Locomotion: Dan Snow's History of Railways

Series 1 - Episode 1

Locomotion: Dan Snow's History of Railways
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Radio Times
Review by:
David Butcher

What an inspiring, dirty, brutal, dramatic tale this is. Dan Snow takes on one of the best sagas of change in our history and couples the story together beautifully. He traces the origins of railways back to the “wagon ways”, horse-drawn carts on wooden rails, on which coal was pulled from the Durham coalfields to Newcastle in the early 18th century. But building a locomotive was much harder.

Snow is eloquent on how the breakthrough came and what the subsequent arrival of passenger trains meant for Britain’s horizons. They didn’t just create the modern world, he tells us, “they created the modern state of mind.”

About this programme

1/3. The historian and broadcaster charts the development of the UK's rail network, from its beginnings as a primitive system of trackways for coal carts in the early 18th century up to the present day. Rapid industrial growth during the 19th century, coupled with the prospect of vast profits, drove inventors and entrepreneurs to develop steam locomotives, metal tracks and an array of daring tunnels, cuttings and bridges that created a nationwide system of railways in just 30 years. George Stephenson's Liverpool and Manchester Railway became the model for future inter-city travel and his fast, reliable locomotive the Rocket began a quest for speed that has defined the modern world.

Cast and crew


Dan Snow


Dick Taylor
Executive Producer
Eamon Hardy
Dick Taylor
Series Producer
Melanie Archer