Tele­vi­sion Rus­sell Brown

Vet­eran Bri­tish trainspot­ter Peter Snow fol­lows the restora­tion of some clas­sic lo­co­mo­tives.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - By RUS­SELL BROWN

If you were asked to guess which famed BBC news pre­sen­ter was a se­cret trainspot­ter, well, of course it would be Peter Snow, he of the leg­endary elec­tion-night swingome­ter.

Snow, now 80 and re­tired from daily news, first came out as a life­long rail­way en­thu­si­ast in 2010, when he led To­day pre­sen­ter John Humphrys up to the at­tic where his elab­o­rate model train set is laid out. Then there was 2016’s Train­spot­ting Live (not to be con­fused with the stage pro­duc­tion of the Irvine Welsh novel, but ac­tu­ally about spot­ting trains on live TV). And now, there is Great Rail Restora­tions (Prime, Tues­day, 7.30pm), in which Snow fi­nally ful­fils his child­hood dream of ac­tu­ally driv­ing a steam lo­co­mo­tive.

“It was very ex­cit­ing,” says Snow. “The lovely thing about driv­ing the steam engine was the two huge con­trols. One’s called the re­verser, where you get this sock­ing great lever and you pull it for­ward and you push it back and that makes it go for­ward or back­ward. And then the ac­cel­er­a­tor, which is a great big rod, which you pull down from the ceil­ing and that makes the thing go chuf­fchuff-chuff all the faster.

“Those two rods con­trol the whole engine. It’s ac­tu­ally not dif­fi­cult driv­ing a steam engine, fun­nily enough.”

The drive is the cul­mi­na­tion of five episodes fol­low­ing the restora­tion of four vin­tage car­riages from dif­fer­ent eras of Bri­tish rail – from a clas­sic pas­sen­ger car on a Welsh line to Queen Vic­to­ria’s state coach from 1886. And al­though

Great Rail Restora­tions feints at the mod­ern mis­sion-style ur­gency of re­al­ity TV, its charm is re­ally in the solid beauty of these things as ob­jects. Well, that and the en­thu­si­asm of the pre­sen­ter.

Along the way, we learn

about how pas­sen­gers used to pass time (“nowa­days, they sit there with their mo­bile phones – in the old days, they read books”), toi­lets (there were none, un­til some­one thought of de­sign­ing cor­ri­dors) and restau­rant cars (“these days you get in a buf­fet car and grab a sand­wich if you’re lucky, but in the old days, you sat down in this won­der­ful splen­dour”).

Hav­ing done the drive,

Snow has no im­me­di­ate plans for more train telly. But, he says, “there is talk” of bring­ing back To­mor­row’s World, with him pre­sent­ing.

“But I’m not sure about that. The turn­around in tele­vi­sion these days is such that you never know what’s around the next cor­ner.”

Great Rail Restora­tions,Tues­day.

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