Great Western Railway

The Great Western Railway (GWR) was a British railway company, linking South West England, the West Country and South Wales with London. It was founded in 1833, kept its identity through the 1923 grouping, and became part of British Railways at nationalisation in 1948. Known to some as God's Wonderful Railway, it gained great fame as the "Holiday Railway", taking huge numbers of people to resorts in the South-West. The company's most well known livery was Brunswick green locomotives (red then black frames) with chocolate and cream carriages.

The Company was founded at a public meeting in Bristol in 1833. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed as engineer at the age of 27, and made two controversial decisions: to use a broad gauge of seven feet (actually 7ft 0.25in or 2140mm) for the track, which he believed would offer superior running at high speeds; and to take a route which passed north of the Marlborough Downs, an area with no significant towns, though it did offer potential connections to Oxford and Gloucester and then to follow the Thames Valley into London.

The company received its Parliamentary Act in 1835, and the first stretch of line, from London Paddington to Taplow near Maidenhead opened in 1838. The full line to Bristol Temple Meads opened on completion of the Box Tunnel in 1841. The initial group of locomotives ordered by Brunel to his own specifications proved unsatisfactory, apart from the North Star locomotive, and 20-year-old Daniel Gooch (later Sir) was appointed as Superintendent of Locomotives. Brunel and Gooch chose to locate their locomotive works at the village of Swindon, at the point where the gradual ascent from London turned into the steeper descent to the Avon valley at Bath.