Full Steam Ahead (2016) s01e03 Episode Script

Episode 3

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.
Nowhere was the effect of the railways felt more acutely than in the British countryside, where the nation's food was produced.
Scour the history books, and you'll struggle to find any information on farming and the railway.
So I'm really interested in exploring the profound impact that the ability to move bulk goods through a landscape would've had on agriculture.
The story of steam didn't only play out on rails, but in Britain's farmyards, fields and factories, sparking both an agricultural, and culinary revolution.
The railways were really good at moving a lot of produce quickly and cheaply.
But what effect did that have on the food that we eat? The arrival of steam power changed how we fed ourselves as a nation.
And I'm interested in seeing just how that affected the ebb and flow of rural life.
This is lovely the way they all move together.
The way they flock together.
Well, it's nice to be back on a farm, isn't it? It is.
Before the arrival of the railways, in areas like rural Dorset, the only way of transporting livestock to market was to walk it there, along ancient droving roads that connected Britain.
In these rural areas, people are poor, and they're using very, very traditional methods with which to get their stock to market.
Ancient, ancient means of moving livestock across the isles.
Currently our stock, right on the other side - of that valley.
- How did that happen? - Come on.
- Come back here.
Livestock driven on long journeys lose precious meat and fat.
This old and inefficient method of distributing food across the country, was no longer up to the task of feeding a population that rose from eight to 30 million over the 19th century.
In overcrowded industrial cities of factories and mills, fresh food had to be grown locally, and increasingly there wasn't enough to go around.
The 1840s became the hungry '40s with millions malnourished, and facing genuine starvation.
Way back in the 16th century, we had just about sorted out a system of markets, carts and roads, that allowed us to even out food supply.
But, 200 years on, we were once again reaching crisis point.
Yes, we had increased our agricultural production.
But if we couldn't move that food fast enough and efficiently enough, we were in trouble.
The industrial revolution could well, without the railways, have just fizzled out.
Originally built to transport industrial materials, it was the railway's ability to take fresh produce in bulk from the countryside to the cities, that rescued a nation on the brink.
Transforming the way that Britain fed itself.
Sheep no longer had to be driven to market, losing weight and condition on the way.
Now they could be taken there in hours, rather than days, using the new rail network.
So long as they could be loaded safely, that is.
Having to be really careful here with these sheep, because they're spooked, you know.
They're looking around.
They're not sure and they are big old animals.
These hurdles are pretty sturdy, but if they went, if they really went, they could push 'em over the edge.
So we're just gonna be nice, let 'em chill out for a bit.
Get used to us.
I mean the acid test here is going to be how they react to an enormous, great big steam locomotive coming right up alongside them, isn't it? What's a sheep ticket on a train these days? They all use the same railcard.
Right, here it is.
Using rural stations on the existing passenger and freight network, in 1845 over 100,000 animals were transported by rail.
That's it.
That's fine, isn't it, for us? - That is - That's on the nail.
At its peak a century later, over one and a half million cattle, with three and a half million sheep were travelling in livestock wagons every year.
- Here they go.
- Marvellous.
- Good girls.
Good girls.
- Going out with us.
- Come on.
- And there you go.
That's it.
Come on, that's it.
Up you go.
That went too easily.
- Good to see you.
Come on up.
- Cheers.
- That went extremely well.
- That went very well.
Large scale transportation of livestock on trains hasn't been seen since the 1960s when roads took over from the railways.
- We're off.
- And there we go.
And there we have it.
Sheep moving by the power of steam for the first time in at least a generation.
Possibly several generations.
John Martin, a professor of agricultural history at De Montfort university, has come to see this practice, which had such a profound impact on both farmers and consumers.
What must it have meant for farmers in the 19th century to have had access to steam transportation? Well, certainly widened the markets for all types of livestock products.
Meat production and distribution was revolutionised by the development of the railway system.
It enabled farmers to market their fat stock, enabled urban centres to grow, as the result of the way in which meat could now be easily transported into these growing centres.
They want more and more meat, they've got a taste for meat, and the railways can deliver that.
The railways certainly delivered it.
Rising, expanding middle classes in terms of numbers, growing population, and the railways played a key role in enabling sufficient meat to be produced.
Meat consumption in Britain tripled over the 19th century.
But as much as the railways benefited farmers, for many, the physical impact of these iron roads was less welcome.
And I look to my left and I look to my right and I see a field there and a field there.
But before this railway was here, that was one field, and they're left with essentially two farms.
Crossing from one field to the other was a perilous task.
A collision with a farmer's cart in 1833 is said to have inspired the first locomotive whistle.
