Honk horn! Gregg Wallace is having his best day on Inside the XL Factory: Trains (BBC Two). Wallace loves trains. And because he’s been such a good boy, the driver asks him if he’d like to try – not just honking, but driving.

“Certainly not!” Wallace yells. “Seriously?!” They left and are pointed out that it is only 10 mph and could speed up a bit. But Wallace is happy. Honestly, you’ve never seen a man so happy like that. “Get out of here, I’m driving a train!” he shouts, like a three-year-old living out his Thomas the Tank Engine dream.

Wallace’s maniacal enthusiasm is a hallmark of Inside the Factory (the “XL” refers to the oversized subjects of this series), but here it hits its peak. I was worried about his blood pressure. He was beside himself in the scale of the ‘monster five-car’ train being assembled at Alstom’s factory in Derby, although he looked quite normal in size.

But that’s something else about this show: it bombards you with numbers, like the TV equivalent of a school math assignment. The factory employs 2,000 people and manufactures 133 of these 187-tonne trains, which reach speeds of up to 100mph and join 3,000 other electric trains on Britain’s high-speed rail network. They are made from 300 kg panels with a 24 x 2.5 meter frame, assembled in a 180 meter long welding shed, to create a 490-seater train. The more figures they rattled off, the more meaning they lost. “Each train takes up to a thousand hours to complete.” Is that a lot for building a train? “Each train requires 24 times more paint than a typical car.” Well, yes, because it’s much bigger than a car, isn’t it?

Seeing how a train is made is interesting, but every moment has been dominated by Wallace’s hyperbole. “It’s ridiculous !” he gasped at the sight of some aluminum panels arriving on an articulated truck, much to the astonishment of the plant’s logistics manager. “It’s vast, isn’t it?” That’s huge!” he said of the train frame which was, of course, exactly the size you would expect a train frame to be if you had ever seen a train. When Wallace learned that the machine that welded the metal together was getting very hot, he seemed amazed: “That’s over 60 times hotter than the hottest setting on my oven!”

In the end, Wallace said his visit to the factory was one of the most amazing experiences of his life. For viewers, not so much.


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