Full Steam Ahead (2016) s01e01 Episode Script

Episode 1

The Age of Steam shaped how we live today.
The Victorians laid over 20,000 miles of lines in the biggest engineering project the country has ever seen.
Connecting our towns with high-speed links, revolutionising trade and transportation, communication and recreation.
It was the greatest transformation in our history.
But how did it happen? To find out, historians Ruth Goodman Flat out! Alex Langlands Shovelling coal is something I'm gonna get very familiar with.
and Peter Ginn It is tough work! are bringing the railways back to life, as they would have been during the golden age of steam.
I feel like I'm in a Western.
This is very definitely the best steam engine I've ever been on.
Oh, no, he's gaining on us! A brave new world.
They will be helped by armies of enthusiasts, who keep the Age of Steam alive on Britain's 500 miles of preserved railway.
This is the way to experience train travel.
It is.
They'll follow in the footsteps of the world's finest engineers These are the men that built Britain's railways.
those who ran it This is brutal! This is savage industrialism! and those for who life would never be the same again.
Internet, pah! It had nothing like the impact of the railways.
This is the story of how the railways created modern Britain.
Of all the changes the railways made to our lives, the one that affects us most directly was in our homes.
I'd really like to explore the domestic revolution.
How it was that the railways changed the way we live, from the houses we live in to the food we eat.
British way of life underwent a cataclysmic change because of the railways.
And I'd really like to know why.
Behind this domestic revolution was a new era of mass production and distribution, borne by the workers of Victorian Britain.
Blood, sweat and tears went into building this new version of industrialised Britain, of which the railways were at the heart.
I'm interested in experiencing just exactly what it took to do that.
Ouch! That is painful.
For many people in Britain, life had been the same for centuries.
They'd be doing the same crafts in the same industries.
But the railways come along and change all of that.
One of the things I'm really looking forward to is almost going back to those times and seeing those changes, seeing the impacts the railways had.
In 1800, before the railways were built, Britain was a very different place.
80% of people lived and worked in the countryside.
Life at home had changed little for centuries.
If you walked into any town or village in the 18th Century, almost everything you clapped eyes upon would have been produced within a 10- or 20-mile radius.
Even at its most basic level I'm getting wood for a fire here.
In the 18th Century, most people outside of London still cooked on wood.
From the clothes people wore, to the food they ate, to the houses they lived in, to the plates that they ate and drank off, local produce made by local craftsmen was the norm.
Go on.
You're getting the hang of this.
The main form of transport was the horse and cart, with wheels made by the village wheelwright.
But as more villages came in range of a railway station, its days were numbered.
All of those individual crafts that had sustained life in the village came under threat, because materials, products, manufactured goods, could be brought into that village from all over the country.
The railways meant villages no longer had to be self-sufficient.
Hand-made items were superseded by cheaper factory-made products distributed across the country.
It's fantastic to see one of these ancient crafts.
A craft that would have been fast disappearing in the 19th Century.
Before the railways, even the way we built our homes was different.
Houses would have been constructed from local materials roofed with whatever could be sourced nearby.
Sometimes this was slabs of stone.
But in many villages, they were thatched with wheat stems - straw.
Keith Payne is one of the few working as a thatcher today.
Where would a thatcher have got his material from, Keith? This would all have been grown locally.
Just from the grain for making bread and biscuits, really.
It's the most beautiful part of it.
So it was effectively a by-product of the wheat harvest? Yeah, exactly.
They were growing it for a multi-purpose.
Because the straw's so long, they used it on the houses.
- In there like that? - Yeah.
But thatch had its problems.
For one, straw was only available once a year, at harvest time.
And thatched roofs need constant maintenance.
That's one of the main issues with thatch.
Locally sourced material, lovely and thick and insulating, but every year there's a job to do on the roof.
Yes, absolutely, cos it's basically a plant.
It's wearing out from the moment you put it on.
What was needed was a readily-available, cheap, durable alternative.
The ideal roofing material was slate, hewn from the ground in just a few remote areas of Britain.
But the problem was how to move this heavy, bulky material from the isolated quarries into our towns and villages.
For the slate mines high in the mountains of Snowdonia, the answer was a purpose-built railway.
The Ffestiniog Line ran from the quarries 14 miles down through the mountains to Porthmadog, from where the slate could be distributed.
Ruth, Alex and Peter are meeting the railway's heritage director, Ian Wilkinson.
Welcome to the Ffestiniog Railway.
Thank you very much.
This is a particularly early railway.
It is indeed.
The railway was built in the 1830s and it started off just using horse power.
And it was only later on that they went on to use steam locomotives like the ones we've got there.
