Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • This is the Technical Difficulties, we're playing Citation Needed.

  • Joining me today, he reads books y'know, it's Chris Joel.

  • Hullo!

  • Everybody's favourite Gary Brannan, Gary Brannan.

  • I--

  • Let me get the line out, you b******s!

  • And standing in for Matt Gray, stand-up mathematician Matt Parker!

  • Always clear all before an important calculation.

  • In front of me I've got an article from Wikipedia and these folks can't see it.

  • Every fact they get right is a point and a ding

  • and there's a special prize for particularly good answers which is...

  • And today we are talking about the Flip Flap Railway.

  • Ay, ah, hah!

  • - Hmm. Err. Erp. - Wow.

  • Is this... this is where the wordNo”...

  • if we had an actual railway tunnel,

  • and there's a big steam engine coming down the tunnel

  • with the word, “nowritten on the front right now.

  • You'll notice that sometimes I have my hand ready over the ding button here.

  • This is not one of those times.

  • Er, is it a pneumatic railway?

  • ...in the south of England?

  • Am I right? Am I wrong? I'm wrong.

  • He's wrong.

  • Both flipping and flapping are things railroads should not do.

  • Yes.

  • So this is some kind of disaster...

  • - No, it's not a disaster. - Oh!

  • If you got on this railway expecting a normal ride, something has gone wrong.

  • Oh, so it's like a metaphorical railway.

  • Whoa. I was going to go for, like, theme park or something, but I like that better.

  • And you'd have got the point. What might the Flip Flap Railway be?

  • Is it a roller coaster?

  • Yes, you're absolutely right.

  • Is it one of those scenic railways, the 19th century ones where it would,

  • rather than like a normal rollercoaster now, you've got all the bits and bobs underneath exposed,

  • you'd put big panels on and paint an alpine scene.

  • So from a distance it would like you were riding a train up and down mountains

  • and there's a guy at the back who acts as a brakeman to stop the train.

  • Gaaah!

  • The interesting thing about that is:

  • No.

  • Can I just say--

  • But you have successfully got several things later on that we were going to talk about,

  • without any questions. So, yes, absolutely.

  • What were those really early rollercoasters called? We're talking 17th century here.

  • Pushing someone down a hill.

  • Yeah!

  • Yeah, they weren't called that, but they were giant slides.

  • The first ones were just park benches going down a…

  • There's one in France somewhere, where literally there was a park bench

  • and you kind of sat on it sideways and then it slid down a hill

  • and it was terrifyingly dangerous.

  • The thing is now when we hear the phrase, “a park bench

  • we just think of Matt and Tom sliding sideways down a hill on a very poorly fixed one.

  • Yes, there was a gravity track in Paris in 1812.

  • - Gravity track! - Ohhhh...

  • And you said brakeman, this was before that.

  • Before someone thought of stopping the f***ing thing!

  • Are you stuck on them forever? Just falling and falling through eternity like Sisyphus

  • pushing the rock…!

  • Sorry, wrong meeting.

  • Er, no.

  • Well, f***!

  • What, it wasn't falling through eternity for ever? Really?

  • I'm getting sick of his negative attitude this episode.

  • Push up a hill, drop back down the hill.

  • The very early ones were called Russian Mountains.

  • Oh, I just thought you meant some Russian mountains.

  • Well, this is what they originally were.

  • Russian sled rides on hills of ice that had been constructed.

  • So that's where the name came from, and they would just...

  • So, up until the point someone went to Russia and saw a mountain that had ice on it,

  • nobody had had the idea of even sitting on a cart and riding down a steep hill?

  • Not specially constructing an ice hill 200 feet tall to slide down.

  • I'll grant you, that would be difficult in Norfolk.

  • Then you started getting the scenic railways. Now, you talked about brakemen...

  • It's done with a guy at the back who acts as a brakeman

  • and just puts the brakes on in the right place,

  • rather than any kind of retarding device that you might have on the wheels,

  • like you would now.

  • Oh, brilliant! So if he decides to let it all hang out you get a…

  • Well if it does that on that height, everyone's seeing it, let's face it.

