Summer Winos»Uncategorized»Series 5 Episode 1: Full Steam Behind

Series 5 Episode 1: Full Steam Behind

In which our trio take a tank engine for a walk…

Bob: September 1979, and Summer Wine returns for its first full series in two years. I’m assuming the gap year was down to Roy Clarke’s writing commitments… in 1978, his series Rosie – the police sitcom with Paul Greenwood – was broadcast, and earlier in 1979 Potter – with Arthur Lowe as the titular retired busybody – made its TV debut. On first impressions, the break from Summer Wine has done him a power of good, as this episode is one of my favourites of the entire run.

Andrew: I’ll admit from the start that the odds have been HEAVILY stacked in favour of me loving this episode. I haven’t seen it for a loooong time and I can’t recall any plot details, but I’m predisposed towards liking it, simply because it features a steam engine. The Lady Vanishers, The Titfield Thunderbolt, Thomas the Tank Engine, the episode The Royal Train from Dad’s Army, and instalment 308 of The Muppet Show have all won me over with steam power.

I’ve no idea what it is about steam trains that appeal to me. I’m not one to amass trivia about their manufacturers, or their model numbers, and I was born far too late to hold any nostalgic attachments to that era. There’s just something about the sight of an iron beast puffing through the English countryside and the smell of coal and oil and water forcing tonnes of machinery forward along the rails that really does it for me. If Emma was here, she’d be rolling her eyes at me now, as I do tend to get a little carried away. Take, for example, my twenty-fifth birthday…

Drew Birthday Train

This getup is disturbingly close to that seen upon Foggy’s entrance in this episode, railway memorabilia clasped excitedly in hand.

Bob: I’m with you all the way, which explains why this episode is a bit of a watershed episode for me. Previously, Foggy has been portrayed as a well-meaning idiot… all of his strange schemes and ambitions are decidedly hare-brained, and Clegg and Compo’s objections to them are generally entirely justified. However, in this episode… brace yourself… sit down… put one hand on the sideboard and breathe deeply… FOGGY IS RIGHT! On a glorious summers day, a vintage steam train is travelling from Keighley to Oxenhope, and all he wants to do is take Compo and Clegg to greet it along the route.

And they don’t want to go! And I can’t, for the life of me, work out why. The sun is shining through sun-dappled leaves, the railway is a gorgeous, bumbling branch line meandering through countless sleepy villages, and I absolutely share Foggy’s enthusiasm for the whole, beautiful venture. ‘Have you no regard for the poetry of steam?’ he blusters. His wild-eyed joy, for once, is both justified and infectious.

Andrew: Yes, this may be the first time I’ve ever sided with Foggy against Compo and Clegg! There’s nothing wrong in a healthy interest in railway preservation, I tell you!

On my aforementioned birthday, I too had to lure certain friends along with the promise of a pub at the end of the line. I hardly complained as we knocked back pints, but secretly I would have been happy to chuff up and down the line all day, pushing children out of the way to get a better view of the engine driver.

'There's something tremendously nostalgic about places like this...'

‘There’s something tremendously nostalgic about places like this…’

By the way, as our trio make their way to the railway, there’s a lovely sound gag – the first of two in this episode. Just as Compo challenges anybody to tell him what is wrong with his trousers and Foggy and Clegg stop dead in their tracks, so does Ronnie Hazlehurst’s music. That had me giggling like a loon. The second sound gag is a sitcom staple… a well-timed steam engine’s whistle drowning out an expletive from Compo.