And drivers like Steve Barker have to give good warning on their approach to unmanned crossings at whistle points along the track.
When we go past the "W" give it a blast.
Yeah, OK.
"W" coming up.
I can see the "W".
- We've got a bend there.
- That way.
They can't see us, but that gives enough warning.
In 1883, stray livestock on the line accounted for collisions with 110 sheep, 59 cows, 40 horses, four donkeys and one deer.
And you were saying depending on the crossing, depends on how far ahead you whistle? Yes, so you might have a footpath - where people can see in time.
- Yeah.
For a pedestrian to walk across, it doesn't take long.
But a farmer with a couple of cattle or a trailer of some sort, it takes longer.
So they need to be able to see further.
But if they can't see, that's why we have a whistle to warn them we're coming.
I dunno how our sheep our doing, cos it's quite a ride for them.
Brave new world.
This is our destination.
And those sheep look perfectly fine.
Yeah, looking excellent.
Just another day at the office for them.
Good job it's not another day at the abattoir.
From a growing nation struggling to feed itself in the 1840s, the consumer now had access to produce from all over the British Isles.
Cities no longer had to rely on fresh food grown locally.
Spreading deep into the countryside, connecting people and places, the railway network created a national market changing the way food was produced, what was produced, and where it was produced.
This line was built in order to gain access to a really quite remote part of the countryside.
We're in the North York moors.
And because of the nature of the grounds, very high, the roads really weren't up to much.
They were difficult to get over, there was large bog areas, wagons and carts got bogged down, they had very steep inclines.
So it meant that this area was really quite cut off.
The railway was deliberately put here to open up this part of the countryside.
And in particular, to gain access, easy access, for people and goods to the last station along the line, Whitby.
The Whitby and Pickering line revived the fortunes of Whitby, then a declining and isolated whaling port on the North Sea coast, allowing it easy access to the rest of the country.
The project was a great success, turning Whitby into a thriving fishing town.
Photographs collected by local historian, Glenn Kilpatrick, show the extent of Whitby's once booming herring industry.
These are the herring boats leaving port.
We're actually stood right here at the moment.
Oh, so we are, right.
On towards the East Pier lighthouse.
Gosh, there's loads of them, lights right out to the horizon.
As children, we were told you could walk one side of the harbour to the other, across them.
I see what you mean about being able to walk right out.
- There's an awful lot of boats.
- This was herring fishing.
- Herring fishing.
- Yeah.
Just look at the sheer number of fish.
Shovelling them up.
Just using the shovel to get them in the barrel.
- Oh! Wow! - This one here.
Now, that's a lot of fish.
That really illustrates the amount of fish.
And they're hauling this sort of catch out of the sea, again and again and again and again.
Yeah, for over a long period of time, yes.
By the 1880s, almost 5,000 people were employed in Whitby's herring industry.
Transported in bulk by the railway, they became a relatively cheap staple of the Victorian diet.
Eaten in working-class households that had never been able to afford fresh fish before.
They became known as the poor man's friend, and although overfishing would eventually lead to the herring industry's demise in Whitby, some local traditions have survived.
Barry, hello.
- Hello.
- Cor, they look good.
Still smoking traditionally, the way we've always been smoking.
- Still using Victorian methods? - Yes, nothing's changed.
Barry Brown is the fifth generation of his family to run Fortune's of Whitby.
The firm has been producing kippers for 144 years.
What's the approved method? In with your knife just above the fin, so you run it down its backbone, through the head.
Back down the backbone to the tail.
Don't go through the tail if you can help it.
Out flick it, the gills come up, that's more or less ready for washing.
Right, well, you made that look simple.
Fish, hand on, pointed knife Herring fishing was seasonal as the shoals moved south.
Travelling down with them on the east coast rail lines were migrant workers from Scotland, employed to gut the fish for low wages.
It's quite tough through the head, isn't it? Helps if you just push against it.
Push against it.
OK, I'll try on the next one.
All were women.
They were known as the "herring girls".
So I have read the herring girls could do up to 16 of these a minute.
I might do one in a minute, if I'm lucky.
The fish guts weren't left to waste.
They were sent by train to factories, where they were processed into fertiliser.
But if I went back to the beginning of the 20th century, and I find myself down that railway, not just surrounded by boxes of kippers, but also by great big barrels full of fish guts that were heading off inland to be used as fertiliser.
Yes, yes, it was used as fertiliser, yeah.
Yeah, I'm making a mess of 'em, aren't I? - You can be honest.
- You're making a mess of 'em.
Your first one was your best one.
The herring will be cold smoked, meaning that the fish remains uncooked.
