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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
  • Introductory level
  • 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

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Select the image below to download your free 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 two

When and where

Friday, 22nd February 2019 13:45 - (except Scotland)

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In this episode the team visit Beamish in County Durham to explore how the railway companies soon recognised that there was money to be made in moving people, rather than just stone, coal and iron.  The comfort of the early passenger waggons are put to the test on one of the earliest steam trains, and Ruth finds out how people were moving further than ever before.

Peter and Alex are put through their paces discovering what life was like for the railway navvies, the people that built thousands of miles of  iron roads across the country and in all weather conditions.  They come face to face with the harsh realities faced by countless workmen.

A demand for building railways transcended across other industries, even reviving many. Ruth finds out what impact they had on cottage industries and looks at the role that horsehair played in making the carriages as people-friendly as possible.

With the railways opening up plenty of new job roles and at the Bluebell Line, Ruth finds out what the role of the guard would have entailed. The team take a flying visit to a refreshment room, using the Railway Travellers Handy Book to guide them through the necessary etiquette.

The team discover the downside of compartment-only carriages, come face-to-face with a cardsharp and find out what precautions you could take should you go on a long train journey that was yet to include the necessary facilities! 

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