2010 Annual Members' Weekend

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th October
“The White Horse Experience”

To be held at:
The Marriott Swindon Hotel
Pipers Way
Tel. 01793 512121

   Swindon owes its rapid growth in the 19th century to the Great Western Railway which established its main workshops in the town. As can be seen here in this view looking westwards, the GWR station in 1885 was a busy junction with mixed gauge tracks (on the main line to the left) and several bay platforms. Today the Works have gone but the important station remains, enjoying an excellent frequency of high speed InterCity expresses, together with local services.   Rev’d. Canon Brian Arman collection


The Annual Members’ Weekend is being held in Swindon, the ancestral home of the Great Western Railway and once on the Midland & South Western Junction Railway, together with close proximity to many downland white horses. The Bristol Branch is making the arrangements and looks forward to welcoming you and your spouse or partner. Considerable effort has been given to ensure that this will be a special weekend for those with either a greater or a lesser interest in railways.

Swindon was built as a railway town supporting the GWR but, with the run down of the works, the engineering skills of staff have been retrained for the construction of cars at the giant Honda and BMW plants or the development of computer systems and hardware. The town is also the headquarters of the Nationwide Building Society and W. H. Smith, the UK’s largest stationers.

Our hotel will be the modern Marriott Swindon Hotel set in its own parkland four miles from junction 15 of the M4 and adjacent to the formation of the M&SWJR. The hotel has a large free car park, level access to reception with a lift to all floors and the leisure centre. We have negotiated rooms at £45 for single and £65 for double or twin occupancy, both rates including a full English hot buffet breakfast. If you can share a room with a colleague it is a real bargain but please indicate on the booking form with whom you will be sharing.

Situated just two miles from Swindon railway station with its four to five services an hour from Paddington and Bristol plus hourly from Cheltenham with connections from the north, the hotel has a weekday bus service from close to the railway station to outside the hotel. Full information will be given in the joining packs. We will have the use of the Uffington Suite for the weekend.

Note: The price of the Saturday Evening Dinner was omitted from the version of the booking form in the RO. It is £26.


Friday 22nd October. In the afternoon there is a visit to the GWR Railway Village Museum which is a terrace house being specially opened for us. The life of a railwayman and his family was basic and this is an opportunity to see what a working-class Victorian existence was like. A maximum of 15 are welcome at both 15.00 and 16.00 – please indicate your preference on the booking form.

We gather in the hotel for a special light dinner at 18.00 in the Mediterrano restaurant at £10 for a pre-booked choice of steak & kidney pie or chilli con carné or curry & rice, plus a dessert. The Chats Bar has bar snacks from £5 to £14. Sales tables will be available before we gather at 19.30 when the Rev'd Canon Brian Arman, Bristol Branch Chairman, will deliver an illustrated talk on “Swindon Works – The Golden Age 1880-1924”. Brian has a vast knowledge of the history of Swindon Works and was brought up within the shadow of ‘A’ Shop. Following the presentation, the bar will be available.

Saturday 23rd October. A vintage (1966) Thamesdown Daimler CVG6 will leave the hotel for the Swindon Outlet Centre where we will have special 10% discount vouchers valid all weekend. Following a welcome talk on the conversion of the workshops into a retail centre, there will be an opportunity to photograph 7819 Hinton Manor and view the many railway artifacts before the shops open. Adjacent is ‘Steam’ where the history of the museum will be explained in the Sir Daniel Gooch theatre before we explore the museum, now in its 10th year.

At 13.00 our bus will take us to the Swindon & Cricklade Railway. Ploughman lunches will be served in our private “Moonraker” dining train as it travels the system, including non-passenger sections and (hopefully) as far as is permissible along the southern extension now under construction. Visits to the workshops, engine shed, signal boxes as well as the museum and shop will be available before returning to the hotel by 17.30.

For those seeking culture of a different type, a guided party will leave the hotel at 09.30 by vintage Bristol bus to the 4,500-year old stone rings and ditches of Avebury, considered superior to Stonehenge, then on to Devizes for an optional lunch where we can choose from the many cafés in this old market town. The magnificent Caen Hill flight of 29 locks on the Kennett & Avon canal, celebrating 200 years’ existence, are seen on the way to the National Trust village of Lacock where many films have been made, such as Pride & Prejudice and Harry Potter, and the first photograph was taken in Lacock Abbey by Fox Talbot 175 years ago. A conducted tour of this old world village by the Mediaeval Fayre town crier in costume will complete the day.

Dinner will be in the Uffington Suite at 19.30 with a pre-bookable selection of meals. Please indicate clearly on the booking form which choice each person would like. This will be followed with a presentation by Mark Hopwood, managing director of FGW, and the bar is ours until late.

Sunday 24th October. In the morning will be the Officers’ Conference but, for those not attending, a group will leave the hotel at 09.30 in the Daimler CVG6 double decker for the five mile journey to Lydiard House, a minor stately home which will be opened early especially for us.

