Living Museum of the Great Western Railway

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The Mechanicals

Get hands on with The Mechanicals – an interactive exhibition demonstrating pulleys, levers, gears, ratchets and more, alongside fascinating and beautifully crafted automata that utilise the basic mechanisms.

The superb exhibition will be housed on our original 1932 engine shed allowing visitors to see the displays and get up close to the historic steam locomotives that use the technology explained by the exhibits.

The Mechanicals is part of our Summer of S.T.E.A.M. from 25 July to 31 August - featuring Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths themed activities across five weeks.

As well as The Mechanicals, all the usual attractions will be open, meaning there's plenty to see and do as you explore this 21-acre living museum and unearth almost two centuries of railway history.  The Centre is open every day in the summer holidays with Steam Days at weekends and Wednesdays and Discovery Days at other times. Stroll through the original 1932 engine shed and see magnificent preserved locomotives – you can even climb onto the footplates of some! See surviving track from Brunel’s broad gauge, discover painstakingly restored buildings, coaches and wagons and learn more about the development of railways and how they changed everyday lives.

There’s a chance to get hands-on in the Science of Railways carriages and the signalling centre where you can find out how trains have been controlled through the ages. Descend into a shelter built to keep Didcot’s enginemen safe in WWII and experience an air raid or immerse yourself in the varied collection of fascinating, smaller artefacts in the museum. On Steam Days, don't miss the opportunity to get hands-on and control trains using the 1960s technology of the Swindon Panel.  The equipment was once the heart of Swindon signalbox has been saved and restored so, guided by one of our experts, you can keep trains running safely and to time on a virtual Great Western mainline!

Children can let off steam in the outdoor play area, make tracks to the indoor toy train sets or dress up as a Station Master. You can relax over lunch or enjoy a snack in the refreshment rooms and don’t forget to pick up a souvenir in the gift shop.  The modern trains running past the centre complete the picture and mean you can experience 180 years of railway progress in just one day!

More details our collections can be found in the Explore section, and in our Guidebook (available for purchase online with your tickets or at the entrance).

Open 10.30am – 4.00pm, last admission 3.30pm

The cheapest and most convenient way to buy tickets is online in advance as these are discounted by 10%.

The Mechanicals is included in normal admission prices between 25 July and 31 August. Please see calendar for further details of activities planned on the day of your visit and prices.

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