Legends of Steam: The Flying Scotsman (2003)

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Released 7-Jan-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Featurette-News Items from 1963 - 3
Web Links-More Info On Special Collections
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 87:50 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

I am in the middle of organising my next holiday and it involves riding the rails of England, battering to pieces a Britrail pass. The aim of the exercise? To ride all twenty six privatised railway companies of England, and a few preserved steam lines, in less than eighteen days. Does that give you a hint of the extent of my love of trains? Nothing relaxes me more and nothing is more enjoyable on this miserable earth to me than to board a train and just let it take you somewhere other than where you are. Of course in Australia, the options to do this are fairly limited (especially over here in the West) and only New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland really offer the sort of opportunities that I need. Europe, and especially Great Britain, are a much different prospect altogether. Wolverhampton (my home town) to Birmingham is seventeen miles or so as the crow flies and as a kid was the height of a day out. What is the longest train journey you can make to get from Wolverhampton to Birmingham in a day without hitting the same station twice and without stopping longer than half an hour for a connecting train? Well, I am out to beat my personal record in February in my own private version of heaven. So yes, you might well say that I am a train freak. And yes, when Legends Of Steam: The Flying Scotsman suddenly appeared on the coming soon lists of local e-tailers, you can bet that I added the title to the database and selected it for review in about as quick a time as is possible.

So what exactly is it about The Flying Scotsman that makes it one of the most famous steam engines, or indeed just about the most famous locomotive of any description, on the planet? It's not the oldest steam engine around, it's not the fastest steam engine ever, and it was not the first nor the last steam engine of British Railways. Yet, despite the almost ubiquitous nature of the engine, it is almost certainly the one steam engine that trainspotters and the general populace alike just about anywhere in the world could name. No single steam engine could be guaranteed to draw the crowds like The Flying Scotsman. I had the chance to experience that personally when I had the opportunity to ride behind the engine whilst it was in Australia some years ago (in 1988 and 1989 to be exact). Looking a little tattered after its run from Sydney, I joined the train for its last leg from Northam to Perth. I will always remember standing as close to the line as possible at Northam as the train rolled in and having steam, soot and oil engulf me. Illegal drugs never gave me as much of a high as that mixture did that day! Riding the train down to Perth with my head permanently stuck out the window catching the full blast of cinders and soot just added to the day. And through it all was the constant presence of hundreds upon hundreds of people along the line just standing there watching this great engine glide past. In Perth it pulled up head to head with another great engine, the Pendennis Castle, that at the time was resident in the north west of Western Australia.

For those that don't know, The Flying Scotsman was one (well actually the third) of the Class A1 Pacifics (later rebuilt as a Class A3) designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built by the London & North Eastern Railway in Doncaster, England for service on the main line out of London Kings Cross to Edinburgh. She emerged from the workshops in 1923 and went into service on some of the premier trains on the East Coast Main Line, although she pulled her fair share of everyday trains too. Although she was originally numbered 1472, she eventually carried arguably the most famous of all engine numbers: 4472, a number almost solely recognized as that of The Flying Scotsman. On 1st May, 1928 she became the first engine to run the whole journey between London and Edinburgh non-stop. She was, in 1934, the first steam engine to achieve an authenticated 100 mph. She served for forty years on the East Coast Main Line, initially with the LNER before the emergence of British Railways on nationalization in 1948. She was given the number 60103 by British Railways but was eventually retired in 1963 as the great dieselization (and electrification) of British Railways wiped the glories of the steam engine from the nationalized network in the 1960's. She was rescued from the scrap heap by Alan Pegler and became a symbol almost of the entire steam preservation movement that started up to preserve the industrial heritage of Great Britain. She eventually passed into the hands of Sir William McAlpine and then Dr Tony Marchington and still pounds the rails today some eighty years after she first emerged from the Doncaster Works. It is somewhat ironic that an engine deemed obsolete in 1963 has now spent as much time running as a preserved engine as it did as a main line engine in revenue service. And truth be told, she is probably in better condition now than she was back then (although how much of the original engine still exists is open to question, given the maintenance carried out on her over the years). During her visit to Australia in 1988 and 1989 she set a world non-stop steam record of 422 miles in 9 hours 25 minutes between Parkes and Broken Hill.

This presentation comprises three separate programmes of which one is strictly about the engine, one mostly about the engine and one barely about the engine at all. I remember seeing the first of the programmes many years ago on television but don't recall having seen the other two. The programmes are:

So for all you railfans/gunzels/trainspotters/anoraks out there, sit back and enjoy a sizeable dollop of some rather rare railway action on Region 4 DVD. Bugger the fact that there is even a warning message preceding 4472: The Flying Scotsman, this is pure heaven for those of us who do remember the halcyon days of steam locomotives on the world's railways.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

The warning that does precede 4472: The Flying Scotsman is that there is a portion of green screen during the programme, unfortunately due to damage to the source material. Whilst it is a great shame that there is this problem, the sheer historical value of the documentary is such that it did not bother me in the slightest. The three programmes are presented in a Full Frame format and as such are not 16x9 enhanced.