So why build a railway if you've not got any engines involved? - Uncanny, isn't it, that? - Yeah.
It is, but the railway pre-dated the technology.
So steam locomotives simply didn't exist.
So there's a whole bunch of railways that were up and running before steam engines? Yeah, centuries before, if anything.
It was simply a good, reasonably friction-free way to move lots of goods around.
Heavy bulk goods in particular.
Exactly, yes.
In 1830, there were just a handful of railways in Britain, virtually all carrying minerals from mines and quarries.
Back then, steam locomotives were in their infancy and were both expensive and unreliable.
So horses were used instead.
Ffestiniog is an amazing example of those early railways.
You have the mine uphill and the port downhill.
The horses take the carts uphill and gravity takes the train back downhill.
But there are few records of how it actually operated.
We've got a couple of wagons here.
We've got a pony with us and we're experimenting to see how it would've worked.
Who have you got here for us today? - We've got Tickle here.
- Tickle.
She's a Welsh pony.
She was bred in these mountains? She was, yes.
- And how old's Tickle? - Tickle is 12 years old.
Right, OK.
So she's good for this kind of work? She's very steady.
A bit keen.
How do you think she's gonna cope with moving these great big lumbering wagons? I think she'll be pretty determined to get it moving.
- Right, OK.
- Then she'll keep it moving.
She's already ready to go.
Peter and Alex are manning the brakes.
If the horse stops suddenly, and the wagons keep on moving, it could break Tickle's legs.
It's all very well me stopping this one but your one will still be running.
If you've got seven of these, then the distance they'll span out is actually quite a lot.
If that horse just stops, you've got to be on it.
Walk on.
Oi, steady.
Come on.
Walk on, girl.
Walk on.
OK, I'm just gonna put a little bit on here.
Steady on.
Ideally, we need to get the horse walking in the rails.
It's a bit much to ask that of her the first time.
But when you get up into the mountain passes, you just don't have that width.
So you've got to train up your pony to get between the rails.
It's a very, very tricky operation for a horse.
Tickle's finding the sleepers difficult to walk on.
But back in the 1830s, ash or sand was often laid between the rails to make it easier.
And whoa.
There we go.
Good girl, we've got the brake down to a fine art.
It is asking quite a bit of her.
But she's certainly got the power.
- She has, hasn't she? Yes.
- She likes to work at speed.
Unlike Peter.
- Key question, here.
- Yes? Has she earned the apple yet? Maybe a few more goes.
How do you feel about that? - Give it a couple more goes.
- Think it's time for my apple.
You're not having an apple before the horse has an apple.
You could learn a thing or two off that horse, Peter, the speed it works at.
She does get a shift on, doesn't she? Blimey.
This is a section of the 14-mile track, laid in the 1830s to carry the horse-drawn slate wagons from the mountainous quarries down to Porthmadog.
Keep going, lads.
Alun Tomlinson and his Permanent Way team are responsible for maintaining it today.
The Permanent Way is just not the track.
It's everything within this area.
If you look round, we've got fencing, we've dry stone walls, which are a constant problem having to rebuild.
One day, the lads could be fencing, chasing sheep It could be anything.
Because the Ffestiniog Line was built in a mountainous area, it had far more tunnels, cuttings and tight bends than a regular railway.
And in the 1830s, all this had to be dug out by hand.
But it was made possible by a simple solution.
The modern passenger railways, standard gauge is four foot, eight inches and a half? Yeah.
Which is, sort of, out here, so from that rail to about here.
What's the gauge here? - It's two-foot gauge.
- Just little two foot? These, sort of, narrow-gauge railways were very good at getting through a landscape like this That's why it's been designed like this.
Because of the geography of the land, narrow gauge was the only option.
So if you've got to make a track bed for something that's got a two-foot gauge, then that amount of stone has got to be organised.
But if we were going for the four foot eight, we'd have to cut a lot of mountain away to make that extra width, wouldn't we? You know, the expense of cutting more mountain wasn't viable, was it? The Ffestiniog Railway opened up new markets for slate.
By the 1860s, demand was outstripping supply.
The horse-drawn trains simply weren't powerful enough.
So in 1863, they invested in Prince, their first steam locomotive.
Tickle can pull up to ten slate wagons, Prince, over 100.
What this must have been like in the 1860s.
When these came, it would've been like the Space Age.
And speed as well.
It would've gone a lot faster than a horse could've gone.
Totally revolutionary at the time.
With nothing to compare it against, it must've been - Mind-blowing? quite extraordinary.
The introduction of steam-hauled slate trains on the Ffestiniog Line meant production could be boosted tenfold.
