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Weymouth was once referred to as ‘Swindon-on-Sea’. For it was a favourite holiday destination for workers at the giant Great Western Railway’s Swindon Works. The Works was completed in 1843 and at its peak employed some 14,000 people. Arrival of the railway at Weymouth in 1857 would breathe fresh life into the town as a holiday resort. It also saw the town’s population double by 1914.

Known as ‘Swindon Week’, the railway maintenance complex would close in July and thousands would cram the platforms of Swindon station in their Sunday best. Many local businesses would also  temporarily close as Swindon became a ghost town. Every year, some five or six thousand workers would travel to the Dorset seaside resort. There were other possible destinations in  the Great Western Railway’s network including to London. The event would become affectionately known as the ‘trip’. For the better off and more adventurous there was the prospect of crossing the English Channel from Weymouth to Cherbourg in the Great Western paddle steamer Gael.

Weymouth was a particularly popular destination for poorer workers with large families. Most would return to Wiltshire penniless as the holiday was without pay. It was not  until 1938 that the company introduced holidays with pay. Given good weather, the families would spend an enjoyable day on the beach and in the water. However, given heavy rain, the holidaymakers might have felt obliged to spend their time in their railway carriage hoping for an earlier return home.

Swindon Railway Works was to close in 1986.


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