National Geographic-Great Railway Adventures with Dan Cruickshank (2010)

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Released 12-Jan-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Trailer-For other National Geographic Titles
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 150:06 (Case: 156)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jeremy Cross
Chris Lethbridge
Jeremy Llewellyn-Jones

Madman Entertainment
Starring Dan Cruickshank
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     When one thinks about great railway adventures, journeys such as The Orient Express, The Trans-Siberian, our own Indian Pacific or any number of the trains caught by Paul Theroux in his travels around the globe come to mind. But if this is what you are anticipating in Great Railway Adventures with Dan Cruickshank think again. For this TV series is an adventure of a different sort – it is a journey into the history of rail in Great Britain and “the importance of railways in shaping industrial Britain”.

     National Geographic: Great Railway Adventures with Dan Cruickshank consists of three 50 minute episodes, originally aired in May 2010. The episodes are:


     The success of series such as this depends upon a few factors: the subject matter, the choice and availability of material and the character and personality of the presenter. Dan Cruickshank has presented a number of TV series, often dealing with engineering or building, and is probably best known in this country for Around the World in 80 Treasures (2005) or Dan Cruickshank’s Adventures in Architecture (2008). Born in 1949, by now Cruickshank has become a recognisable “brand”, as is shown by the fact that his name is in the title of various series, so if you liked him in his other series you will enjoy his presentation here. He is knowledgeable and enthusiastic, sometimes absolutely gushing, about the steam engines and the engineering – stations, tunnels, viaducts – that went with them. He can be over the top at times, but he is never dry or boring!

     The format of each episode is for Dan Cruickshank to visit various locations, where he talks with experts and examines the engineering challenges that evolved from the age of steam. Along the way he gets to control and ride on steam trains, and we get magnificent images of steam locomotives in full flight across the rural countryside, including the Stevenson designed Planet, the locomotive that is the father of all stream railway engines. The series also uses archival footage, especially Episode 3 where war time video is used extensively, and still pictures. Anecdotes and interesting facts abound, such as the account of the first railway accidental death in 1830, which occurred on the day Stevenson opened the first commercial rail line in history, or Cruickshank’s examination of the Dee River Bridge collapse, caused by faulty engineering. Railway engineering also had reverberations far beyond the railways, such as the creation, by Brunel in 1843, of the first wrought iron, screw driven stream ship to take rail passengers onward to New York in just over 15 days (reduced from the 40 taken by sailing ships). As Cruickshank comments, this was the Concorde of its day! As well, narrow gauge railways, one constructed to carry slate from the Welsh mountains to the coast, the other a miniature railway along the Essex Coast, played important roles in WW1 and WW2 respectively.

     The interest in railways, most especially steam locomotives, shows no signs of abating, and Great Railway Adventures with Dan Cruickshank is a must see for railway buffs, Dan Cruickshank fans, or anyone with an interest in the pivotal part railways played in shaping industrial Britain. It is also a whole heap of fun, with beautiful images of the age of steam.

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Transfer Quality


     Great Railway Adventures with Dan Cruickshank is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which looks to be the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. This is a great print. Sharpness, blacks and shadow detail are excellent, brightness and contrast consistent while skin tones are natural. Colours are natural but deep, beautifully rendering the images of steam locomotives moving across the countryside. I did not notice any artefacts, although some aliasing was evident in a couple of places in episode 2. The WW1 and WW2 archival footage in Episode 1 and 3 was grainy and scratched, as one might expect.

     No subtitles are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded at 224 Kbps. Dialogue and the narration are clear and easy to understand, train whistles and engine sounds come across nicely, while the music wonderfully adds to the atmosphere. The audio is surround encoded, giving a nice experience, although the sub woofer is not used. The audio is all one could expect from a recent TV series.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     Trailers for other National Geographic series: National Geographic: Britain’s Greatest Machines – Series 1 (0:43), National Geographic: Megastructures (1:19) and National Geographic: Stress: Portrait of a Killer (2:04).

R4 vs R1

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

     The Region 2 UK release looks to be identical to our Region 4 release. I did not find currently a Region 1 US release.


     Great Railway Adventures with Dan Cruickshank is a must see for railway buffs, Dan Cruickshank fans, or anyone with an interest in the pivotal part railways played in shaping industrial Britain. It is a whole heap of fun, with beautiful images of the age of steam.

     The DVD comes with good video and audio, but no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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