Journalist and presenter John Sergeant, actor Peter Davison and Paul ‘Piglet’ Middleton travel from London to Scotland using only the power of steam. In this first episode the intrepid trio start their journey at Peterborough station which is home to the Nene Valley Railway.
Piglet is thrilled that they’re starting on a steam train designed by famous designer Oliver Bullet called 92 Squadron. John gets to sit up front this time and was hoping that he’d drive but has to shovel coal whilst Piglet and Peter sit in comfort in the carriages.
Eventually John’s allowed to drive the huge engine which he’s thrilled by. When they reach Wandsford at their journey’s end they head to the engine sheds. Inside are plenty of fantastic engines but one excites them more than the rest: the original Thomas the Tank engine is there.
She was named in 1971 when the Reverend W Awdry, having written his books, said that he needed a genuine engine to base his lead character on. Next the men head to the Grand Union Canal where they board a steam barge called The Adamant. They need to master the 7 locks which the enormous barge can only just fit into.
Disaster awaits as John drops the essential windlass which is used to operate the locks but a man with a magnet saves the day. At Leicester the impressive steam loco the Duchess of Sutherland speeds the men north in style as they have waiter service in the fine dining car before arriving in York.
Their final mode of transport is a quirky ¾ sized replica of a Victorian traction engine named Polly. John steers them through rush hour traffic much to the joy of the assembled crowds.
The three of them are happily chuffing through the streets when disaster strikes - they grind to a halt as they’ve run out of water. They manage to get her going again to their final destination: the pub.
Britain By Steam begins Tuesday 25th April at 9pm on Channel 5.