This is not only for taste, but to preserve the herring.
This process is to keep the fish longer.
It also colours and flavours it.
But it is for keeping purposes.
Cold-smoking the herring is a delicate and skilful art, requiring just the right quantity and combination of wood to cure and flavour the fish.
So, these shavings, it's quite critical what sort of woods you're using? This is hardwood, it's oak.
Oak shavings.
We want this to burn and smoke, but when we put the dust on top of that, that'll calm it right down.
So it's about oxygen control? You want oxygen in at the base, but not too much near the surface? Cos we have flames then, we don't want too many flames.
It's just a calming down thing with the oak here.
So they're just supposed to be small, low, smoky, not much heat, lots of smoke? That's right.
This is It must be utterly second nature to you? It is, to be fair, yeah, yeah.
We sort of light fires, we don't put 'em out.
The herring will be smoked for over 24 hours.
Only at the end of the process can they be called kippers.
Cheap and easily transported, without the need for ice-packed wagons, the railways and kippers were an ideal match.
They could be posted to any destination on the network, using either freight or passenger services.
- Morning.
- Good morning.
Even modest sized firms, like Fortune's of Whitby, could now send their products by rail to all corners of the country.
The smaller consignments would just be popped into the guard's van.
And this mixture of freight and passenger all in one train, meant that small businesses with smaller loads could take advantage of the railway network using all the trains that ran.
It gave a real flexibility as a freight system.
- Lovely, thank you.
- Fabulous.
As food on the dinner plates of Victorian households was sourced from further and further afield, the new rail distribution network created greater competition amongst the nation's producers and farmers.
Both in business and in the show ring.
This was when agricultural shows caught on.
A chance for livestock breeders to check out their rivals from across the British Isles.
I am always amazed when I come to a show like this, and you can see all the different breeds of sheep together in one place, just how much they're different.
- It's remarkable, isn't it? - Yeah.
The first Devon County Show took place in 1872, when the railway brought together farmers and their animals from the county and beyond.
Back in the 18th century, before the railways, you'd only ever know about breeds by looking at those wonderful colour plates.
But the problem with those is they were idealised.
- Artistic licence.
- A lot of artistic licence.
The railways come along, and all of a sudden the farmer from Suffolk can get on the train to Devon, and for the first time he can actually clap his eyes on a different breed and weigh up its characteristics.
See if the actual animal lived up to the hype.
Not only could farmers come face to face with rivals' livestock, but using the rail network, breeders could now travel across the country with their prize rams and bulls, selling their unique qualities to the highest bidder.
What about this? This thing crashed out here now? Well, there's a big lad, innit? Chief livestock steward, Edward Darke, has been breeding sheep for over 60 years.
These are the Exmoor horns.
They come from Exmoor, so they're right on top of the hills.
And they have to be very, very hardy to exist up there.
So going back in an age before the railways, really, as a sheep farmer, you weren't choosing what breed you could use or specialise in? No, that's right.
You very much worked with what was local to the area.
That is so.
As the railways enabled livestock to be moved more easily over long distances, giving rise to a threefold increase in meat consumption, Victorian farmers increasingly began to either experiment with other breeds or crossbreed their own stock with bigger animals from different regions, better suited to changing demands.
Look at that one.
I mean, that is a monster.
He's a big lad, isn't he? The key thing about introducing the Suffolk - is about getting the meat? - Putting back more meat.
They've got the size and they've got the extra flesh over the top and over the loin.
The leg of lamb, where the most expensive joints are.
Victorian farmers not only wanted the meatiest breeds, but the most productive.
Why were sheep farmers looking to cross their breeds with a border Leicester? Well, yes, they're more prolific and they'll put more milk into their progeny.
So when you say prolific, what do you mean by that? - Have more lambs.
- They have more lambs? And produce more milk into that female, you see.
Because if you didn't have that extra milk, the extra lambs, she wouldn't be able to rear all of them.
I get it, I get it.
It's great to have been talked through some of these breeds.
You know what the old saying is, don't you? I must hurry up and go along steady.
I must hurry up and go along steady.
- You remember that one.
- I must hurry up I must hurry up and go along steady.
- OK, then.
- All right? As selective breeding grew in popularity, among a society that valued social rank, so did competing to see who could breed the most impressive animals.
Prize-winning bulls became celebrities, with people travelling from far and wide to see them.
He seems quite docile for a bull.
Yeah, he is.
If you go in a field and watch out for the bull chasing you, I'm too fat and old now to run too much, so I'd rather have a nice bull like this.
This year, Mike Cowell's red ruby Devon won the top prize in his class.
