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This is Absolute Genius.
So sit down, buckle up and get ready for take-off!
Each show will introduce you to a different genius.
An amazing person, who had a genius idea which shaped the world.
And they will inspire us to come up with
our own genius idea at the end of each show.
But will it be any good?
-Will it be any good? It will be...
On today's show, we get all hot and steamy.
Go up and close and personal with great engines of power.
And find out all about horsepower.
-From the four-legged kind...
-To the four-wheeled kind.
Today, we bring to you a man who had a very special kind of genius.
He took an invention that had been around for more than 50 years,
the steam engine, and made it a shed-load better.
Yeah, he also made a shed-load of cash.
So good was he that you can still find his face
on a 50 quid note, look.
And, AND also the first letter of his surname
you will find stamped on pretty much every light bulb around the house.
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you...
All right, boys!
Yes, indeed, and inspired by James Watt's genius,
we'll be coming up with our own genius idea later on.
Yes, we'll be steaming in with a very special kind of challenge.
-Pull the lever!
-I haven't put the engine on!
Pull the lever? You idiot!
But now I think it's only fair to find out a little bit
more about said man in wig.
James Watt was born in 1736 in Greenock, Scotland.
The story goes that as a boy he was fascinated by the steam
pouring out of a boiling kettle.
When he grew up, he became a mechanical engineer
and started to eagerly explore how steam engines worked.
James Watt's genius was to take the steam engine,
an invention that had been round for many years, and make it
work better and more efficiently than anyone else had managed.
And make himself a shed-load of money in the process.
Watt's engines were the first to power big machines in factories,
paving the way for the Industrial Revolution.
Now, 250 years ago, when Watt was just a young man,
steam engines looked very different to how you might imagine.
The engines back then still needed someone to shovel
the coal, like fireman Hugh here.
But they didn't look as gorgeous as this lovely steam locomotive.
Did they, Dick? WHISTLE TOOTS
Oi! Get down!
Sorry, I was just hooting the whistle.
You are silly, aren't you?
You see, locos like this were still a dream
when Watt was learning his stuff.
This was a long time before steam trains were even invented.
Back then, in the early 1700s,
most steam engines were either too big or too heavy to put on wheels.
I mean, you couldn't even fit one in a decent-sized house.
Just like this.
Meet genius expert Mike Dunn.
He knows everything you need to know about the kind of steam
engines that were around before James Watt came along.
-How are you doing?
It's noisy in here, isn't it?
-It is a bit.
-What is this?
This is an example of the first steam engine in the world.
This is a Newcomen steam engine.
They were used to pump water out of mines
and were invented nearly 25 years before James Watt was even born.
-So, how does it work?
-It's like a big kettle.
We boil 400 gallons of water and then we produce lots of steam
from that boiling water which we put into that cylinder.
Once it's in the cylinder, we squirt some cold water in
and we change the steam back to water.
OK, what's its purpose, what does it do?
-Well, if you look up, you can see the great beam at the top?
The other end of that great beam, there's a rod that goes
right the way down into the ground to the mine shaft.
And that pumps the water out of the ground
so the miners can get to the coal.
-Oh, so it's a big water pump?
Like all steam engines,
it needs a really hot fire to heat the water in the boiler.
And we're going to make this fire even hotter.
Right, lads, when we open the door, we can get a blowback,
that's flames coming out of the furnace.
So we just have to be a little bit careful.
-Right, we'll stand back then.
-That's a good idea.
-Wow, that's hot.
Hand down there. One at the back.
Your body stops still and then do that,
-the shovel stops, and the coal carries on.
-OK, got you.
Right, still body, swinging back.
-Swinging back. And...like that?
I can't believe how hot that is.
Oh, sorry, Mike!
-In there like that!
-Is that a good one?
That'll do. You need a bit of practice.
How often do you have to re-stoke the fire?
We make up the fire on one side
and then, after about eight minutes, we make up the other side.
-You have to shovel coal in every eight minutes?
How much coal do you get through in a day?
These engines work 24 hours.
You're talking two to three tonnes.