Most of these slates were used to build terraced housing as the Industrial Revolution drew workers from their rural cottages.
At Beamish in County Durham, they've reconstructed a pit village as it would have been in 1900.
Before the railways, straight streets, squares, crescents were the preserve of the wealthy elite, found in places like Bath, London, Bristol.
The railways, however, brought that sort of town planning to the rest of us.
I mean, look at this.
This could be almost anywhere in any industrial town in Britain.
You've got standardised slates, you've got standardised bricks.
There is no sense of individual place, no regionality.
People had to get used to a whole new, regulated, regimented way of railway life.
Unlike the 1800 house, which was furnished by local craftsmen, this house from 1900 is full of products brought in by rail.
Look at the furniture.
It's not made of beech or ash or oak.
There's all sorts of exotic, imported woods being used.
Teak and mahogany, brought halfway across the world and then distributed by rail across the country.
Almost everywhere you look, there are standardised, nationwide products.
I mean, look at the pottery, for example.
That's no longer local pots made in one region for the people of that region.
This is nationally available.
You could buy the same tea cup and saucer anywhere in Britain.
The rail network boosted the new consumer age.
Mass-produced goods were suddenly available.
The railways allowed firms to expand their markets, to sell all over the nation.
And that system favoured those who could compete most effectively on price, and those who could make the biggest splash and grab people's attention.
And those that did it best of all were the soap manufacturers.
I mean, many of these names are still with us today.
Look, we've got Lux and Reckitt and Colman's and Lifebuoy and Sunlight.
We see for the first time great national brands.
In 1800, just 20% of people lived in cities.
By 1900, it was 70%.
And they all needed a roof over their heads.
More houses were built in this period than at any other time, with slate being the number one roofing material.
The Victorian entrepreneur John Whitehead Greaves saw there was an ever-growing demand for slate, so began digging in the Welsh mountains.
Eventually he struck a rich seam and established the Llechwedd Quarry, one of the largest in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area.
At its peak, over 17,000 worked in the Welsh slate industry - Hi, Phil.
- Hi.
including Phil Jones's ancestors.
What are we looking at here? We're looking now at These are veins, and it goes in veins of slate, granite, slate, granite throughout the mountain.
The tale goes, it took them three years to find the slate.
Really? But when they got upon it, they must have hit When they got it, he laughed all the way to the bank.
- Hit gold.
- He hit blue-grey gold, yeah.
Am I right in thinking you come from a long line of slate miners? Yes, I can go back about six generations of my family working in these places.
A great-great-great-great grandfather of mine, he started when he was eight years old, worked until he was 69.
So that was good going, really.
Between 35 and 45 was the average age of Victorian miners.
- So short life, hard work.
- Yes.
The glory days of the Welsh slate industry ended after the Second World War, when cheaper imported slate and clay tiles took away business.
But underground, the Llechwedd slate caverns are frozen in time, as they would have been when the Ffestiniog railway made it the slate capital of the world.
This is amazing, Phil.
Yeah, all dug out by hand.
This is like a sort of lost world here, isn't it? This is an original candle from the 1800s.
- This is an original candle? - Oh, my goodness.
- Been burning a long time.
- Yeah.
We've got 250 chambers altogether in this mine.
And 25 miles of tunnel connecting all the chambers.
It's quite big.
But then, it's not the biggest in the world.
That is incomprehensible.
The biggest in the world is across the road.
In the gloom, quarrymen extracted slabs of slate from the cavern.
To do this, holes were drilled into which explosives were packed.
I don't feel like I'm doing anything.
You are kicking out a bit of dust.
I'm seeing the dust coming out.
So we'll leave you down here, then, Peter, shall we? To drill, the quarrymen often had to scale the cavern walls.
So here he goes.
This all looks fairly ominous, Shane.
Yeah, you know, when they were working at this angle, they would have to have some sort of support.
Slate has razor-like edges that could sever rope.
So chains were used instead.
So you're wrapping that right up there on your leg.
Now I'm using my own weight, keeping myself in position.
- Now you can drill.
- Now I can drill, yeah.
Can you pass me the How's your leg? How's your leg? My leg is going to sleep.
Gonna give it a go? I'm holding the lantern this time, aren't I? OK.
So I get up to here.
And then I've got to get this - Oh, goodness me.
- That's it.
Ouch! That is painful.
- It is, isn't it? - That is extremely painful.
Ooh, I think I'm pinching something, Peter.
Did you dress to the left this morning? - So then I've got to drill - That's your drill there.
With that That is incredibly painful.
- I don't think I should.