With a bull that you're showing, what characteristics are you looking for? When he walks in the ring you look at his head.
Make sure he's a nice Devon head.
Then you'd walk round him, stand off him a little bit, have a look at the length of the bull, and this is a particularly long bull.
It's almost got an extra rib, and then look at him from the back.
And checking his legs, and just making sure he's good for the job.
His job obviously is serving cows.
He's gonna be on them legs quite a bit.
So he's gotta have good legs.
If you're judging for a show, is that akin to also if you were gonna purchase to breed? Yeah, I would look at it exactly the same way.
So breeders like you are giving animals like this the best life possible, so we can essentially have the best meat.
He lives fantastically well, this bull.
I go on holiday, and he comes with me, and it's good.
I'd do the same, but I don't think he'd fit in the caravan.
Well, Peter, it's been a great show, hasn't it? And I think it's time for us to hurry up and go along steady.
- Sorry, did you say cider tent? - Well, maybe on the way.
Driving all these changes in farming were the consumers in the expanding Victorian cities.
At the epicentre of the rail network was London itself.
By 1871, a metropolis of over four million people drawing fresh produce from all over the country to its main markets.
Smithfield, Covent Garden, Spitalfields, and for fish Billingsgate.
Billingsgate became very rapidly the biggest fish market in the world.
And this vast expansion was due to the new transport, the railways, that were able to bring produce from all those east coast fishing ports.
Places like Great Yarmouth, Whitby, Grimsby, all concentrating down to one market.
All of Britain's fish in one place, Billingsgate.
By the mid-19th century, 120,000 tons of fish were traded through Billingsgate each year.
The market had a reputation for foul language and lively characters.
"Arrive in a good coat," one Victorian warns, "and you'll leave in scale armour.
" Good morning, welcome to Billingsgate.
This looks fabulous.
A grand variety of products we're proud of.
Don Tyler is one of the few current wholesalers who has worked in both the original building and the new site opened over 30 years ago.
I have a list here, and I just wanted to ask you.
It's a list of quantities being sold in Billingsgate in about 1850.
So just after the railways really sort of get going.
And it's talking about herrings, 250,000 barrels at 150 per barrel.
Is that comparable to modern? Well, it isn't comparable because very, very sadly, we don't see that quantity of herrings now on a regular basis.
So, actually, the 1850s there was more herring coming through Billingsgate than there is now? Yes.
Unfortunately now, with quotas and tonnage restrictions, we go several weeks of the year now, where herrings are not available.
I think we've missed a generation out of the public, who have learnt or been taught how to eat a herring.
Because they're missing so many weeks of the year.
And the list is just enormous.
It's talking about 400,000, averaging ten pound weight each.
17,920,000! Scary isn't it? They're staggering figures even for me, and I've been in the trade many years.
They'll be even more staggering to people coming into the trade newly now.
They think those tonnages aren't feasible, but they were.
In 1830, at the dawn of the railway age, a clerk at Billingsgate had told a reporter that the working classes would never eat fish.
20 years later, they were seen as the main ingredient in their diet.
- Oh, wow! - Well, hello.
Fish and chips, is it, Ruth? The son of fish and chip shop owners, Daniel Dickson works at Beamish in County Durham, where they've recreated a coal-fired chippy, as it would've been at the turn of the 20th century, when this institution had become firmly rooted in British life.
It's just like a modern chip shop, isn't it? Everything you would expect to see.
And it's in miniature, cos this sort of thing would've been found in someone's back room - on the end of a terrace.
- Really? Yeah.
And the people of the street would come with their own bowls and plates to be filled.
- So really quite makeshift? - Oh, yes.
Look at the size of this.
You can easily fit that in front of your fire breast in your front room.
This would be quite easy to install and turn your front room into a shop.
We call it a rumbler.
It's a potato peeling machine.
Demand was so great, that selling fish from living rooms was soon replaced by purpose-built chippies, but used the latest technology to satisfy the nation's appetite for convenience food.
Oh, yes! So this really is about the whole commercial - Oh, yeah.
stepping up of production.
Because we have customers to be fed.
And we've got to do it quickly enough to supply that range.
You always have one troublesome potato.
- Yay! - There we are.
Shove a potato in and press.
I'm liking this already.
You need to go a lot faster than that, though, Ruth.
There are customers to be served.
You don't stop until that bucket is full.
Right, okey-doke.
Whoo! Despite becoming a quintessentially British combination, the chip came from the French, and the battered fish arrived on these shores with Jewish refugees.
How do you tell if these are hot enough? There's no thermostat, there's no temperature control.
