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Full Steam Ahead

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.

  • Updated Monday 9th April 2018
  • Posted under TV, History
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Steam train with Alex Langlands, Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: LION TV Join us for our new Open University series in partnership with the BBC Full Steam Ahead where historians Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn re-live the golden age of steam and explore how the Victorian railways created modern Britain.

To complement the series, we've complied a range of fantastic learning resources to take your knowledge of the railways further. You can:

The first episode of Full Steam Ahead was broadcast on BBC Two on Thursday 21st July 2016 at 8.00pm. There are often repeats of the series on BBC and other channels. Details on BBC broadcasts, and links to watch again where available, can be found on the BBC programme pages

Download your free poster

Select the image below to download your free poster. 

Full Steam Ahead poster Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

How did the railways transform the British Isles since their introduction in the 19th century? What impact did they have on lives, work and travel for people living in the Victorian era and nowadays? Find out the answers to these questions and much more by downloading this free, double-sided poster produced by The Open University. 

Find out more about the fascinating history of the railways

Try a free course on the railways and heritage

Take it further with The Open University

Episode one

The introduction of the steam railways in the early 19th century changed Britain in a way no one could have predicted. In this episode the team explore how they 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. But 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.

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
Episode one The first episode of Full Steam Ahead looks at the way Britain changed in the 19th century due to the railways Read more
Episode two This episode looks at when railway companies realised there was money to be made from moving people as well as goods. Read more
Episode three Find out how the railways saved many people from being malnourished and transformed the British diet. Read more
Episode four This episode focuses on the most famous locomotive in the world, the Flying Scotsman as well as the railways' role in... Read more
Episode five The team head to the South Devon Railways, in this episode, and looks at the milk trains. Read more
Episode six The final episode of Full Steam Ahead looks at how more free time and rail transport allowed Victorians to travel... Read more


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