Lunch will be the standard hotel carvery in the Mediterrano restaurant which has to be prebooked. Chats Bar will be serving bar snacks. In the afternoon there is a visit to the 7¼in. gauge Coate Water miniature railway, just over a mile from our hotel. It is set in extensive parkland with a large reservoir; special arrangements, including light refreshments and RCTS train/s over non-passenger track, are being laid on for us. Transport will be by local bus or members’ cars or, if fine, a pleasant walk via quiet streets.

If you do not have to rush away, there is much to see on Monday, so why not make it a long weekend to remember? There will be literature available which will give you ideas for this extra time.

The Bristol Branch will be delighted to have you as their guest and please feel welcome to discuss any aspect with Roger Newman on 01225 762337 or Paul Udey on 01225 427779.

The M&SWJR and the Swindon & Cricklade Railway

The Midland & South West Junction Railway ran from Andoversford on the Cheltenham-Banbury line to Red Post Jct., near Andover on the London & South Western Railway. Closure to passenger services took place on 9th September 1961 although the RCTS ran a special train behind 5306 on the next day. The majority of the track was lifted by 1963. Swindon Town, located in the old town on the hill, was its main station in Swindon. There was a chord at Rushey Platt linking to the GWR and Swindon Jct. station – this closed to goods in 1979.

Blunsdon station with its 176ft. split level platform closed for passengers on 28th September 1924, having had but one train a week on Sundays with the 5.00pm Cricklade-Swindon Town calling at 5.15pm. The 180ft. long sharply curving siding, prohibited to locomotives, closed for freight on 1st August 1937. The Swindon & Cricklade Railway was formed in 1978 and quickly received at its Blunsdon base an 0-4-0D on loan from Coopers (Metals) Ltd. of Swindon. In 1979 work started officially on the trackless Blunsdon site and, from 1982 onwards, both steam and diesel locomotives started to arrive. A new platform was constructed immediately north of the original platform while, in 1985, the signal box at Claydon Jct. was moved to Blunsdon. The waiting shelter came from Malmesbury and platform edging came from Rushey Platt and Swindon Town stations. Passenger rides had commenced in 1983.

Track laying commenced northwards for 34 chains to a second station called Hayes Knoll which was constructed at a new site on M&SWJR land. The signal box at Rowley Regis was brought to the site in the mid- 1990s and a three-road works building and running shed was erected in 1992 adjacent to the platform, being subsequently extended. 5637 and 7903 were restored in these workshops. The northern extension was laid 40 chains to a temporary terminus at South Meadow Lane with long term plans to extend to Cricklade.

Meanwhile the southern extension is taking shape with the aim of reaching Mouldon Hill, on the outskirts of Swindon, by 2011 with the potential of a further southwards extension, off the M&SWJR trackbed, to Sparcells on the edge of the town. The “Moonraker” dining train is available and loops at both Blunsdon and Hayes Knoll permit two-train running although the timetable is based on just one. Our train will be the first RCTS train on the line for 49 years and the railway is planning to make our visit memorable.

Coate Water Park and Miniature Railway

The reservoir was built as a feeder to the Wilts & Berks Canal in the 1820s. The North Wilts. Model Engineering Society, formed in 1963, commenced with 3½in. and 5in. gauge tracks but, since 1980, have operated 5in. and 7¼in. gauge ground level tracks. The club house, built in 1983, has recently been extended. The railway is open to the public every Sunday afternoon. There is a 1,095 feet main line and two loops of 1,356 feet and 630 feet, creating a very convoluted track layout. Three platforms, signal box, electric signals, interlocked points add to the visit experience where passengers travel on sit-on coaches and wagons.

Great Western Railway

The GWR arrived at Swindon on 17th December 1840 when the line reached Hay Lane. The section to Bath opened on 30th June 1841 which linked up with Bath to Bristol which had opened in August 1840. The line from Swindon to Cirencester had opened on 31st May 1841 as the first part of the Cheltenham & Great Western Union Railway which, by July 1852, was the route to South Wales. Swindon was therefore an important junction from the beginning of the expanding GWR broad gauge system. Between 1872 and 1874 the three lines were converted to mixed gauge with the last broad gauge train running through on 20th May 1892. In November 1840 the GWR adopted London Time which made timetabling more straightforward.

The Great Western Railway Act of 31st August 1835 had created a railway whose name has changed little in 175 years of operation. On 6th October 1840 Brunel recommended to his board the desirability for the engine works to be located at Swindon as from Paddington the line was easily graded but on to Bristol more powerful engines were required. The time changing the locomotives permitted a ten-minute stop to enable passengers to obtain refreshments but, on occasions, the train departed early catching out those eating of a more sumptuous meal. This was approved and the long tradition of railway engineering commenced.

After closure of the Works in 1986, most of the buildings were demolished and the Swindon Outlet Centre, National Photograph Records and ‘Steam’ museum occupy some of the few remaining buildings. Swindon in 2010 contains the headquarters of both First Great Western and Network Rail Western.

Click Here for Booking Form (.pdf file, requires Adobe Acrobat to view)

last updated: 17/08/10