at 16:30 GMT on Easter Saturday to mark 30 years "to the minute" since it was last heard.

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