Bob: I adore the scene in the railwayman’s shed… a part-abandoned refuge, in the middle of sleepy nowhere. My mother will kill me if she reads this, but my friends and I used to regularly seek out similarly remote rail sheds back in our distant childhoods, and use them as makeshift HQs for our assaults upon the adult world. ‘There’s something tremendously nostalgic about places like this,’ sighs Foggy, leaning back with a distant look in his eyes. ‘I’d like to come here for a few hours every week, just lie on this sofa with a railway timetable and listen to the trains go by…’

‘Tat!’ spits a genuinely disgruntled Compo, and I want to dangle him off a bridge by his wellies. Compo and Clegg really are unpleasant company in this episode… the pair of them never stop whining throughout, about something that’s a genuinely lovely idea! Oh dear, can you tell I’m actually getting angry about this?

Andrew: It isn’t long, of course, before Compo sets things in motion and our trio are faced with the prospect catching a runaway train. All of the action is still conducted at a very leisurely Summer Wine pace, however.

Bob: And Compo IS actually dangled off a bridge – dropping onto a speeding carriage to attempt a rescue mission. ‘What’s life without a slice of danger?’ snaps Foggy. ‘Longer,’ replies Compo. Nice stuff, but I’m not sure I need Summer Wine attempting to pre-empt Speed!

Anyway… how geeky do you want to get with all this train stuff? An insane shiver of excitement ran through the very fibre of my being when I realized that, in one scene, it was possible to see the number on the train itself. It’s KWVR (Keighley and Worth Valley Railway) L89. It didn’t take much Googling at all to bring me here…

KWVR Wikipedia Entry

 …and if you scroll down to locomotive No 5775, that’s the chap. And although ‘in need of overhaul’, it’s currently on display at Oxenhope Railway Station! Surely a day out is on the cards…

Andrew: You filthy temptress. The climax of the  episode sees our trio attempting to stop the engine at the station where the local mayor, assembled dignitaries and a brass band are waiting. And once again it’s the Dodworth Colliery Miner’s Welfare Brass Band, led by musical director Graham O’Connor!



But what is they are playing? A diagetic rendition of Ronnie Hazlehurst’s Summer Wine theme. I’m not sure how I feel about that, actually. It’s very jarring for me to have the real-world trappings of the show invade the fantasy land of Roy Clarke’s creation. In the context of this episode, what is the name of the song that the band are playing? Is it The Last of the Summer Wine? Does this make Ronnie Hazlehurst an on-screen character? My brain hurts!

Bob: Yes, are we starting to see hints of post-modernism creeping into Summer Wine country? That struck me as being a bit odd, too!

Andrew: So, did I love this episode above all others? Surprisingly, not really! I did like the episode, but it doesn’t tap into my tank engine obsession in the same way the aforementioned examples do. I think it all comes down to the fact that Foggy’s passion for steam is tempered by Clegg and Compo not giving a fig – just as it should be in Summer Wine land, I guess. This world of Clarke’s creation is no place for one-dimensional rose-tinted nostalgia.

Bob: I’m surprised! It really is one of my favourites, but I agree that Clegg and Compo do come over as unnecessarily curmudgeonly.


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    September 23, 2012 2:52 pmPosted 9 years ago

    I’ve always found this episode rather over-rated, but then coming from a family of Rail Enthusiasts, i well know (and have felt on many occasions) Compo and Clegg’s reluctance to go and stare at a steam engine 🙂

    This was however Peter Sallis’ favourite episode, and Brian Wilde in an interview in the 90’s mentioned how much he’d enjoyed the making of it too.

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      September 23, 2012 2:53 pmPosted 9 years ago

      Incidentally, unless i’m very much mistaken that picture was taken at Tanfield Railway, not far from where i live.

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        September 23, 2012 10:07 pmPosted 9 years ago
        Andrew T. Smith

        You’re not wrong! Love a bit of Tanfield. (Drew)

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    September 24, 2016 5:01 pmPosted 5 years ago
    Simon S

    My dad is the steam train obsessive in my family.

    This episode is so packed, even the opening scene is worthy – the latest in a run of such scenes at Clegg’s house (though we will return to Chez Compo later this series).

    Perhaps the evident long march puts off Compo & Clegg (it would put me off, certainly). I’m always amused by Compo’s sardonically childish “oh fab! we’re going to see a puffer train!” though.

