TWO experts from the world of railways and museums pulled no punches in saying why Steam - the museum of the Great Western Railway - is not attracting enough visitors at a special think tank.

Sam Hunt, chief executive of the South West Museums, Libraries ands Archives Council and Tony Streeter, editor of Steam Railway magazine drew on their specialist knowledge to suggest ways the £13 million attraction could pull in more visitors.

When it opened three years ago amid a fanfare of pomp and ceremony visitor figures were projected to be around 250,000 a year, but the actual figure is closer 100,000. And losses are estimated to be running at somewhere like £12,000 a week.

Mr Streeter said: "I'm concerned, that, what Steam does not do is talk to the people who may have a casual interest.

"Until I have bought my ticket there is nothing that tells me what the museum is or why it exists - it's as if a magazine is sealed in a brown paper bag and I can't read it until I've purchased it.

"I'm not surprised at the low visitor numbers because I don't think the place is being sold well enough."

The one glaring omission from the Churchward museum, which costs almost £600,000 a year to subsidise, is the lack of live steam.

But plans are being made to build a narrow gauge railway around the site and set aside a part of the building for a working exhibition where children can play with model locomotives.

John Taylor (Lab, Central), chairman of the Steam task group, invited his guests to be blunt with their comments but neither were willing to twist the knife too far.

Mr Hunt said: "Education is the new market. If you can produce good educational material and back it up with marketing then it will pull people in."

The findings of yesterday's meeting will be reported to Swindon Council's decision-making cabinet at the end of the month.