- OK.
It's obviously in your blood, Phil.
That's from my grandfather and my father.
It is painful, isn't it? - Very painful.
- That is painful.
I think it's more painful when you get 12 pence a day.
Yeah, that's between a team of four, though.
Three pence for you and three pence for me and a lot of pain for the both of us.
I think my groin is worth more than three pence.
Sure you don't want a go, Peter? I am never gonna look at a roofing slate in the same way again.
At its peak, over half a million tons of slate were being produced each year, all transported down the mountain by the steam-powered Ffestiniog railway fuelled by coal.
Coal was vital to the Industrial Revolution, enabling factories to mass produce goods and railways to distribute them.
But in the 1840s, many of Britain's railways had different widths of track.
So wagons from one line wouldn't fit on another.
Look, for example, at the size of the coal wagons here, in comparison to the wagons, those little slate wagons we saw at the Ffestiniog.
So in 1846, the government ruled that all future lines should adopt the same width.
The Gauge Act decreed that they must be built with rails a standard four foot eight and a half inches apart.
And this standard meant that they could join up together at last.
It also meant that wagons became standardised too so that the same wagon could run from one end of the country to the other, joining up one business with another.
Feeding into this ever-growing national network were thousands of branch lines from mines and quarries.
Now materials that were building the new industrialised Britain, such as coal, slate and iron, could be transported in bulk right into towns and factories across the nation.
There were over 1,500 lines from collieries alone, one of which was the Foxfield Railway near Stoke.
It ran from the Foxfield Colliery to a mainline junction where it connected to the national network.
When the pit closed in 1965, the line was preserved by a team of volunteers, including Ron Whalley.
So it wasn't a passenger line or for anything else, it was just for a single purpose - shifting coal? Yeah.
The mine owners wanted a means of getting the coal to outside industry as cheaply as possible.
And they wanted a railway, so they built one.
And you can see it's a most peculiar shape.
That is a very odd route! The reason for that is, there was a stately home there, and the lord of the manor didn't want the railway running through his front garden.
It had to avoid that.
But there was a hill here, so it went round the hill, then dropped at this alarming gradient.
The steepest bit is about 1 in 19.
1 in 19? That's really steep for a railway.
It is really steep for a railway.
This is Britain's steepest line.
But whereas at Ffestiniog full wagons run downhill, here it's the other way round.
So the wagons are going full, up? The full wagons are going up the gradient.
It's the most uneconomical thing you can possibly imagine.
Such was the demand for coal to fuel the Industrial Revolution, even expensive-to-run lines like this were considered viable.
- Can I come aboard? - Come on board.
Pulling coal up the gradient today is a powerful Bagnall tank engine owned by Andrew Civil.
He's giving Ruth a driving lesson.
Do you know what's what? Not really.
A bit, but not much.
So take me through it.
What have we got? This is the regulator.
This will supply the steam to the cylinder.
- That's the accelerator.
- Okey-doke.
OK, next one.
Steam brake - most important.
It's sending steam down to a cylinder under your feet and applying the brakes.
So it's just like the foot brake in a car? Exactly.
A steam loco, everyone will tell you, it's very easy to move.
But to stop it where you want it to stop is the trick.
The first job for the Victorian rail crew is to hook up the empty coal wagons.
Right, now look where you're going.
Definitely forwards.
And Shut the regulator.
Driving a steam engine is a two-person job.
Matt Healey is the fireman who works alongside the driver.
He's assembling the coal train.
That is the connection between the loco and the wagons.
That basically takes all the pull of the loco and transmits it via a draw bar back to each wagon.
Matt's taking the handbrake off.
Ruth takes the controls to drive the empty wagons down to the colliery.
Touch more regulator.
That's it.
Oh, not quite as much as that.
That's a mixture of me and the wagon.
Just like stalling.
That sounds good.
Oh, that sounds good! - Little bit more regulator.
- Bit more? Oh, here it comes.
Listen to that chuff! Wow, the power! You can really feel it! Wow.
- Shut the regulator, Ruth.
- Shut the regulator.
They've now reached the top of the steep incline to the mine.
So we're not just, like, gonna let the train roll down the hill and then put brakes on to stop? No, got them dragging right now.
Each wagon has its own separate brake, which Ron is putting half on.
Without it, the weight of the wagons could push the loco down the hill, with disastrous consequences.
No runaway trains over the hill? No, cos at the bottom of the hill is Ron's garden! - Really? - Yeah! - Andy! - Away we go.
Brakes applied, the train is ready to descend the hill.
- I will do this bit.
- Yeah.
I'm quite glad you don't trust me with this bit.