    The disused hut seems like it should be a home away from home for Compo, so his antipathy is all the odder.

    The runaway train stuff is like a souped-up version of the runaway canoe, with similar questions – how can they get ahead of it enough to throw Compo off a bridge (which would have had more serious effects than it does) at it? I notice when they finally catch their train, it’s clearly their doubles clambering aboard.

    The ending is odd, too – they just abandon the damn thing, and then do a superb joint double take (later redone in The Tripods) as the whole nightmare starts all over again…

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    February 16, 2018 10:55 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Martin Epstein

    My favourite episode so far, and why does Clergy get all the funniest lines? There’s a number here, you missed the train when Compo ends up on the track and later let’s wrap up the train and send it back by post.

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    September 3, 2018 10:38 amPosted 3 years ago
    Paul Fryer

    I can possibly understand Compo’s reluctance to indulge Foggy, but Clegg? It was revealed in Spring Fever that Clegg’ s father worked on the railways for LNER, if not all his life, then certainly long enough to get a watch. Clegg also reveals in Spring Fever that he carries this same watch around with him. I would have thought Clegg might have caught some rail enthusiasm from his dad, and he was certainly sentimental enough to carry round an old LNER watch.

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    March 25, 2020 9:40 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Mike C

    Just love this episode!
    Since I was a wee boy I was besotted with all things railway related and it’s continued well into my adult years.

    Has anyone seen the 1976 adaptation of Charles Dickens ‘The Signalman’ that was produced by the BBC as part of their ‘Ghost Stories for Christmas’ tradition?
    Well in that there is a Pannier tank engine, like the one in Full Steam Behind. I haven’t seen The Signalman for a while so cannot confirm whether the exact same engine was used, but it seems likely. How many preserved Pannier tanks were still running in the late 70’s?
    I’ll dig out some more detail and keep you updated.

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      February 9, 2021 6:57 pmPosted 9 months ago
      David Cattell

      The locomotive in ‘The Signalman’ is numbered 5764, another ex-Great Western Railway pannier tank built at Swindon works in 1929. Both loco’s were sold by BR to London Transport in the 1960s, where 5775 was renumbered L89. They were purchased for preservation in the early 1970s.
      5775 didn’t appear in ‘The Signalman’ but it and the carriage it pulls in Last of the Summer Wine are seen at both ends of the Old Gentleman’s Train in the 1970 EMI movie ‘The Railway Children’ starring Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins (aka Gavin Hinchcliffe in Summer Wine). A brief history and a few photo’s of 5775/L89 can be found on the following webpage :-
      ‘The Signalman’ was filmed at the Severn Valley Railway near Kidderminster. This railway also appeared in a BBC comedy called ‘L for Lester’ about a driving instructor with an uncanny likeness to Summer Wine character Alvin Smedley! A clip featuring the SVR can be found here :-

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    April 2, 2020 1:20 amPosted 1 year ago

    As a lifelong fan of Thomas the Tank Engine and The Railway Series, I (mostly) love this one. I too felt someone must have pissed in Compo and Clegg’s cornflakes. I know it’s not for everyone, but they’re such pricks in this episode.

    Of course, once the train runs away, it becomes much more enjoyable. “Are we almost done taking this engine for a walk?!?”

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    July 26, 2020 11:51 pmPosted 1 year ago
    George Kempson

    One of my favorites is this, along with smiling morn.
    There are a couple of odd parts in it, such as when they are in the hut and Clegg tells Compo to come and get cleaned up again after he looked out of the window with foggy, although he never went near the sink the first time…did he?
    It was a bit of a nostalgia-fest for me, like many others here i come from a time when steam trains were (just) still in use in the Rossendale Valley, where i was born.
    It just has that air of taking you back to when you were a youngster and standing on the bridge, as the train passed under it.


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