Traditionally, they would have spat into the pan.
No! And if the fat spits back, it's all right to fry.
Fish and chips were invariably fried in beef fat, a readily available by-product of the meat trade.
I think we can just about get this fish in.
I let most of it drip into the pan, so that you get all of your batter bits.
- Is that enough? - Yeah, lay it in, because if you drop it you'll cover your hands in hot dripping.
You're now a fish fryer.
That's another feather in your hat.
I can't think of anywhere in Britain that hasn't got a fish and chip shop, somewhere within easy distance.
Well, it's a national dish, everyone loves it.
It is a national dish.
And that's weird, too, isn't it? In a world before railways, there weren't any national dishes.
Everything was local.
Every area had its own specialities, it's own regional.
This is the first time you have a pan-Britain speciality dish.
It must have been a revelation though to just go to a shop and buy a hot dinner instantly - at affordable prices.
- Exactly.
It must've made such a difference to people.
This is the first instance of that.
Nowadays our culture is fast food.
Your local village chippy was the first example of that.
From the cod to the potato, from the coal to heat the ranges to the newspaper wrapping - That's a good spot.
- Looks good.
fish and chips was a railway dish, giving rise to a new takeaway style of dining.
This is proper fish and chips, this is.
- Yeah.
- Yeah.
Beef dripping.
That's what it is.
- Cooked over coal.
- Mm-hm.
That is delicious.
And here we are eating it outside in public.
That's a big deal.
It's a funny thing to think, the whole eating in public.
Eating takeaways is such a new idea, that people didn't eat in public.
You know, modern culture is just so completely almost centred around takeaway food.
- Everywhere you go - There's no taboo.
People eat everywhere.
And yet before the railways nobody did, absolutely nobody.
It's fish and chips that start off this outdoor eating.
The railways are changing the diet, but they're also changing social morals.
Yeah, they are, absolutely.
I think if I eat any more of this fish and chips, I'll have a heart attack.
Via the railways, people in Victorian Britain were getting used to fresher, better quality, and cheaper food in the shops.
Seeking to keep pace with the growing demand, the nation's biggest landowners looked for ways to bring their increasingly antiquated farms up to speed with the industrial age.
In the 18th century, landowners were investing vast sums of money in brand spanking new buildings like this.
The problem was, by the time we got to the middle of the 19th century, these buildings just weren't up to scratch.
They weren't designed to meet with the challenges that the railways presented farmers with in the 1850s.
Capturing the aspirations of the day, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, a model farm was constructed.
A purpose-built set of buildings that more closely resembled a Victorian factory than Georgian barns.
Here the aim was to produce more, and produce it cheaper by incorporating the latest technology for manufacturing and industry.
And this really is the business end of this model farm.
A steam engine.
And I could just as well be sat on the footplate of a locomotive.
Although this is a static engine.
And this is the thing that effectively changes British farming in the 19th century.
Because this steam engine, via a fly wheel and a drive wheel over there, would be actually powering a drive bar that runs all the way along the back of this farm.
And it would power all sorts of tools in workshops in a row.
So you'd have a sawmill, saw benches, bellows, plate hammers, effectively a series of craft workshops which were designed to service this farm.
A new age powered by steam.
Faced with the challenges of increasing productivity, Victorians recognised the potential of steam power, to be harnessed on land as well as in workshops.
In 1854, the Royal Agricultural Society of England even offered a prize of £500 for anyone who could find an efficient steam substitute for the horse-drawn plough.
The winner, John Fowler, had himself witnessed the horrors of the Irish potato famine a decade earlier, and had resolved to devote his time and resources to cheapen food production - inventing engines and a plough that would be exported around the world.
How are you getting on, George? - Not too bad.
- Good morning, gentlemen.
When I think of steam ploughing, you're sort of tempted to imagine a steam engine actually pulling a plough.
But that isn't the case, is it, with these engines? - No, not at all.
- What's the set-up here? We'll have one engine either end of the field.
And we'll pull the plough backwards and forwards.
The plough will be pulled on a steel rope, between Mark Farwell's two engines.
But first they must be perfectly lined up.
Yeah, how we doing? Are we broadly parallel, do you think? No, I think we're a bit I haven't quite got to grips with this steering, have I yet? - We'd better back up a bit.
- Let's back up again.
That's it.
There we go.
Although much faster than the horse-drawn plough, the steam method still required a team of workers to operate the engines and plough.
And tractors would work in teams, travelling from farm to farm and paid by the acre.
A standard Victorian horse-drawn plough had just one share making a single furrow.
Under steam power, a plough with five shares could be used.
It's just amazing to think of the power in this cable.
