QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2022
  • 279 episodes (19 series)

Panel game that contains lots of difficult questions and a large amount of quite interesting facts. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

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Series R, Episode 3 - Road And Rail

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Holly Walsh, Sandi Toksvig, Aisling Bea, Cally Beaton
Sandi Toksvig hosts the high-brow quiz, asking questions about road, rail and other things beginning with the letter R. Trying to come up with the answers are Alan Davies, Aisling Bea, Cally Beaton and Holly Walsh.

Preview clips

Further details


- The panel's buzzers consists of a train announcement saying: "See it, say it, sorted", except for Alan who has no buzzer. Instead Sandi operates a remote controlled toy bus to send Alan a bell, dubbing it a: "Replacement buzz service".


- The country in which you can drive from the east coast to the west coast on Route 66 is Britain. The 115 mile-long A66 can take you from Middlesbrough to Workington, passing through Darlington, Keswick and Cockermouth. In 2018, the A66 was named Motorway of the Year, qualifying due to the fact that for a single mile it does count as a motorway, being known as the A66(M). The US Route 66 never ran coast to coast, starring in Chicago which is about 700 miles from the Atlantic, and ending in Santa Monica, California. Route 66 was almost called Route 62. Route 66 was officially removed from the US highway system in 1985 and was replaced by Interstate highways, but there are signs that say "historic route" or "state route". (Forfeit: America)

- Tangent: Cally drove down part of Route 66 with her children. In Missouri, there is a fudge factory in a town called Uranus. Other things you can see on Route 66 is the ghost town of Oatman, Arizona, where you can still see a former brothel called Fast Fanny's. Also on Route 66 is Catoosa, Oklahoma, where there is a woman who collected miniatures of blue whales. Her husband, retired zookeeper Hugh Davis, decided that for their wedding anniversary to make a blue whale that was 20ft tall and 80ft long. It took David nearly 3,000 hours to complete it.

- XL Tangent: Other sites on Route 66 include the world's largest concrete totem pole and the world's second largest rocking chair. It 42ft rocking chair in Cuba, Missouri, was the largest, but another one in Casey, Illinois, was made measuring 56.5ft. To qualify, the rocking chair has to be able to rock, but the chairs are now both cemented in because they were so dangerous.

- XL Tangent: The panel try to get Sandi's remote controlled bus around the length of the desk, which it does with some help from the panellists.

- Because so many Route 66 signs were stolen as souvenirs, signs were painted on the road. However, the best way to stop people from stealing road signs is to make them out of solid stone. This has been done in Shittington, Dorest and Fucking, Austria. Shittington's sign weighs a tonne-and-a-half. Elsewhere, in Colesville County, Maryland, they have removed the vowels from signs so "Stoner Drive" now reads as, "ST N R DRIVE". Also, to stop people stealing mile markers that read "69" the markers now read "68.9".

- The panel play a game called "What's That Sign?" and have to identify some British road signs. In fact, all of the signs are correctly recognised by the Audience rather than the panel.

- A yellow sign with a red tringle, in which is the rear-view of a lorry with the load tilting to the left. - Adverse camber: A survey by Kwik Fit of 45,000 drivers showed that 26% could not identify this sign.

- A circular sign, with a red border and cross going through it and a blue background inside the circle. - Clearway: A sign that means no waiting, that according to the same Kwik Fit survey 33% failed to recognise.

- XL Tangent: Aisling has failed her driving test twice, partly because of obscure road signs. Sandi passed her test so long ago that it was before the time there was a written part of the exam. Sandi took her test on her 18th birthday, and as pulled away from the driving test centre, a small child ran out into the road, so Sandi did an emergency stop. The woman examining Sandi said: "Fucking hell, you can have your licence!"

- A red triangle, with an image of a fence. Below the triangle is a white rectangle with a black border, with two red stripes across it. - Level crossing in 200 years: The rectangle is counting down the distance, with each red stripe marking 100 yards each.

- XL Tangent: In the 1960s, there was a lack of consistency in UK road signs so a commission was set up. Graphic designers Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinnear were commissioned to create standardised signs. The signs were all designed by Calvert. The children going to schools sign depicting two kids depicted Calvert herself as a girl. The cow in the cattle sign was based on a cow she knew called Patience. She hated the jokes made about the man in the roadworks sign, saying: "Because I drew the shovel going into a mound of earth, it looks a little like a man having difficulties with a very large umbrella. I just wish I'd left the top on it to show it was a shovel."