And that was the drawback of this type of steam engine.
It used so much coal and wasn't very efficient.
Now, you see, Watt had his first bit of genius inspiration
when he was given a small Newcomen engine to repair.
Yeah, and while he was doing this, he came up with an idea for his
own steam engine that would be even better than the Newcomen engine.
Hang on a minute. Backtrack a bit.
I'm having problems just piecing it all together anyway.
Yeah, me too. How does something as flimsy as steam move big
slabs of metal about like we saw with the steam engine?
Yeah, I know.
If only Fran, our resident genius scientist, was here to tell us...
This is Fran. She just loves experimenting...
..to help explain the ideas of our geniuses.
And she's sure to pop up just when you really need her.
Fancy meeting you here.
We're still struggling on how the steam engine works.
I thought you might be because it is quite complicated.
But I've got something that might help. Come with me.
Really weird, isn't it, the way she's always...?
Well, boys, when you heat up water enough, some of that water
turns into a gas, and it's that gas that's steam.
And steam, just like any gas, wants to spread out as much as it can
so it pushes on all the stuff around us.
And that's all a steam engine does. It puts that push to good use.
-So, what's this then?
-This is my model of a steam engine.
Doesn't look like a steam engine.
Well, we've got a sealed chamber at the bottom
and a movable plunger at the top.
-So, this plunger's like the piston or something?
And we've got a little bit of water in the bottom.
I'll heat up that water. Some of it will turn into steam.
And let's just see what happens.
-Wa-hey! Look at that.
'When the heated water turns to steam, it pushes the plunger up.'
'And when the steam cools and turns back to water,
'the plunger returns to where it was.'
There it goes! Look!
Yes, it's going down!
All right, Fran, I understand how steam
is making a little plastic plunger go up and down.
But surely it's not the same principle that moves
a steam engine made out of massive bits of metal?
Yeah, it is.
And the same pushes and pulls can move something as strong as metal.
-And I've got something to prove it.
Prove it! Go on, then. Prove it.
So, over here,
I have got a can that's got a little bit of water in it.
And that water is boiling away and producing lots of steam.
But in a moment, I'm going to seal that can
and then cool it really quickly.
Ah, right, so when you cool the steam really quickly
it will turn back into water and cause some kind of pushing motion.
Yeah, just like that plunger on that model steam engine.
Fran's an expert. This is not something to be messed with at home.
OK, I'm going to dunk it in this iced water here.
Let's cool it down as quickly as possible.
So dump that ice on it.
-More ice. More ice, more ice!
-Pop it on top.
Look at that! That's amazing!
You have proved it, Fran!
'That sudden cooling of the can turned the steam
back into water really quickly
creating a force strong enough to crush metal.
Later, we learn all about horsepower,
another of Watt's genius ideas.
And we get stuck into some serious engineering for our genius idea.
Right, that's it! Argh!
But back to James Watt and his genius ideas
for improving steam engines.
As we've seen, these engines were a new way of getting
lots of power 250 years ago.
But they used an incredible amount of coal as fuel.
That wasted lots of energy.
It's a bit like having all the radiators on in your house
with the windows wide open.
Aye, they were just throwing money away.
Watt reckoned he could do a lot better.
So he invented his own steam engine.
And if you want to see what he came up with
then there's no better place than this.
The Crofton Pumping Station in Wiltshire.
Here we are, and there's the pumping station over there.
But you're probably wondering, what's it all for?
Back in Watt's day, this was a very important place.
And the fact it's bang next to this canal, that's no accident as well.
Here's another genius helper to tell us why.
Meet Watt steam engine expert Jon Willis.
Hello, Jon. Can you tell us what the pumping station does?
Every time a boat comes down here it uses an awful lot of water
and that water has to be replaced.
So the pump pumps it back up to the top of the hill.
All right, OK, so because gravity takes water down a hill,
the pumping station pumps it back up so the boat can carry on?
-Yes, that's right.
-Can we see inside?
All right, after you. Don't fall in!
Watt's engines were a lot more fuel efficient,
but we've still got to shovel a load of coal.
Doing it for the boys, aren't you?