And, in fact, this steam engine isn't using all of its power to pull this plough.
If it did use all of its power, it would start actually pulling these two steam engines closer together.
That's how powerful it is.
It's amazing for me to see it today.
But just cast yourself back to the 1850s, and think about a farmer seeing this power for the first time.
I mean, the ambitions they must've had for these machines, with the ability to plough 20 to 30 acres in a day, rather than your standard one acre a day, which you would've done with horses.
It's just phenomenal.
It must have been a really revolutionary moment in British farming.
Ploughmen like George Willy would be judged on their speed and accuracy to produce straight furrows.
Right, then, I think it's time for you to earn your keep.
Let's go for it.
When you're holding onto it, try not to put your thumb like that.
If we get a stone, you might break your thumb.
- So I'm sort of like this? - Yeah.
- It's not power assisted, then? - No, no, no, no.
I need my thumbs.
OK, driver.
Goodness me.
Right up against that Ooh, blimey! That'll be a stone.
All right, there we are, we're in.
Yeah, you're spot-on.
My word, the power of this thing.
It's absolutely incredible, isn't it? This is great.
Ooh, a bit more speed now.
- Got a bit of confidence now.
- Yeah, yeah.
When we get to the end, you wanna pull full lock towards this way.
- Right.
Full lock? - Yeah, full lock.
- Full lock.
- Yeah, go on.
That's full lock, yeah? Go back the other way a little bit.
- There we are.
- That's it.
And you're ready to go back down now.
- Did you enjoy that? - Did you enjoy it? That was good fun.
I just wanna look back at the work.
Oh, my goodness, that's not too bad.
It's not too bad actually.
I must admit, I haven't told you something about going back.
- What's that? - Left is right, right is left.
- So it's reverse steering? - It is reverse steering.
Don't ask me why.
It could've been quite easily rectified, but They just thought they'd throw that in.
These blokes drunk a lot of cider.
So, maybe that was something to do with it, I dunno.
OK, then.
So I think I'm ready for this.
Here we go.
Reverse steering.
Not too bad.
I've never concentrated so hard in all my life, George.
You can start coming this way now.
Start coming this way now.
So, it's this way, down to pull me out.
Now just go back the other way a little bit.
Not bad.
- That ain't bad.
- You happy with it? Cos there's a little a little kink in it.
- Let's have a look.
- Not bad at all really.
If you get any kinks in it, all you have to say then is there was a bird's nest, and we were going round the bird's nest.
- Oh, that's what you say.
- That's the sky lark.
We don't wanna damage it.
Because, you know So if we get any kinks there's a little bit of a bird's nest up there.
Yeah, I'm happy with that.
Keeping up with the supply of food that the railway could now distribute in greater quantities than ever before, steam power provided the answer.
In agriculture, increased mechanisation radically altered the way in which we grew cereal crops, and chief amongst those cereal crops was barley.
Which as we all know, is the main ingredient in beer.
Traditionally, beer had been produced locally by thousands of small independent breweries.
Many were put of business as the railway network paved the way for the emergence of national brewing centres.
By embracing the steam revolution, against bigger competition, Britain's oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame, grew and prospered.
The brew house was always on this site, drawing water from the source every day since 1573.
Wow! Its success and subsequent expansion from a small town brewery to a major regional player in the South East, owed much to both the arrival of a rail link to London and the Kent coast, and the foresight of Jonathan Neame's Victorian ancestors to swap horse power for steam power.
- Pretty special, isn't it? - Yeah.
This is fantastic.
Installed in 1860 to pump water from a natural spring three storeys up to the top of the building, the combined efforts of steam on rail, and in the brewery, had a dramatic impact.
This was put in only two years after the railway came in.
So, the brewery could see that there was a great opportunity for expanding.
As you say, it's freeing up manpower, and making everything more efficient.
Absolutely right.
Between 1858 and the early 1870s, the production of this brewery multiplied four times.
By 1900, we had 18 railway depots from Harwich through to Brighton and south London.
So we were putting quite a lot of beer on the railways, and transporting it around the South East of England, on a sort of distance, an economic distance that we still cover today.
My goodness.
- Beautiful, isn't it? - Absolutely remarkable.
I think I could watch this for hours.
Milling, stirring and pumping.
Four separate engines powered the brewery, mass-producing beer on a scale unimaginable before.
The railways were able to transport the beer over long distances.
But barrels still had to be moved from breweries to stations, and from warehouses to pubs.
And once again, steam power provided a faster and more efficient alternative to the horse.
Hi, Guy, you all right? - Are we all loaded? - Yeah, I think so.