- The pose of the Colossus of Rhodes did not feature the legs far apart. If that statue had been built so that one foot was on each side of the harbour, they would have needed to close the harbour for 12 years. The statue fell down in an earthquake in 225 BC, just 50 years after it was built. It was made of bronze sections with an iron and stone framework. If it had been built with the legs apart the statue would have collapsed under its own weight. Also, a Colossus was a particular type of statue that was found in Asia Minor, and the legs were always close together in these statues. The idea for it straddling the harbour came from an Italian visitor called Nicolas de Martoni, but it was second-hand information that was 1,500 years out of date. (Forfeit: Manspreading)

- Built in 1912, the world's oldest model railway, created in Britain, was first used to train railway signallers. Until 1995, this model railway was used by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways Signalling School at Victoria Station, Manchester. Models are still used to train staff, with Transport for London having a place called Ashfield House in Kensington. There, tube staff train on a mock-up station called West Ashfield, which is on the building's third floor. 1,500 to 2,000 drivers and operational staff are trained there every year.

- Tangent: Rod Stewart has a gigantic model railway system which he has been working on for 26 years. He has handcrafted all the buildings in the system. When he is on tour, he has a special room set aside where he can build his railway. Sandi meanwhile has her own model railway, with a train that goes around the skirting boards of her office.

- Tangent: The first model railway was built in 1859 for the three-year-old son of Napoleon III.

- The secret to catching the invisible rail is looking on the ground in marshy places. Rails are the smallest flightless birds in the world, and one of the smallest of these is the invisible rail, so called because of its ability to hide in the long grass. German biologist Gerd Heinrich, the first person to catch an invisible rail said: "I am solidly confident no European has ever seen this rail alive, for that requires such a degree of toughening and such demands on oneself as I cannot so easily attribute to others." Heinrich went to Halmahera, an island in Indonesia full of dense, bug-ridden thorns. To toughen himself up he rolled naked in beds of nettles.

- XL Tangent: The smallest rail is the inaccessible island rail, found on an inaccessible island. The island is 28 miles southwest of Tristan da Cunha, in the middle of the South Atlantic. You can only go to the island in one week of the year.

- The people who would not been seen dead in first class are poorer people on the London Necropolis Railway. Running from Waterloo to Brookwood, Surrey, home of the UK's largest cemetery, this railway was built in the 1850s to transport bodies out of London. The trains has first, second and third class carriages for the dead. The main sell of the first class was that your loved dead person did not have to be near a dead working class person. It ran between 1854 and 1941, and an estimated 203,000 people made the trip. The train consisted of a hearse carriage and a mourner's carriage. First and second class passengers also had their own waiting room. Anglicans and non-Anglicans had separate stations at the cemetery. Actors would always get off at the non-conformist stop, because it was the only one that performed funerals on Sundays, which was the only day actors got off.

- Tangent: Cally once dated a former Red Arrows pilot, and she tried to make him do a sexy pilot's voice during lovemaking. He didn't play along.

- XL Tangent: Brookwood Station had a licensed bar, and there was a large sign there that read: "Spirits served here." In May 1876, the train was delayed because the driver, John Wilkinson, collapsed and died after climbing into the cab. You can still see the entrance to the Necropolis Railway, which has now been turned into flats.

- XL: The thing that Charles Rolls and Henry Royce make together was money. Rolls was the car dealer and Royce was the car maker, but they didn't make anything together whatsoever. Royce made domestic electrical fittings and dynamos. In 1901, he bought a French Decauville car and decided that he could make a better car. He did, attracting the attention of Rolls, car dealer in Fulham, who agreed to take all of Royce's cars. However, when you bought a Rolls-Royce, they only provided the chassis. You had to go to a carriage builder who put all the parts together. Today, Rolls-Royce don't make cars at all, as the company is owned by BMW, who took over in the 1980s. (Forfeit: Sweet, passionate love)

- XL Tangent: Cally dated a man who drove a Rolls-Royce Phantom, who told her that the upholstery in the car was made out of bull hide because cows get stretch marks when pregnant.

