Full Steam Ahead

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Full Steam Ahead

Series 1 - Episode 2



Our railways were designed to transport heavy goods. But once canny bosses realised their miners were hitching a ride to work on the coal-carrying trains, they started charging them and so the concept of passenger trains was born.

Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn roll up their sleeves and pop on bowler hats (the Victorian version of a hard hat) to discover how tough it was to be a navvy (the teams of labourers who laid the tracks). Ruth Goodman gets the more ladylike task of learning how horsehair fabric was used for carriage seats and antimacassars were introduced to stop them being stained by hair oil.


Historians Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn continue to relive the golden age of steam and how the Victorian railways created modern Britain. They visit Beamish in County Durham, learning how the rail companies first realised there was money to be made in moving people rather than commodities. Then Peter and Alex live the life of navvies, the men who built the thousands of miles of tracks in all weather conditions, and Ruth finds out what impact the new railroads had on the cottage industries. She also learns about the role of the guard, and the trio learn what precautions were necessary for taking a long journey on a train that was yet to include the necessary facilities.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Ruth Goodman
Presenter Alex Langlands
Presenter Peter Ginn
Director Stuart Elliott
Executive Producer Nick Catliff
Producer Stuart Elliott
Producer Emma Randle-Caprez
Producer Georgina Stewart
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Documentary History