On Thursday 21 July, a new 6 part OU/BBC series “Full Steam Ahead” starts on BBC Two at 20:00, produced with the support of the Faculty of Arts, with academic consultants Dr Chris Williams and Dr Denise McHugh.
It’s Full Steam Ahead for historians Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn as they bring back to life the golden age of steam and explore how the Victorian railways created modern Britain. The introduction of the steam railways in the early 19th century changed Britain in a way no one could have predicted.
Dr Chris Williams from the OU’s History Department and academic consultant on the series said:
“Full Steam Ahead brings the history of the industrial revolution and the steam age to life. It will show millions of people how the UK became the first industrial nation: a country powered by steam, feeding its population through national markets, and creating the first global brands. As usual, the programmes presenters Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn, are doing this by showing us how things worked, as the team get their hands dirty. This series hits the spot: it’s informative, educational and entertaining. ”
In the first episode, the team explore how the railways created a domestic revolution, changing the way we lived, from the houses we lived in to the food we ate. It’s the middle of winter and the team arrive at the Ffestiniog Railway in Snowdonia to find out how millions of tons of slate were moved down the mountain. This was the slate that covers roofs in every corner of the country and all of it was moved by rail.
Underground, Alex experiences the brutal conditions faced by miners in the Llechwedd Quarry who would have endured 12 hour shifts, suspended from iron chains. Then it’s an exhilarating ride down the narrow winding track aboard the “gravity train” with the whole crew hanging on to the brakes all the way.
At Foxfields Railway in Staffordshire, built to transport coal to the nearby mainline, Ruth gets on the loco’s footplate and helps to drive it up the steepest standard gauge railway in Britain. Coal was to change everything in our day to day lives right down to way we cooked, the shape of our pots and the role of women who had to deal with the tyranny of keeping clothes clean in this dirty industrial world.
The following programmes in the series explore how the railways had an impact on the movement of people, agriculture, communication, trade and leisure.
Free OU Wall Poster “Our Railways”
To accompany the series, there is a fascinating free wall poster “Our Railways” exploring how, over a hundred years, steam-powered railways transformed the lives of those in the British Isles. To order a copy call 0300 303 2062 or go to www.open.edu/openlearn/fullsteamahead
OpenLearn also has extensive content in connection with the topics in this series. For more information go to www.open.edu/openlearn/fullsteamahead – the home of free learning from The Open University.
The series was commissioned for the University by The Open Media Unit, the OU Nominated Academics are Dr Chris Williams and Dr Denise McHugh. The Media Fellow for Arts is Dr Chis Williams.