Even an empty coal train weighs over 50 tons.
So this really is the steepest bit of rail in Britain? We're coming to the steepest bit now.
I can feel it, actually.
That must be the colliery.
At its peak, this colliery produced 200,000 tons of coal each year.
The next thing is to load up with coal.
And then we've got to haul it up that hill.
With the coalfield railways revolutionising the supply chain, the slate miners of Wales were working harder than ever.
To keep up with demand, the men endured 12-hour shifts underground, broken by just one half-hour rest.
The tea would be made in the morning like ours is.
I mean, you could creosote a fence with that, to be honest.
But you'd warm it up actually at the point of your lunch.
- You'd warm it up on a candle.
- Warm it up over a candle.
- Lechyd da.
- Lechyd da.
Good health.
Slate quarries were dangerous places.
Drilling kicked up deadly slate dust, which, when inhaled, settled in the lungs and set like concrete.
The result - a slow, lingering death.
But the owners of the quarry sought to divert the blame.
They paid the doctors to say they were drinking too much stewed tea.
- And they believed it.
- Right.
Why wouldn't you? You've got a qualified medical professional telling you you're dying because you're drinking stewed tea.
They actually said in the reports that the dust was actually good for you.
If the dust from drilling didn't kill you, the blasting might.
Every year, three miners in every 1,000 died in accidents, more than in coal mining.
Modern-day fuse wire will burn at around a foot a minute, so you can time yourself to get away from the blast.
In those days, they only had a piece of rope or twine, dipped into tar, then into the gunpowder, and then you'd put it into the hole.
Good Lord.
Then you'd pour the gunpowder into the hole, slate dust on top of the gunpowder, paper on top of the slate dust.
And then, with this tool here, you'd stamp it all down.
You have to remember that the fuse is very unpredictable.
My grandfather, he did go back to the blast.
And the blast went off early and he lost the use of his hand.
I remember blue freckles all the way up his arm where the slate had embedded into his arm.
So I can appreciate the danger, you know.
That was his career as a slate miner over, presumably? Yeah, basically.
- His livelihood.
- Yes.
Once blasted, the slabs of slate were loaded onto carts.
The carts were then taken from the chamber to the surface.
Here the slabs were sawn using steam-powered machines, ready to be split by hand.
- Here we go.
- Look at that.
500 million years.
That's the last time that saw the light of day.
- Do you want a go at this? - Yeah, yeah, go on, then.
Slate is formed when clay is compressed and heated in the ground.
Its crystals become arranged in layers, and it's along these layers that it can be split.
It's this unique property that makes it ideal for roofing.
And that needs to be split again to get the thickness of a tile? - Yes.
- Gonna try to split it in half? I can try, yeah, yeah.
This is what we've come for.
I can feel your nervousness, Peter.
Just go gentle with that now.
With the hand? And then prise it open.
Whoa, look at that! That's like taking candy from a baby, that.
Look at that.
What a fantastic material.
- It just sheds water.
- It's impenetrable.
Next, the split layers are cut to size.
Mind those fingers of yours, Peter.
All in the wrist.
The finished slates were given regal names according to their sizes.
The largest were called Empress, then Duchess, Countess and Lady for the smallest.
With my slating skills, we've invented a new roof tile.
- Yes.
- The Parlour Maid.
Cutting slate into tiles was a wasteful process.
Just 10% of the quarried rock was taken by train down the mountain.
The rest was dumped on spoil heaps, which still litter the Blaenau Ffestiniog landscape today.
Coal production created even more waste.
At its peak, over 500 million tons were mined and transported by rail each year.
At Foxfield, even this small coal train weighs over 200 tons.
To help it grip the track up the steep hill to the main line, Matt's giving the loco a little help.
Filling the sandboxes up with sand, so that if we slip, we've got some sand to put on the rails.
There's a steam jet in there which grabs hold of the sand and blows it out through that pipe.
Is this what they should do when they have leaves on the line? Yeah, they did.
Modern trains do have them.
- Do they really? - About 10-15 years ago, they reintroduced sanding gear onto modern trains to counteract slippage.
Whereas rubber car tyres grip the road firmly, a steel train wheel against a steel rail gives very little traction.
So forcing sand between the wheels and track helps it grip.
That's all the grip you've got, that little patch on each wheel.
So if that goes we ain't going anywhere.
Are we ready? - Green flag.
- Green flag! Oh! Fully loaded, up the steepest incline in Britain.
Ohh! See her struggle.
The fully-loaded coal train is going nowhere.
Despite sand being used, the wheels are slipping.
Then Matt spots the problem.
