Honk honk! Gregg Wallace is having his best day ever on Inside the Factory XL: Trains (BBC Two). Wallace loves trains. And because he’s been a very good boy, the driver asks if he’d like a go – not just at sounding the horn, but at driving.
“No way!” yelps Wallace. “Seriously?!” They set off and it is pointed out that he’s only doing 10mph and could speed up a bit. But Wallace is happy. Honestly, you’ve never seen a man as happy as this. “Get out of here, I’m driving a train!” he yells, like a three-year-old living out his Thomas the Tank Engine dream.
Wallace’s manic enthusiasm is the hallmark of Inside the Factory (the “XL” refers to this series’s supersized subjects), but here it reached its apex. I worried about his blood pressure. He was beside himself at the scale of the “five-carriage monster” train being put together at the Alstom factory in Derby, even though it seemed a completely normal size.
But that’s another thing about this show: it bombards you with figures, like the TV equivalent of a school maths paper. The factory employs 2,000 people and is making 133 of these 187-ton trains, which reach speeds of up to 100mph and join 3,000 other electric trains on Britain’s high-speed rail network. They’re made using 300kg panels with a 24 x 2.5 metre underframe, put together in a 180-metre long welding shed, to create a train seating 490 people. The more numbers they trotted out, the more meaningless they became. “Each train takes up to one thousand hours to complete.” Is that a lot for the construction of a train? “Each train requires 24 times more paint than a typical car.” Well, yes, because it’s a lot bigger than a car, isn’t it?
Seeing how a train is made is interesting, but every moment was dominated by Wallace’s hyperbole. “That is ludicrous!” he gasped at the sight of some aluminium panels arriving on an articulated lorry, to the bemusement of the factory’s logistics manager. “This is vast, isn’t it? This is massive!” he said about the train’s underframe which was, obviously, exactly the size you would expect a train’s underframe to be if you had ever seen a train. When Wallace learned that the machine which welded metal together got very hot, he seemed astonished: “That is more than 60 times hotter than the hottest setting on my oven!”
At the end, Wallace said his visit to the factory was one of the most amazing experiences of his life. For viewers, not so much.