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DVD Review

DVD cover

Fred Dibnah’s Railway & Steam Collection


Presenter: Fred Dibnah
Acorn Media UK
RRP: £39.99
Certificate: E
Available 01 June 2009

Dibnah’s rough Lancastrian manner, trademark flat cap and love for the mechanical world endeared him to the British public, making him a hugely popular television personality. This passionate historian spent much of his life fascinated by steam-powered machines from rail engines and pit head winding engines to traction and pumping engines, restoring them and studying their history. Now enthusiasts can share in Fred’s passion for railways and steam in this magnificent collectible six-disc set...

Fred Dibnah’s Railway & Steam Collection collects together the previously released Fred Dibnah’s Railway Collection and Fred Dibnah’s Steam Collection.

Disc one - The Story of Britain’s Railways: From the earliest wooden wagon ways to the last great days of steam and the birth of the railway preservation movement, Fred gives us his own unique history of the railways in Britain.

Disc two - Great Little Steam Railways: Fred recollects his boyhood passion for steam railways, takes us on a tour of some of his favourite preservation lines and tells us some of his own railway stories.

Disc three - Made In Britain: Railway Yards And Workshops: The skills of building, maintaining and restoring steam locomotives are still alive at the workshops of some of Britain's preserved railways, and Fred visited some of the biggest on his traction engine grand tour of Britain for the series Made In Britain.

Disc four - The Story Of The Traction Engine: From the first steam powered road carriages to the great road locomotives, showmans engines and steam lorries of the 20th century and the birth of the preservation movement, Fred tells the story of steam power.

Disc five - Britain's Biggest Engines: Fred travels round Britain to unearth Britain's most powerful steam engines and their stories. He takes us to huge Northern mills, impressive pit head winding engines, museums, pumping engines and a great steel rolling mill.

Disc six - On The Road With Fred: A specially edited version of Fred's epic journey round Britain on his traction engine in 2004.

It goes without saying that this collection will only really appeal to fans of steam trains and traction engines, but even then Dibnah may get on your nerves a bit. He's not the greatest presenter on the planet and tends to talk over those he's interviewing. He also keeps going on about his traction engine at every opportunity.

I was a little confused by the production quality too. While the picture quality is always good, sometimes the handling of the camera and Dibnah's wafflings feel more like someone's home video footage. In fact I was beginning to wonder whether sometimes the camera was left on accidentally and the producer decided to use the footage to fill in time. There is a good example of this where Dibnah starts bragging that he's getting paid a lot to record the series.

There's also way too many stories repeated way too many times and, while they are interesting the first time, by the fifth or sixth time you've heard them they start to get a little dull.

While Dibnah's not the greatest presenter, and the production quality is questionable at times, this is still a very interesting and informative look at various aspects of the history of steam railways and steam engines.


Nick Smithson

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