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This is the dramatic story of how and why the Bristol to London section of the Great Western Railway was built. It was nicknamed ‘Brunel’s billiard table’ after its Chief Engineer. Brunel’s intention for the GWR to be ‘the best of all possible railways’ is given credence in that trains now travel on much the same route at 125 mph.
The GWR was the world’s first railway designed for high speed passenger travel, and it was adorned with masterpieces such as Hanwell Viaduct, Maidenhead Bridge, Box Tunnel and the stations at Paddington and Temple Meads. A visit to the Didcot Railway Centre provided the opportunity to film Firefly, a painstakingly created replica of the first locomotive designed by Daniel Gooch for the GWR in 1840. Particular attention is given to the broad gauge controversy, development of Swindon Works and the surrounding railway village, and you will also realise the impact that the GWR had on Bath, courtesy of a superb account by local author Andrew Swift.
This feature-length documentary, written and presented by former railway civil engineer Mike Beale, is enhanced by fascinating archive footage and illustrations, and modern location film of many of the route’s landmarks today, as well as the revelation of some of the GWR’s hidden history. Among the highlights is a series of interviews with drivers, firemen and signalmen who worked on the line, some as far back as the 1930s, and a contribution from Britain’s leading railway commentator, Christian Wolmar. Consequently, this is arguably the most comprehensive DVD ever produced on this section of ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’.