The brakes are pinned! The wagon's brakes were left on after descending the hill.
With the brakes on, no wonder we ain't moving! - Try that again.
- OK! The brakes released, they make a second attempt at climbing the gradient.
At the first sign of slippage, Andy applies sand to the track to increase traction.
The sand's on, look! Lever's in position! And we're moving! We're really getting going now.
She's really working now to get us up here, isn't she? Climbing steep hills is where a fireman really earns his money.
He must continually shovel coal, keeping the fire raging to maintain steam.
If the steam runs short, the load will pull the loco back down the hill.
That is flat out, there is absolutely nothing left! Flat out! Feel that immediate change as we hit the top.
And easing back.
Whoo! You didn't think she was gonna go.
I could see it on your face.
"She's not gonna move.
" He was getting called all the names under the sun! The joy at hitting the top of the hill is short-lived.
- I can see flames.
- Yeah, I can see flames.
Working the steam locomotive flat out has drawn burning coals up and out of the chimney, setting fire to the embankment.
All the early railways of the steam days had to keep their banks tidy because of exactly this problem.
They had to manage the whole landscape, keep it as flat and as green as possible.
When steam trains were withdrawn in 1968, British Rail stopped tidying up embankments.
As the trees grew back, a new problem arose: Leaves on the line.
But burning coals thrown from the loco wasn't just a problem in the countryside.
I mean, can you imagine in the middle of a town, if you lived there and you had your washing out I mean, first of all, it'd get totally ruined by the train going past.
And then you can always get it set on fire as well.
For centuries, wood had been burned to cook food and to heat homes.
But the arrival of the railway in a town meant coal prices fell by a third.
It quickly became the fuel of choice, burning hotter and for longer than wood.
But there was a downside.
Look at that.
Filthy, isn't it? And that is the problem with coal fires.
They leave this awful muck over everything.
It's not just, like, dust falling out of the fire.
It's also the smoke creates sort of, like, smuts in the air, so they're almost like little black snowflakes.
They're filthy and they're sticky.
And they make everything eugh! It creates this vast burden of housework.
Coal trapped women within the home.
Before the railways, wash day might be just once a month.
Now it was weekly, and shifting coal smuts required carbolic soap.
Unfortunately, it doesn't activate in cold water.
So in order to make the soap work, I have to have not only it grated down, like that, but I have to have hot water - therefore burning more coal.
Likewise, my washing water also has to be warm or hot.
I mean, quite hot, actually.
Or the soap will not activate, will not do its job.
So because I have a coal fire, I have to use the soap.
Because I'm using soap, I have to use more coal fire.
And then you start doing what a washing machine does - bashing, twisting in hot soapy water.
Laundry day dreaded throughout the nation.
Laundry had always been hard work.
But the coming of coal, brought into the towns and cities by the railways, changed it almost beyond recognition, made it into almost a way of life.
I'm gonna spend the whole of Monday, from before dawn till after dusk, just doing the basic washing process.
And then Tuesdays and Wednesdays were often taken up with ironing, drying and sorting.
About half your week would be consumed just by laundry.
Phoar! Fantastic landscape, Peter, it really is.
- Beautiful.
- Whoa, oh! Peter, one in ten.
One in ten.
Come on.
Chop chop.
"One in ten, Peter.
One in ten.
" Ruth's returned to the Ffestiniog railway to drive the slate train from the port up to the quarry.
So we're heading up the mountain now with all the empty wagons behind us.
When we get to the top, hopefully we should meet the boys who should, I hope, have mined some slate.
Such was the scale of the operation that often two locomotives were needed to haul the wagons.
There they are, waiting for us.
It's red and it's noisy.
It's a nice steam engine as well, isn't it? Wonderful.
- We have some slates for you.
- Whoo! Oh, they look proper! These are Lady slates.
- Lady slates? - Do they meet your approval? - Special female slates? - Yeah.
They're lovely.
Lady is the size.
They've all got names.
They're predominantly female names.
But Lady is actually quite a manageable size.
Some of these things are pretty big.
This is a Lady you can handle, Peter.
The slates are loaded onto the train.
You're all right.
I only brought a Lady-sized stack of Ladies.
The wagons are tightly packed, so the fragile cargo reaches the port intact.
You can certainly see how these things would have rattled around and you'd have lost slates because we're going to need a lot more to pack them in, because otherwise we'll have a load of coasters for cups by the time we get to the end.
So we've got our slate loaded up.
What's the job now? We've finished with our steam locos now.
Right, OK.
And we're gonna detach them and now just use gravity to get all the way down to the harbour.
It's known as the oldest roller coaster on earth.