- Ready? - I'm ready.
- You're driving? - Yeah, I'm driving.
- You're in charge of steering.
- I'm steering, OK.
Guy Debes has brought along this traction engine, which evolved from the portable engines used in agriculture.
Transporting goods faster, and in greater quantities, than any horse and cart.
These are really strong, a little engine, really powerful.
It was designed to pull a load of ten tons.
- But quite small as well? - Yeah, small.
Built to do a job.
These were the sort of engines you'd use in a town centre, city centre, for delivering goods.
They turn up at a railway, maybe with two trailers on.
Load the goods onto the trailers, and deliver them either to the shops or the end user.
And what was the advantage of this over the horse? You'd simply need an enormous team of horses to do what it can do.
And of course it doesn't need feeding other than coal, a bit of maintenance.
It's working livestock.
Once you'd got over the initial investment which was pretty huge, this particular engine worked for over 50 years for one company.
You'd have needed five generations of horses.
It's quite fast, isn't it? You wait till we see it in top gear.
- We're not in top gear yet? - Oh, no.
For a short golden period in the middle of the 19th century, steam power had rejuvenated British farming.
But by the 1870s, this wonder technology had itself become the farmer's worst enemy.
The ambitions of these early pioneering industrial agriculturalists were never realised.
And this is because the same steam technology that was being used to power forward the industrial revolution here in Britain was also being exported to other parts of the world.
And places like North America, for example, they were setting out railway lines that were connecting up the ports on the east coast with vast acreages of virgin prairie in the central heartlands of America.
And it was on this prairie that farmers were growing wheat in huge quantities.
The railway lines could then ship it back to the ports.
It could be steam shipped across the Atlantic, and then the railway network here could transport it throughout the country.
As a consequence, British farmers just couldn't compete.
And British agriculture in general suffered arguably the greatest depression it had ever seen in its history.
Reacting to the sharp fall in wheat prices, many Victorian farmers moved away from arable farming.
Either turning to livestock or making best use of the railway network by supplying specialist perishable produce that their global competitors couldn't provide.
Railways permitted a real nationalisation, indeed a globalisation of markets.
But at the same time, and perhaps a bit ironically, they also created the possibility for true local specialisation.
No longer did you have to sort of do a bit of this, and a bit of that and the other, that you could sell locally, you could now put all your efforts, and really concentrate on the one thing that your soils, your climate, your skills and expertise were particularly good at.
Take this line here - running through Methley in Yorkshire.
It was originally built to move coal.
It was a colliery line.
However, what it meant in the end was that the farmers in this region could turn all their attention to one special product.
Oh, my goodness.
In dark, giant sheds, Yorkshire farmers grew rhubarb.
What a strange place.
Just a decade before the first railways, a new method of growing rhubarb had been discovered.
Shielded from the light in the final stages of growth, rhubarb was found to yield a more flavoursome and succulent crop.
And these plants are actually growing in the dark.
They are simply growing looking for light.
But they've got all the energy they need in the roots.
Janet Oldroyd, whose family's been producing rhubarb since the 1930s, is the latest in a Yorkshire rhubarb dynasty.
We know today rhubarb is a vegetable, but we eat it as a fruit.
What fruit did they have home-grown? Absolutely, in the coldest, darkest moments of the winter.
So it was perfect.
It was a treasure basically.
So this became a major industry for this small area? It did, it became known as the "rhubarb triangle".
And within that triangle, over 200 producers became established.
Why did rhubarb growing become concentrated in this little triangle of Yorkshire? The location, the climate was perfect for rhubarb roots production.
Everywhere else they tried, they couldn't get it as early, and they couldn't get the yields.
With the ideal soil and climate, an ample supply of cheap local coal to heat the sheds, and shoddy, a by-product of the wool industry, to fertilise the ground, the quality of the Yorkshire crop became renowned.
By the late 19th century, 95% of the nation's rhubarb were grown by Yorkshire farmers and distributed from one rail line.
How much rhubarb was being produced? Over 200 tons nightly when it was at its peak.
- 200 tons of rhubarb a night? - Yeah.
Destined for the London markets, and then on into Europe.
Out of this one small area.
So the trains became nicknamed the "rhubarb express trains", because all they carried was carriage after carriage of rhubarb.
- Entire trains full of rhubarb.
- Entire trains.
A railway industry, who'd have thought, rhubarb? As the railways facilitated the rise of regional specialisation, so specific areas of the country became famous for their agricultural production.
Clotted cream from Devon, Scottish highland beef, Jersey potatoes and Somerset cider all grew in reputation during the Steam Age.
