Brunel 200 Legacy Atmospheric pipe section.
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South West Arts Projects Overview > Newton Abbot Town & GWR Museum

Heading – Newton Abbot Town & GWR Museum

Atmospheric Event

Brunel’s connection with Newton Abbot is strong. While working on his Atmospheric Railway system, Brunel based himself in the town, using the Earl of Devon’s architect’s office. In this area of the South West, the atmospheric system is well known, but there is no physical representation of it to see. As a complex scientific principle, the atmospheric system is difficult to explain without a working model to demonstrate it in practise.

Newton Abbot Town & GWR Museum  - The atmospheric event in the gardens of Forde House.

The atmospheric event in the gardens of Forde House.

The Newton Abbot Town & GWR Museum decided to address this by creating a two-day Atmospheric Event to entertain and educate local people in how the atmospheric principle really worked.

The Museum also extended its permanent exhibition at its home base with videos, displays and photographs of Brunel, and displayed the William Dawson watercolours to encourage regular and new visitors to learn more about Brunel and his achievements.

The combination of the exhibition within the museum and by creating a two-day Atmospheric Event (13 and 14 May 2006) held in the house and gardens of Forde House has encouraged a great interest in IK Brunel and engineers in the area. The Museum had many more visitors than usual to the exhibition, some visitors travelling long distances:

Visitor numbers in 2005, Jan to May: 1,009
Visitor numbers in 2006, from mid-Feb to June: 2,489

The Museum also supported Wren Music to develop the Brunel community play ‘A Wonderful Alteration’. As a result, 150 people were involved in the play, including individuals, families, school children, teenagers, the local town band, school bands and the local choir.

For further information, visit the Museum at: and type Newton Abbot into the Search box.

Newton Abbot Town & GWR Museum  - Barometer World Activity.

Barometer World Activity.

Visitor comments from the Atmospheric Event and Community Play

“I at last understand what the atmospheric system was.”

“I never knew Brunel did so many different things.”

“I know all about Brunel now.”
(a small boy!)

“Isn’t it amazing to see a piece of the pipe, wasn’t it big.”

“I don’t want this to finish”
(child in the Brunel play)

“It is wonderful to work with Paul.”

(comment from a Town Band player on Paul Wilson from the Wren Trust)

“It’s been such FUN, I wish we could have the Wren Trust working with us at school, I love doing the junk band and now it will stop again.”
(Knowles Hill school pupil)

“Working with the Wren trust has been brilliant, everyone had a part and we all did our bit; it really was good.”

“Mr Brunel would have been proud of your tribute to him!”

“Enjoyable, a subject and a half.”

The railway modellers commented that “…we have never had so many intelligent questions in a show before.”….!

“I love Forde House. It’s such a lovely place, why haven’t I been here before?”

From this event and celebration of IK Brunel, there has been a greater awareness and understanding of Brunel’s atmospheric railway; together with an understanding of the impact that Brunel’s railway brought to the life of the town.

Newton Abbot Town & GWR Museum - Learning Atmospheric principles.
Learning Atmospheric principles.

Visitor comments from the Brunel exhibition

“We enjoyed learning about the atmospheric railway which we’d only heard about before. The exhibition and video are very informative and the staff so welcoming.”

“Very interesting – well laid out; I’ll return again with more visitors.”
Visitor from South Wales

“Informative exhibition which will demand a second (and maybe third!) visit. Friendly and helpful stewarding.”

“My sons, aged 4 and 2, really enjoyed the railway room. Will definitely visit again.”

“An excellent selection of good explanatory material on that great mystery – the ‘Atmospheric Railway.’”

“Great exhibition and helpful staff and curator. This is my second visit to this exhibition.”

“My great-grandmother, Margaret Voisey, was of Huguenot stock who had come as refugees from France in the reign of Elizabeth I. Her father was angle ironsmith to I K Brunel (also an émigré). I remember seeing her brother, my great uncle Harry some 75 years ago. He was also an angle ironsmith at Swindon Railway Works. All the boys in the Rushton-Voisey household served their apprenticeships in the Railway Works. I remembered that Uncle Harry had Brunel’s drawing board, but I’m afraid it got lost.”

George Rushton, Dartmouth

“I’ve never spent so long in any museum! (3 hours). Excellent help and info from dedicated staff – thanks.”
Visitor from Bristol