Buckinghamshire Railway Centre

School Travel Organiser speaks to Peter Sawyer, the education officer at Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, about how a visit to a museum specialising in steam trains makes for a great learning experience.

Q. Tell us a bit about Buckinghamshire Railway Centre…

A. Located close to Aylesbury, the centre is a railway museum with a collection of locomotives and carriages, plus a large amount of memorabilia and documents.

The number of exhibits ranges from large express passenger locomotives to the more humble shunting engine. Visitors get to learn all about the ‘golden age of steam’.

Q. What makes the centre a great destination for an educational visit?

A. Buckinghamshire Railway Centre offers all the fun and excitement of a live steam railway alongside a miniature railway, an informative museum and a dedicated education carriage, along with enthusiastic and experienced volunteer guides.

A visit can include a guided tour, a visit to the Schools Railway Express, a steam train ride, a miniature train ride, a view of the dining coach from Queen Victoria's Royal Train, and a visit to the Churchill Coach in which Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower met during World War Two.

Q. What does a typical school visit involve?

A. A school visit involves a ride on both our full-size steam trains and our miniature trains. There is access to the engine sheds and shunting yards, and tours of the museum and the education carriage.

Pictured: Steam trains, on which pupils can take a ride during a trip to the centre.

There can also be a special focus on the visiting group’s topics, such as the Victorians or Evacuees.

Q. How do trips tie in with the National Curriculum?

A. History, Art & Design, Science and Art are subjects that can be covered during an educational visit.

Topics such as transport, local history, technology and infrastructure can also be covered. Trips are suitable for all ages from nursery right up to A-level.

Q. What workshops/tours do you offer?

A. The centre has a number of tours that are specific to learning; they all cover the history of steam trains and the local railways around the centre as well as cover the content in the major on-site exhibits.

Visits can also be tailored to specific themes and learning outcomes. A History-related visit, for example, can focus on transport and life in Victorian times, the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the impact of railways on the local area, or the travelling Post Office.

A Geography trip, meanwhile, might focus on the influence of transport on the development of large towns/cities, while Science students can learn first-hand about steam travel and levers.

Our most popular day is our Evacuees’ Experience, which takes place each September. Volunteers dress in period costume and pupils can meet members of the Home Guard and air raid wardens, see vintage military vehicles and experience an air raid in our recreated shelter.

Many school visitors come dressed up as evacuees to completely immerse themselves in the experience.

Pictured: The station building at Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

Q. How can a trip to Buckinghamshire Railway Centre be linked to lessons when the class is back at school?

A. Trips can be linked to lessons on History, Geography and the topic of transport, and can be enhanced by a visit from one of our volunteers. This means a driver, guard or station master can come along to the school along with the tools of their trade and some small artefacts from our museum.

Q. What ambitions do you have for the future of educational visits?

A. In the future, we hope to be able to offer a classroom space, expand the number of subjects that we can cover and provide residential and work experience opportunities.

Teachers who would like to book a school visit to Buckinghamshire Railway Centre should e-mail education@bucksrailcentre.org.

For further information visit www.bucksrailcentre.org.