IT was 180 years ago this year that Swindon railway works opened and began the work of building steam locomotives and carriages, changing the face of the town forever.

As the decades passed generations of families worked there and by the turn of the last century there were more than 12,000 employees.

In the 1930s it had expanded so much it covered 300 acres and was turning out three locos a week. Some of the most famous GWR engines it produced, including King George V, eventually returned to form part of Steam Museum's collection. It built the last British Railways steam loco Evening Star.

It stopped building new engines in the 1960s as the country moved towards diesel-electric and work concentrated on repairs and scrapping old locomotives, but the hooter sounded for the last time when finally shut down on March 26, 1986.

Many of the buildings were given a new lease of life. Steam is in what was once a machine shop, English Heritage is housed in the former engineers' office and parts of the Carriage Works are home to new businesses, following more than £7 of investment. Swindon Designer Outlet arrived in 1997.