A BARITONE boom familiar to generations of Swindonians was back to greet the passing of every hour.

The famous GWR Works hooter made a welcome return this weekend, as the Steam Museum hosted the Swindon Railway Festival.

Now in its 18th year, the festival saw scores of model railway enthusiasts show off their intricate sets, while hundreds of steam fans enjoyed the displays.

Museum volunteer Elizabeth Day got the chance to turn the wheel on Sunday at midday, sending blasts of steam through the old GWR Works hooter.

“It was fantastic,” she beamed. The 79-year-old, now living in Wanborough, said she could remember hearing it when she lived in Rodbourne Cheney with her family: “It’s part of Swindon’s history. You got so used to listening to it. It was a sound in the distance – we used to wake up to it in the morning.”

Colin Hatch’s 10 tonne steam boiler provided the power to sound the alarm. The 64-year-old engineer, who runs Hatch Heritage, said: “We’re recreating a little bit of the atmosphere of Swindon when the old hooter used to sound.”

Silent from 1986 when the works closed, the hooter was resurrected for the factory’s 175th anniversary in 2016.

The hooter holds some significant memories for Colin: “I grew up in Stratton St Margaret and we could hear it because of the prevailing wind direction.” The one-time Pressed Steel apprentice used the GWR Works hooter to time his bicycle ride back to the factory from his lunchbreak.

Steam enthusiast Colin brought the weighty steam boiler across the Magic Roundabout on Friday, towed by a 1901 traction engine.

“I’ve always been interested in steam engines, right from a young age I always pottered about at home tinkering about with things,” said Colin.

“These engines are almost alive. They’re warm, they smell nice, they talk to you.”

Youngster Luke Crowther, 18, has just finished a course at UTC Swindon. But while his friends were keen on the latest hi-tech car engines, it was 100-year-old technology that interested Luke.

Stood beside a 1901 engine with his hands and overalls thick with oil, the teenager said: “With modern engines you couldn’t see what was happening inside. With this engine you can see what does what. If something goes wrong, you can see what it is.”

Carolyn Lovett, events coordinator at the Steam Museum, said: “We’re thrilled – we’ve got some great layouts. We love the steam engines and it’s great having the hooter going off every hour on the hour. It’s like stepping back in time.”

Inside, railway enthusiasts crowded around model sets. One of the more unusual had been built by Rodney Hodge. Called Hawkins Halt, the colourful track featured children’s toy trains – the insides hollowed out at replaced with working Hornby parts.

Rodney said the project had started off as a challenge set by two of his nieces: “They asked me to make their toy train run.” The technicolour display left Nick Hedges’ two daughters wide-eyed and keen to play. Nick, 37, said: “They absolutely love it. I think it gets the kids involved – it gives them something to get into.”