- XL Tangent: Rudyard Kipling had a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Rolls-Royce claimed their cars never broke down, they just failed to proceed. In 1932, Kipling's Phantom failed to proceed when he was in the south of France, so he phoned the company's Paris office and asked for a mechanic. By noon the next day he still hadn't heard anything, so he was going to complain, but the manager of the hotel he was staying in told him: "The gentleman from Rolls-Royce came last night. It was only a minor matter." The mechanic came in the middle of the night, fixed the car, gone before sunrise and didn't announce it to Kipling because he didn't want to disturb his sleep. Over 60% of Rolls-Royce cars ever made are still roadworthy.

General Ignorance

- The world's most expensive metal is rhodium. At the time of recording, gold costs about $50,000 a kilo, platinum is about $27,000 a kilo, and rhodium is $350,000 per kilo. Rhodium is both rare and useful, hence the value. 80% of rhodium is used in catalytic converters. The amount of rhodium used in a car weighs about the same as one quarter of a postage stamp, but still adds £70 to the price of the car. Rhodium is also used as a plate for white gold and in heart pacemakers.

- XL Tangent: The average tonne of the Earth's crust contains just 0.001g of rhodium, which is the same as a 30th of grain of rice. In 2018, only 22 tonnes was mined, which is the weight of a cruise ship anchor.

- XL Tangent: The problem with investing in rhodium however is catalytic converters are on the decline due to electric cars becoming more popular. Electric cars however, have their own problem which is as they are so quite pedestrian don't hear them. Thus, a new law says that all cars have to make a significant noise. Holly used to live near a strip joint in Hackney which advertised itself with a car with A-board that made orgasm noises. Jaguar made a car that made a noise like a spaceship from a sci-fi film, but when it went passed pedestrians looked up into the sky. Aisling was in a taxi in Dublin that when the horn was pressed it made the sound of horses whinnying. The most likely solution is for cars to make an old-fashioned engine noise. The act of making things look or sound older or more naturalistic than they are is called skeuomorphism.

- XL: Friction matches work using a chemical reaction using phosphorous, but the phosphorous is on the striking strip on the side of the box. The strip also has powdered glass. The phosphorous can be made by boiling urine, which was how it was discovered by a German chemist and alchemist.

- XL Tangent: According to legend, Swan Vesta once saved thousands of pounds after a factory worker suggested they put sandpaper on just one side of the box.

- Heathrow Airport has four terminals: Terminals 2-5, because Terminal 1 closed in 2015. All of Terminal 1's flights have since been diverted to Terminal 2. When Terminal 1 opened in 1969 it was the biggest passenger terminal in Western Europe, but by the end the terminal had about five shops and 20 planes. (Forfeit: Five)

- Tangent: Supposedly Heathrow has a Terminal 6 that is reserved for famous people, royals and heads of state. It is reportedly a posh lounge behind an unmarked door in Terminal 5. It costs £2,750 plus VAT. Terminal 6 has no shops, but big brands like Dior will bring you things, and you get taken to the plane by a BMW.


- Holly Walsh: 9 points
- The Audience: 3 points
- Alan Davies: -9 points
- Aisling Bea: -25 points
- Cally Beaton: -30 points

Broadcast details

Thursday 11th June 2020
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 12th September 2020 9:00pm
45 minute version
Wednesday 7th April 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 8th April 2021 1:15am
60 minute version
Tuesday 20th July 2021 10:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 21st July 2021 2:00am
65 minute version
Thursday 4th November 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 3rd March 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Aisling Bea Guest
Holly Walsh Guest
Cally Beaton Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Anna Ptaszynski Script Editor
Sandi Toksvig Script Editor
Mike Turner Question Writer
Production team
Diccon Ramsay Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Nick Collier Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer
Pritesh Ladva Graphics
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
Ed Brooke-Hitching Researcher
Mandy Fenton Researcher
Jack Chambers Researcher
Emily Jupitus Researcher
James Rawson Researcher
Ethan Ruparelia Researcher
Sarah Clay Commissioning Editor



How many terminals does Heathrow have?

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Aisling Bea, Holly Walsh & Cally Beaton.

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