This is way off topic but too cool not to share. From 1935. Check out the guys doing drop forging. Their goofy hats keep the sweat out of their eyes. Wait. What about gloves? Eye protection? Ear protection? Hard hats? Dust masks? Nah.


We’ve showed you ancient video of locomotives being built before but none of those films have been near as good as this one. The film follows the construction of engine 6207, a “Princess Royal” class locomotive that was, for its day, the pinnacle of technology and British industrial might. The reason that this video beats the pants off other locomotive construction films we have run in the past is the fact that the footage is of amazing clarity and the narrator takes us through the most interesting processes. Things being forged, machined, and finished in the factory which looks at lot like a scene from Dante’s Inferno adds a lot to the viewing experience. We can’t begin to imagine how hellacious the conditions were for the workers. They’re handling these huge pieces of white hot steel, feeding them into massive hammers and presses, and working within yards of the hottest furnaces on Earth. There is a reference made to OSHA at the beginning of the film. We’re not sure what the British equivalent is to that outfit, but we’re positive that they didn’t exist in ’35.

Outside of the actual factory work, there’s footage of guys paging through huge books of blueprints, another shot of the “parts book” that the engineers signed off on with each and every component needed to make the massive machine. That sucker is well over 300 pages and we don’t think it was doubled spaced. Unless we missed it, we didn’t hear the narrator give us the turn around time on the engine from start to finish, but it had to have been a pretty long process.

There’s no telling how long the engine you see built in the video actually ran for, but we suspect it was 20-25 years at the absolute most. Like the process of constructing them, steam locomotives became arcane (but beautiful) symbols of the past. It was on to diesel locomotives and modern construction techniques in factories that looked far different than this one. It sure is nice to be able to see this machine built from the comfort of your office, couch, seat on the train, or wherever you are viewing. Your experience is surely one hell of a lot better than the guys you are about to watch. These guys had it rough!

  1. Rolf Engelhard

    This is way cool !!! Thank you Herr Schmitt
    Rolf E.

  2. Stan Mott

    Absolutely fascinating! And not a digital watch to be seen. Nor helmet, goggles, protective clothing, nor government nanny scolding a rule breaker. It was a joy to see how some of the most exciting transportation machinery in history was produced. It made my day. I’m waiting to see more when you have it. Thanks hugely.

  3. Mel Francis

    One thing this film really highlights, is the power of a well-rehearsed team! Work that is beyond the abilities of one, yet huge pieces of metal yield to their combined efforts. I watched this yesterday evening and reflected upon it today…
    What appears unusual, is the crankshaft between the wheels, carrying the additional power and torque of two extra cylinders between the main frames. I doubt that many, or even a few American-made locomotives used this type of cylinder layout for doubling the tractive power, basically within the same external measurements!

  4. Tom Semple

    I enjoyed the feature about the locomotive that was built in 1935. No gloves, no goggles or real protection from the extreme heat. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see more documentaries like that?

    I deserve to see these things on TV. There should be an hour or two each week when they showcase the reality of the times of old. How it was then. How things were built, etc. in real time, on film.

    No one knows any history now! There is very little curiosity it seems.

    The gentleman and his accent were great too. He was enthused just short of excitable, with a fey very British way about him. No one would dare do that queer accent with his high voice now. Now they would get that James Bond guy whose name I can’t remember because this isn’t one of my “good” days.

  5. Sheldon Payne

    Fascinating stuff! I’ve always been intrigued by railroad locomotives, especially steam engines. It was interesting seeing the teamwork involved; couldn’t tell who was the leader of the various groups (except for the suit), but they all seemed to know what to do.
    These guys were tough…and to think I need gloves and a smock just to change the oil on my motorbike.

  6. Rob Doorack

    According to that locomotive stayed in service from 1935 to November 1961, and was cut up for scrap in May ’62. It was involved in a derail accident in 1952 in which 15 people were killed.

  7. Before we can get to craftsmanship, workmanship, and accomplishment, we now serve bureaucracy first. When safety is bureaucratic, rather than learned from experience, skill, discernment, and the wisdom that comes with it, are lost. Gasoline is more dangerous than dynamite, yet Nomex is not required at the gas station. Fear of risk, and understanding of risk, are two very different things. Some watch this, and think safety. Some watch this, and think slide rules.

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