As a much older programme, 4472: The Flying Scotsman is of vastly poorer quality than the other two programmes. As such, it is not as sharp, certainly not as well detailed and not as clear. Who cares! The other two programmes are almost the exact opposite. In general, they are quite sharp with some rather nice detail. All three programmes suffer somewhat variably with grain, but this is hardly a great problem in the overall sense. Shadow detail is pretty good all things considered.

Being filmed in 1998, 4472: The Flying Scotsman is a more variable colour presentation than the later two programmes. It features colours that at times barely register above black and white. In general the colours are a little underdone, but thankfully manage to remain very decent for most of the programme. Depth of tone could of course be better, but thankfully there is no problem with oversaturation and colour bleed. Just remember that some of the footage is inherently more colourful than the rest of the material. Being filmed for television in the mid-1980's, the other two programmes feature very decent colours, well defined and with a fair degree of vibrancy to them too.

Whilst there is certainly motion blur in portions of all three programmes, this is almost certainly inherent in the source material and not the result of MPEG compression problems. The oldest programme is surprisingly free of film-to-video artefacts, but the other two do have a few odd problems here and there (such as 5:23 in Steam Days and 3:28 in Awayday). The bad news ends there as all programmes suffer somewhat with film artefacts - although the older 4472: The Flying Scotsman is by far and away the worst of the three (as is to be expected). Aside from the missing chunk of the programme, there are plenty of obvious indications of film damage as well as dirt and scratch marks. Whilst they do get rather annoying at times, the sheer historical nature of the material, and the nostalgia it brings, more than compensates.

This is it seems a dual layer formatted DVD, but I don't know for certain whether or not it is an RSDL formatted DVD. I did not notice any layer change during the programme and would certainly suspect that it is a Dual Layer DVD with two programmes on the one layer and the third programme and the extras on the other layer.

There are regrettably no subtitle options on the DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

About the only problem you will have understanding the dialogue here is in some of the accents - not too bad for a Pom like myself but those not so familiar... There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

The original music score comes from Roger Limb for Steam Days and Jan Lynn for Awayday. Pretty standard type of stuff for television programming, with some reasonable originality heard here and there, mixing the music with the sounds of the locomotive working away.

Obviously with the varying ages of the source materials, there is a degree of inconsistency in the sound overall, whilst the older source material equally suffers from some problems of being over thirty years old. Overall though there was not much that I could complain about as the sound is thankfully not too hissy and is only moderately blighted with source material-related imperfections. You don't need much in the way of a speaker setup to handle the sound here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Given that this is reputedly the most famous steam locomotive in the world, you would have thought that something more could have been added here to fill up the space. One of the occasions where the omission of a still photo gallery is well and truly noted.

Menu

Functional and not the most impressive efforts ever seen.

News Item From 10th January, 1963 (4:36)

What is so special about this date? Well, it is the 100th Anniversary of the opening of the Metropolitan Line - the first component of the now-world famous London Underground. A rather quaint news story, exuding lots of early 1960's nostalgia. I even remember traveling on some of those old Tube trains they show! Suffers somewhat from grain and film artefacts (not unexpectedly) but is otherwise quite decent. The presentation is Full Frame that is not 16x9 enhanced. The sound is reasonably strident but otherwise decent Dolby Digital 2.0.

News Item From 14th January, 1963 (0:57)

What is so special about this date? The last run of 60103 for British Railways, that's what! The presentation is Full Frame, it is not 16x9 enhanced and what sound there is is rather average Dolby Digital 2.0. I say what sound there is for the simple reason that there is missing audio here (mainly the storming run through a station that I cannot recall the name of). Such is the rare nature of the piece that the lack of sound for the last portion, whilst very regrettable, is not a major issue.

News Item From 20th April, 1963 (0:30)

What is so special about this date? The first run of 4472 in private hands, that's what! Even more deprived of sound than the previous effort (none of the sound has survived for this exceedingly rare piece of footage), this barely covers the departure of the locomotive from London King's Cross station. The presentation is Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced.

Web Link

Telling you to point your browser to www.bbcworldwide.com/specialinterests for more information regarding special collections.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

It would appear that this has not yet been released in either Region 1 or Region 2. The Region 2 release however will be a 2 DVD set called The Legends Of Steam Volume 1, which will include a very similar release to this as Disc One (there appears to be some differences in the extras, namely the news items). The price looks like being 40.00 for the two discs, so if you just need this programme it looks like Region 4 is your choice.

Summary

Railfans will rejoice at having this collection on DVD. Okay the technical quality at times is pretty shocking, but the sheer historical nature of some of the footage makes sure that Legends Of Steam: The Flying Scotsman is essential viewing. Those less train-mad than the likes of me might well be advised to avoid the 1968 documentary however, although it is nonetheless interesting to hear the Reverend Awdry tell the story of how his stories came into being (worth the price of purchase alone almost). Interested in trains? You probably aren't still reading this then - you should already be watching your new copy of this DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, December 29, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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