This revolutionised their industries and their economy, but it also changed the landscape as well.
But arguably, the most significant development was not here in the countryside.
It was in the cities, because access to all of this new produce effectively changed the nation's diet for ever.
At the heart of this revolution was the Mid-Hants line.
- See you, chaps.
- Thank you very much.
Originally opened in 1865, as an alternative route between London and Southampton, the Mid-Hants line became best known for providing Victorian Londoners with their latest super food, watercress.
Still produced by grower James Harper in the same mineral-rich spring waters as its Victorian heyday, watercress could only be eaten close to where it was grown.
- Well, here we are.
- Lovely.
- A spot ready to go.
- All ready to be picked.
Getting watercress from field to mouth relied on speed, something the railways made possible.
What are we doing here, James? We're pulling the watercress with its roots.
We pull and clear.
Pull with the roots.
With the roots.
Then we're packing it into this wicker flat.
I've got a bunch of a poorly picked bunch of watercress here.
But how quickly is that gonna deteriorate? They used to send it with roots because it kept the plant going for a lot longer.
When it got to market, it was sold in "hands" of watercress.
It's physically as much as you can get in your hands.
You'd chop away the roots, and that is a hand of watercress.
And then that was made into smaller bunches, and then sold with raffia around them, sold as little sort of food on the go, food on the move.
I could buy that off you now, for a day in the factory, and then I Mmm.
Your hands would often be covered in if you were factory working all day, you'd eat the leaves and tops of the stems, and then discard the leftovers.
And what would it have meant to late Victorian London, say, for example, to have something quite as healthy as this being served up on a daily basis? I think it's safe to say it was revolutionary.
It was a really good, cheap, affordable, available-to-the-masses source of nutrition.
And gram for gram, there is no vegetable that is more nutrient dense than watercress.
That's delicious.
That's about as fresh as it gets.
The development of the Hampshire line meant that watercress could be picked in the afternoon, taken by horse and cart to the station that evening and be on sale in London markets by the following morning.
Keith Chambers worked in the parcel office in the 1970s.
And as a product, how much would it have cost to send punnets like this up to London? It was what was called a perishable rate.
So it was about double what a standard parcel would be.
Is that because it's this perishable good, you know? It's quite a high-maintenance good.
It's because it had to be looked after.
It had to be got onto the platform quickly and onto the first train possible.
And unloaded quickly at the other end.
So did you eat this sort of stuff? Did the staff indulge themselves in this sort of stuff? Interestingly, some of the staff just wouldn't eat it.
Because the rumour was that when they wanted to relieve themselves in the watercress beds, they didn't walk right to the edge.
- You can guess what.
- OK.
Well, I can assure you, this has been picked from the cleanest watercress beds there are in Hampshire.
From a world before the railway, and the only fresh food on the dinner plate had to be grown locally Steady, go on.
when livestock still had to be driven to market on foot.
By the end of the century, the way Britain fed itself and what people ate had changed beyond recognition.
The rail network and the national market that it created provided the consumer with more choice, more variety, and a more nutritious diet than ever before.
You've got some English lamb here? Yep, all the lamb's English.
I think I'll have the two small ones and a big one for Peter.
All this at a time when the population had more than tripled, and most people had moved away from the countryside to live and work in towns and cities.
- Hi.
- How you doing, all right? - What you got there? Asparagus.
- Bangers.
We trusted you to get the strawberries.
- What did you get? - I've got some lamb chops.
Lamb chops, strawberries, a classic combination.
Imagine being in late Victorian London and seeing all this food coming into the city.
Vast urban populations creating this huge demand for more food, and for more specialised food.
It's that exchange through the countryside and the city that is vital to allow the city to industrialise, and the countryside to focus on producing produce such as this.
And the change in both, isn't it - you can't separate the two.
The countryside is utterly changed by this new distribution system.
This new specialisation.
I love the fact that this is a market built in the arches of not one, not two, but three railways.
- Look over here.
- It's quite an amazing space.
Tell you what.
Look, spice.
The one thing we don't have for our wonderful lamb, asparagus, and what is rapidly turning into a strawberry-jam meal.
- Jersey potatoes as well.
- OK, two things.
But maybe a bottle of cider as well.
That's three things we don't have.
Next time we see how the railways connected people as never before.
Revolutionising the postal system.
It's remarkably physical for something as light as a letter.
Delivering up-to-date news.
News today was chip paper tomorrow.
And that was only possible because of the railways.
Radically speeding up the pace of life.
Wow! It's amazing to be able to have this kind of food on a train.
Ooh! Bit of a hot potato, that one, wasn't it?