Isambard Kingdom Brunel

who aren't railway enthusiasts, or lovers of engineering on the grand scale, might have no concept of genius of this man. Simply, he was the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of railways, and of Victorian engineering.

His Great Western Railway (GWR) was known as "God's Wonderful Railway". Railway buffs go misty-eyed, just thinking about it.

His track-bed, his stations, his bridges, his viaducts, his tunnels are beautiful - not because he hired a team of creative consultants, but because they worked; they were right. Most of it is still in use. If anything, it's over-specified for the railway traffic of today.

So, naturally, the Swindon Works was built on the same mammoth scale. It covered 323 acres (73 acres under cover) - completely dominating the town's economy. It employed some 40,000 people. It manufactured and repaired locomotives and rollingstock - not just for the GWR, but for the far-flung corners of the world, where railways were opening up continents to civilisation.

When Swindon people talked about working "inside", everyone knew they held a prized position within the Swindon Works.

Staff at the Works lived in the Village - a small company town, designed by Brunel and built of yellow Cotswold stone, excavated during the boring of Box Tunnel (a few miles down the line). Effectively, it was the first "Garden Village" in the world - decades before Ebenezer Howard coined the term.

These houses still stand today, many now owned by their proud occupiers, after a spell as council houses.

Piggy in the Middle Piggy in the Middle The Golden Corridor The Golden Corridor
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