I like it.
- Right, slates to the sea.
- Yep, slates to the sea.
In one go, 120 wagons carrying 500 tons of slate could be rolled from the quarry 14 miles downhill to the mainline.
- So, Ruth on there.
- OK.
Peter with William.
Peter on there, good.
And I'm on the important carriage.
Come up front with me.
Ian is the driver of the engineless train.
His only means of control are simple brakes on each wagon, which Alex, Peter and Ruth must help operate.
OK, let's go.
All off.
Just like that.
We're off.
We're already getting a shift on here, Ian.
- Absolutely.
- It's quite some speed.
At what point, Ian, do we start putting the brakes on? - Just round this corner.
- Right.
These mountains also would have supported a thriving sheep industry, with lots and lots of crossings.
And this is what Ian's bugling for.
Just so that the sheep and the shepherds know that the slate train's coming through.
We still haven't applied any brakes yet, Ian.
It's amazing how 15 miles an hour feels so much faster when you're sat on the edge of a slate truck.
Running the train downhill without an engine, just using gravity, not only saves coal but it makes the ride smoother.
Cos we're going down the hill under the power of gravity, the same force is working over the entirety of the train.
So that means there's less jolting, less vibrations and less slates breaking.
So by the time we get to the port, hopefully most of them will be intact.
It's the responsibility of the driver to maintain enough speed to carry the wagons to the end of the line.
We're probably going just about fast enough.
If you want to pull that lever and put our brake on - OK.
- Just do one for now.
OK, so we've got one brake on now.
One brake! The rest of the train is now bunching up because we've got this one brake on.
To apply the rest of the wagon's brakes, Ian shouts out numbers as to how many must be applied.
OK, two! Here we go.
Brake on.
Brakes are on now.
Hard on.
And you can feel it, actually.
It's just starting to slow.
That's the signal for all of the brakes on.
All of the brakes are coming on and that'll slow it down.
- Possibly too much.
- All off! All off! That was absolutely thrilling, that run down.
But the brakeman's job here is a pretty exposed job, Ian.
It is, especially at this time of year.
Running up and down the mountain, just sat on slates.
Day in, day out, all year round.
That's a pretty harsh job by anyone's reckoning.
I do see actually how it is incredibly easy to control.
We are just now creeping into the platform.
That is magical.
Absolutely magical.
Time for a cup of tea, I think.
I think it's time for a nice warm cup of tea.
I'd love one but I've got slate bum.
Cold, cold slate bum.
Get yourself a seat.
Come on, old man.
- Come on, you old dear.
- Thank you.
Let's go get you a nice cup of tea, Peter, shall we? That was thrilling, wasn't it? That was something else, really.
- That was absolutely amazing.
- Something else.
Once the slate had been brought down the mountain on the narrow-gauge railway it was transferred to the standard-gauge national network, to be distributed across Britain.
By the 1880s, the railways had connected all Britain's cities.
St Pancras Station in London, completed in 1876, connected the capital to the Midlands.
I absolutely love this station.
It is breath-taking.
And to think they were gonna pull it down.
My goodness.
Today it stands as a testament to the railway's ability to move bulky building materials across Britain.
We are stood right on the limit of Georgian London.
And those houses, they're built out of bricks made locally, using clay that was dug out from the very ground below us.
And it forms what is known as a London brick, which is very, very yellow in colour.
But St Pancras is made out of red bricks.
And that is because St Pancras is built out of materials brought here by the railways.
The bricks that face the building come from Nottingham.
The red stonework was also brought by rail from Mansfield.
The white stone from Ancaster in Lincolnshire.
And the ironwork that spans the ceiling from Derbyshire.
The crowning glory of this building is its roof.
It is beautiful.
And it is made out of- you've guessed it - hundreds of thousands of slates.
Many of those slates have been mined from the Welsh slate mines that surround the Ffestiniog railway.
And those slates have travelled down the very same gravity train that we've sat on.
And this place it's a monument to the railways.
It is a statement of their prowess in being able to move bulk goods from the heart of the country into the capital of the industrialised world.
While the railways brought many benefits to those living in towns, some traditions were lost forever.
One was the way we cooked our food.
If you roast a piece of meat in front of a wood fire, all the fat draws in the flavours from the wood smoke, and it's just divine.
But the railways meant people switched from cooking on wood to coal.
Anything that's roasted or open-cooked, where the smoke can get at it, is gonna get that taint.
In front of a coal fire, it does the same with the coal smoke, and it tastes disgusting.
So people have to start changing the way they cook.
Open fires were replaced with cast-iron ranges that separate the smoky, burning coal from the food, with an oven and a hob.