Look at that lovely Lancashire boiler!
-You having a good day, mate?
-Yeah, good stuff, all right.
Know what I mean?
'This boiler holds an astonishing 18,000 litres of water.'
'And that can make a lot of steam.
'It's very hot! But, hey, who cares, we're dancing!'
That means one thing. Kettle's brewed.
It's time for a tea! Come on.
I didn't expect that.
But you do need a lot of steam for this piece of Watt genius.
Here we are at the top of the cylinder,
which is a great long tube.
It's about two metres long and inside it is a big piston.
The steam that we've been producing downstairs
makes this go up and down inside the cylinder.
-And pumps the water out.
How do you control the steam that comes in?
The steam comes from the boiler.
It comes under the floor and comes up through this valve.
-And we're just about ready to start the engine.
I just need to ask the driver. Driver, are you ready?
Open number one stop valve, please.
Twelve turns anti-clockwise.
Here we go, driver! One...two...three...
He can't actually count to 12. This might be difficult.
..five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.
Do I have to say anything?
Tell the driver that you've opened it.
-Number one, stop valve open.
No problem. Sounds nice, doesn't she?
-Doesn't she sound lovely!
-Look at that!
-Big bit of kit.
This is great British engineering at its best, isn't it?
Absolutely. And this is 200 years old and it's still working.
Still working perfectly.
'Yes, these pistons and cylinder rods need to be perfectly engineered
'because they've got to work this six-tonne iron beam above.'
So we've already seen the pistons
working down that end, moving it all.
But what happens down that end?
That end has the pump on. The pump which pumps the water.
But the real genius of this place is round here.
What we're looking at here is James Watt's separate condenser -
his most important invention.
The original engine by Thomas Newcomen,
you had to heat up the cylinder and cool it down,
every time the engine works, every stroke,
heat it up, cool down, which is incredibly inefficient.
And what James Watt did, he said, "I'll leave that bit hot
"and I'll put the cold bit in here."
So his condenser was actually under the water in here.
-OK, so the engine stays hot all the time?
Saving money! Genius.
So even though it doesn't look much, this is his real genius.
In fact, Watt's brilliant separate condenser
meant his steam engines used 75% less coal than other engines.
His engines were also more powerful.
Together, that meant they could be used to power
all sorts of different machines in factories across the world. Genius!
Aye, it was pretty clever, wasn't it?
And there it is. Look, you can see what the engine is actually doing.
Every stroke of the engine pumps out one tonne of water into this channel
which sends it all the way along there
up to the hill and eventually it joins the canal.
Which means the canal never runs out of water.
Thanks to James Watt we can now take a ride on a canal boat.
I'm going to be the captain and you, you silly little man,
are going to open the lock gates. Enjoy.
But we've never done this before. I don't know what to do.
Takes him ages, He's only got little legs. Faster!
TRAIN TOOTS Oi, it's all kicking off.
'If only Watt had invented a machine to open lock gates.'
We ain't got all day. We're nearly there, look.
-It's hard work this.
Oh, shut up!
Having a nice day out. Close them then, come on.
He's going to get such a slap.
'Now, it's not just canal pumping stations
'that steam is very useful for.'
-It's the Genius Top Five.
The steam train, still going strong 200 years after it was invented.
Four. The steam cooker. A great way to cook Chinese dumplings.
Hmm. Yum, yum!
Three. Steam baths.
The Romans loved them and they're still being used today.
Two. The paddle steamer.
A lovely way to take a trip down a river.
One. The steam robot.
Yes, people actually build these!
We've found out that 250 years ago James Watt invented a steam engine
that was much better than anything anyone else had come up with.
Later in the show, we'll be coming up with our own genius challenge
inspired by the great man.
But Watt's genius was about more than just clever machines.
You see, even though Watt had invented
this amazing new steam engine
he had to convince other people that it was worth buying.
He'd proved that his steam engine was better than other steam engines.
But was this form of power cheaper than other options
-available at the time?
-Like the power of the horse.
-All right, Billy.
-Right, on we get.