  • The brakeman is the opposite of a hype-man.

  • So instead of someone going, “Yeah!” there's a guy going, “I don't know.”

  • Go steady, or I could make this dead boring for you.”

  • You're right, he is the fun-killer of the roller coaster world isn't he?

  • Not that! Too much fun. There we are…”

  • No, everybody be calm.”

  • There is also something here in America that is an early rollercoaster

  • that is called the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway.

  • I both trust and utterly distrust that ride.

  • I'm just trying to imagine who thought the wordchunkwas a good word to put...

  • Well, that's the name of the place where it was. This was a nine mile track.

  • Oh! I don't know what it is, but we're going.

  • - Smash cut right now. - Special!

  • Is it just some old railway?

  • It was one of the very first permanent railways in America.

  • Is it like that bit in Indiana Jones 2?

  • Go on, press it! Go on, I saw you go

  • Yeah, I did, because this is 1827, so what didn't they have for this railway?

  • Power!

  • Harrison Ford!

  • Just.

  • Lucasfilm special effects.

  • Chris gets the point. Yes, they didn't have that. Obviously, gravity, they can get cars down,

  • how do they get the cars back up?

  • Gert big men shoving up.

  • Er, you're close...

  • Whoever's on the ride next.

  • You say ride. This, to start off with, was just genuinely a railway to move coal.

  • Oh, someone would have managed to sneak onto that.

  • Yes, you're absolutely right.

  • When there was down-time people would just sneak onto it and ride the cars down,

  • but how do they get the cars back up?

  • I guess it's not a loaded-car-pulls-down-an-empty-car scenario here?

  • No, no.

  • Levitation.

  • Hosses!

  • Yes! You're absolutely right, mules.

  • But they would send down enough cars and then they would send down the mules...

  • - In the car? - In the car...

  • - In the car. - That's very good.

  • - They get a ride! - And in fact yes, have a point.

  • - Their little ears… - That's probably not how they felt about it, Gary.

  • Yeah, but the first time they're likewhat the hell is all this”,

  • we all would be, but then they'd be like, “Fantastic.”

  • They'd be going down and their little ears'd be flapping in the wind, all like that

  • I think you've chronically misunderstood what it is to be a mule, my friend.

  • And there's a bloke halfway down doing a drawing of it

  • so they can buy it when they get to the bottom as a souvenir of the day.

  • There's always the smart mule

  • who works out where the etching guy is so they can make a face.

  • I reckon people saw the mules come off going,

  • they look pretty excited, I'm having a go on that”.

  • That is basically what happened.

  • I don't think it was the mules there,

  • but it was people goingthis is an exciting ride”.

  • This is fun wasted on mules”, basically.

  • And then someone else went, well, we can charge for this

  • when there's not enough coal to move.

  • Or mules to play with.

  • Or...

  • Steady.

  • Lonely country town, let's say...

  • That was basically the world's first roller coaster.

  • Someone sat on the back of one of the mules as it goes down.

  • This is f***ing awesome!”

  • That is Indiana Jones, just a century too early.

  • Nah, that's Slim Pickens riding the bomb!

  • Dr Strangelove with a mule in the compartment.

  • Sadly that has now been dismantled.

  • There is a trail there you can walk down,

  • but I imagine that's not the same.

  • Ironically a trail there you could ride a mule down,

  • which is worse for all concerned, isn't it?

  • You could, or you could ride a mule down on a little wagon with some wheels.

  • Oh my God, yeah. ...Wagon Wheels?

  • They're just going to go squishy.

  • They'd overheat and get flat spots!

  • Yes, they're smaller than they used to be anyway.

  • You can't trust a marshmallow bearing.

  • Can't, no.

  • Just overheat and then you'd get decent speed.

  • Jam lubricant's all well and good up to 50mph, but once you go over that...

  • Yeah. You're looking for a stout marmalade aren't you?

  • Something fine-cut though.

  • Oh yeah, you don't want the bits in it.

  • You can't have a coarse shred, it'll get jammed.

  • Oh absolutely, absolutely.

  • Marmite is your breakfast lubricant of choice isn't it?