It meant that spit-roasted beef was consigned to history.
The tradition of Britain as the home of roast beef underwent a major overhaul as soon as the railways started moving coal into ordinary people's houses.
Ruth's unearthed a recipe from the 19th Century.
Spuds - lots of spuds in a baking tray.
A saucer.
It shows how people adapted from roasting beef on wood to baking it with coal.
So I want you to think of this as a very typical, post-railway dinner.
The sort of thing you would have once coal had taken over your life.
A knob of fat - I've got a bit of butter.
And now my beef goes on top.
And that sits right on top of the saucer.
Next, some hot water.
And this water goes around the potatoes.
Controlling the temperature of a coal oven was difficult.
But the water provided an ingenious way of stopping it overheating.
If you've got water present, it sort of evens out temperatures.
The traditional food of Britain was changing.
Gone were the 18th-Century recipes.
The whole of the traditional British diet was under attack from the railways.
It wasn't just our diet that was changing.
So was our kitchenware.
This is more or less the traditional shape of pots, cooking pots, in Britain.
For over 500 years, they had been round-bottomed and with legs.
On a wood fire, the flames come up, they hit the bottom of that round shape and then, as they come up, they spread out and lick around the pot.
But look at it on here.
The traditional pans of Britain did not work on these new coal fires.
You just had to replace them! There was no choice.
You suddenly had to go for flat-bottomed pans, like the kettle, like the saucepans that we're all used to.
Moreover, on a wood fire, an iron pot, say something like this, will, in fact, last 200, 300, 400 years.
The sort of thing that can be passed down in your family.
An heirloom.
It's just going nowhere.
But if you put the pan directly over the coal, you're looking at a lifespan of no more than 20 years.
From something that could last you generation after generation, that could be passed down, to something you have to replace a couple of times in your lifetime.
So all this coal that the railways are bringing in to towns and villages and cities all over Britain are bringing with it a new demand for ironware.
The terraced miners' cottages were all pretty much identical.
But there was one place the occupiers could express their individuality.
In the garden.
These gardens very quickly became a source of pride.
Because this was the opportunity, really, to differentiate yourselves from your neighbours.
You were all living in essentially the same buildings.
You needed some way to say, "I'm different.
This is about me.
" If you could keep your garden meticulously clean and highly productive, then it said something about you as a member of this community.
But of course, the main benefit that all of this was to have was the fact that for the first time, really, these industrial communities had the opportunity to grow their own fresh fruit and veg.
These will go lovely, I think, with our baked beef.
- Aha! - Smells good.
- Good timing, good timing.
- Hi, Ruth.
- Hi, Peter.
- Ooh, that looks good! Wonderful.
Absolutely wonderful.
I'm not even gonna try and do clever carving.
- This is lumps.
- I like lumps.
I don't like thin slices.
Thank you.
Lovely! Smells delicious.
This is a railway dinner.
Everything about it speaks of that network.
You know, bringing the coal in, bringing the ironwork, so you're having to change your recipes and cook in a new, different way from the way you'd done before.
Everything we're looking at is about the connectivity of Britain that the railways brought.
We think of this as our sort of traditional cuisine, the meat and the two veg.
It's a railway cuisine.
And it's a railway dinner effectively in a railway cottage as well.
You couldn't have built, effectively, the housing for industrial Britain without the railways.
The 19th Century itself is just almost the perfect storm, in Britain, of advancement.
You've got a population explosion, you've got advances in medicine and materials.
The railways are that kind of lightning rod that conducts it all and just makes it happen.
For 150 years, nearly 200 years the railways allowed a new unique and special way of life.
It's probably, I think, the most amazing legacy from the industrial period, that the railway networks still furnish our modern British cities and still function and enable those cities to function.
Exactly! So railway food It's good, but it's not quite as good as the old roast beef.
- You don't think? - No.
I don't know, Ruth, this is pretty good.
The same as the one I had in St Pancras.
- Is it really? - Yeah.
That's two roast beefs you've had in two days? This ain't roast, mate.
- Two baked beefs in two days.
- Baked beef.
You can see what the railways have done for Peter.
We see how the railways transformed from being a carrier of goods to a carrier of people It's nicely painted.
It's all lovely and clean in here.
But it is just a wooden wagon with some wooden benches.
experience the life of the workers who built the network I think you left it in the pot a bit long, there.
It's seen better days.
Give it a clean, it'll be fine.
and find out what it was like to be a passenger in Victorian Britain.
"In going through a tunnel, it is always as well to have the hands and arms ready, disposed for defence.
" - Oh, God.
- Tunnel!