Back in Watt's time, horses did a lot of the jobs that
machines do for us today.
So Watt had to try and prove that his steam engines
could do everything that a horse could.
So he needed a scientific way of working out exactly
the amount of work a horse could do in any given period of time.
His answer was to come up with a measurement of power
that we still use today - horsepower.
-Come on then, Billy!
-Are you having a nice time?
-It's quite slow, isn't it?
# Why do only fools and horses work? #
In those days, one of the jobs horses did
was to lift coal out of coal mines.
Watt worked out that your average horse could shift 150 kilos of coal
up a mine shaft a distance of 30 metres over one minute.
He called that one horsepower.
So once our horse Billy here is moving us along,
he's using James Watt's measurement of power, horsepower.
But because it's a slow walking speed and not uphill,
I reckon Billy here is only using half of one horsepower.
It's, er, not very fast, is it?
-Stop, Billy. Stop, stop, stop.
-For goodness' sake, stop it.
I think we need something with a lot more horsepower.
I know what you're saying Where are we going? Monte Carlo?
I love Bedfordshire!
Welcome to Bedford Autodrome. We still use horsepower today
to measure the performance of any engine,
whether it's in a lawn mower or racing cars like these.
If you want a lot of horsepower then you need something like this!
This Jaguar racing car can get to a top speed of 167 miles per hour.
Yeah, that's cos it's got an incredibly powerful engine.
'So what does all that horsepower feel like?
'There's only one way to find out.'
HE SQUEALS AND SHRIEKS
'This is terrifyingly fast. These engines are way more powerful
'than anything from Watt's day.'
'As we literally scream round this track at nearly 140 miles per hour,
'the force against my body is incredible.'
'After three laps, we've taken just about as much as we can handle.'
Seriously, that was one of the maddest things I've ever done.
It blows any roller coaster out of the water, that.
It was just the speed, wasn't it?
The speed! It was so fast!
It was so fast!
It's not just engine power where our genius James Watt left his mark.
Oh, no. We use his very name, Watt,
as a way of measuring electrical power.
For example the bulb inside here, it's a 60 watt.
And our cameraman Pat is using a lamp there
that's 40 watts of power
so that you can see us.
So there you go. When it comes to measuring power, Watt is your man.
Inventing new ways of measuring how powerful machines were,
helped James Watt sell lots of his steam engines.
That made him a lot of money.
But some people have a knack for losing money.
It's the Not So Genius Idea.
In 2009, an Israeli woman decided to surprise her mum by buying
her a new mattress for her bed.
She threw out the old mattress, but then found out afterwards
that her mum had hidden 1 million inside it.
That's about £700,000.
She went back to the rubbish tip to look for the old mattress.
But it had gone, along with all that lovely cash.
A not so genius surprise present!
Oh, Mamma mia!
So Watt invented brilliant steam engines
and also horsepower as his way of measuring the power of his engines.
But for our genius idea I think we need to use steam engines
to increase our own horsepower.
Yeah, yeah. I could strap a steam engine to my back?
No, no. Too hot.
Too dangerous. It'll burn you, won't it?
I've got it! Wouldn't it be amazing
if there was a steam workshop behind these concertina doors.
-Oh, they're heavy.
Meet genius engine builder Grant Cooper. He's going to help us
turn our genius idea into reality.
-Hello, Grant, how are you doing?
-Not too bad.
We've come up with this idea that we want to try
and increase our horsepower with the help of a steam engine.
But how much horsepower can we produce individually?
A single person can produce about a quarter of a horsepower.
OK, so quarter for me, quarter for you.
-Together we could produce one half of a horsepower?
This is like a wonderland of bits of bobs. It's incredible.
Have you got anything here
that we could use that would increase our horsepower?
Well, we've been working on a project a while back.
I think we used a tandem bike in that.
-So if we have a search around, I'm sure we can dig one out.
A tandem bike, right. So if we got on a tandem bike
and pedalled really, really fast as well,
we could possibly produce one horsepower?
I think it's certainly possible,
-but there's only one to find that out.
-Find that tandem.
So our genius idea
is to customise a tandem, a bike built for two people.
