ELEPHANT HOUSE PRODUCTIONS
Chris Tarrant in The Railways that built Britain
Why did you want to do this?
I had done so much travelling with my Extreme Railways series but suddenly realised I knew nothing about our ones.
What do you love about railways? My great-grandad was a railwayman. They changed everybody’s lives in this country. Until railways, most people lived and died between 20 miles from where they were born. Fish and chips would have never got to Birmingham and Manchester and people wouldn’t have holidayed by the seaside.
Chris Tarrant travelled the world by train
Why were they important in the war? They transported armaments and soldiers right up to the Front. A train brought my Dad back in 1945 after he was blown up by a land mine; he was lucky to be alive. He never spoke about the war but he did say coming back on that train from Germany was the worst journey of his life, surrounded by injured and dying young men.
What did you discover while filming? The Minister of Transport in 1959, Ernest Marples, opened the M1, which was the railways’ biggest competitor but he had a company called Marples Construction that built all the roads so he kept commissioning motorways and ignoring trains. It made him millions.
He will now explore British railways in a new show
You drove the first train ever built…
I drove Puffing Billy, which went at fi ve miles an hour. When it was invented everyone was paranoid the train guard was going to be killed by the force of the wind because of its speed.
What’s your fastest train experience? In Japan we travelled on bullet trains at 200mph but they were so still you didn’t spill your coffee. If we got these it would change our country.
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Mr Tarrant realised he knew nothing about British trains
What’s next for you?
I am going to take a long holiday in the Caribbean. I am writing a book at the moment on heroes. It’s a knock-on from a book I wrote about my Dad.
You had a stroke on a plane in 2014 – has that impacted on your travelling?
It was very scary at the time but once I had done my first load of physio I felt much stronger. My wife suggested a short flight to Spain to ease me back into flying. When I returned to the airport it was very strange because the last time I was there was on a stretcher in an ambulance. It has not stopped me travelling. I’m very strong-minded.