We're going to stick a steam engine on the back.
With the steam engine boosting our pedalling,
our horsepower should be increased.
Let's find out just how fast we can go.
-There we are, tandem.
-I don't know.
'Because our steam engine will add weight to
'the back of the tandem, our first job is to put stabilisers on.'
Right! That's it! Arrgh!
'Next, the boiler.'
That needs to fit on just there.
Fiddly. Very fiddly.
Use your fingers first. Get it in there.
And then, the engine.
-Look at that.
-Look at that!
So the steam goes in, pumps the pistons,
which turns the big wheel at the back.
And that wheel is attached to a bike chain,
-which is attached to the pedals.
-Grant, this is genius.
-I wouldn't undo that one.
-No. OK, I won't do that!
-Those other ones are OK!
'Now we need to check whether the engine actually works.'
If you just stand back, watch the pedals.
-Look at that!
'Just one snag. There'll be a lot of heat pouring off the back
'of that bike very close to Dick.'
So, basically, I'm going to get a very hot bottom!
'To protect Dick's tender backside from the hot boiler,
'we're making a special shield to put on the back of the bike.'
A bit wonky! But it adds character, doesn't it?
Do you need a hand?
There we go, all done!
One genius, customised, tandem bike with steam booster!
-And a whistle.
-And a whistle.
One last thing. Let's take it on the road!
Can't get me leg over!
To test our steam tandem, we've got a special race track
set up on this airfield.
We're going head to head with Pepe D'Anna.
Pepe? Who's this Pepe then?
Is he some kind of like a Italian Formula One driver?
Pepe's from Wolverhampton.
He's brought along this brilliant little steam lorry
that he's lovingly built from scratch.
So, it's his lorry against our steam tandem.
What's the name from, Pepe? Where are you from?
-Sicily, originally, the family.
-It's Giuseppe, but Pepe's easier to say.
-All right. Dick.
That's even easier! Dom. Just as easy.
Joking aside, Pepe, you're good at building, but are you good at racing?
There's only one way to find out, Pepe!
-The proof is in the pudding.
-Come on! Let's have it!
Let's have some pudding.
So, the challenge is to see whether,
with a little bit extra horsepower from our steam engine,
our tandem bike can beat Pepe's miniature steam lorry.
Get ready, Lee.
Welcome to Steam Derby Classic.
Dick and Dom versus Pepe. The race is on.
Twiddling some knobs from Pepe. Dick was ringing the bell.
MUSIC: "The Chain" By Fleetwood Mac
And they're off. The race is on.
Pepe storming right into the lead there.
-He's beating us.
-He is beating you. A pathetic start by Dick and Dom.
And Pepe, even though he's got steam in his face,
is concentrating on this race.
Why aren't we winning? Have you pulled the lever?
-I haven't put the engine on!
-Pull it. You idiot!
-Pull the lever! Is it working?
They're pulling the lever now, and we're in action.
How will they close the gap?
Clearly this is Pepe's race, he's winning all the way.
Look how fast we're going!
Dick doing his usual laughing, thinking that's going to help him.
Look at the size of that gap.
But no! Hang on, the steam engine's kicked in.
They could win, it looks like they might even take it from Pepe.
The laughter's helping.
They're all over the place. Who won the race? I can't tell.
It's too close to call. Let's have a look at the photo.
Pipped on the line by Pepe! Congratulations.
Another 20 yards and I would have run out of steam.
Well done, Pepe. Pepe was leading the field,
-really far in front of us.
-He didn't press the silly switch.
Didn't put the steam on, did I? And when the steam started,
it went so fast I couldn't even pedal any more.
So I had me legs off it. I wasn't doing anything!
That was an amazing experience. James Watt, you are just brilliant!
Yeah, your incredible steam engines.
You invented horsepower!
-Your name on a light bulb.
Your face on a £50 note.
James Watt, you are an absolute genius!
Too kind, boys. Too kind!
It went right through me.
-Don't wobble it.
-I'm not doing anything.
-Just stand still then.
Oi! Oi! ZAPPING