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Railways on Film

Tracking shots: cinema and the railways have enjoyed a long journey together, starting in the Victorian era and yet to hit the buffers.

Cinema's railway obsession goes back to the dawn of the medium, when French pioneers the Lumière brothers filmed the arrival of a train at la Ciotat in 1895. British filmmakers soon took to the tracks, beginning a long and happy relationship between railways and film. Rail gave film all it could wish for: movement, energy, exotic adventure and its own special romance. Our collection travels far and wide, from amateur enthusiasts to the polished work of big studio productions and the official British Transport Films.

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Railways on Film

RECOMMENDED

View Railways for Ever!
Railways for Ever!
Watch for free 7 mins

Railways for Ever! 1970

Sir John Betjeman reminisces about the phasing out of the mainline steam operation.

7 mins United Kingdom Director. Norman Prouting

View The Kiss in the Tunnel
The Kiss in the Tunnel
Watch for free 3 mins

The Kiss in the Tunnel 1899

The earliest film kiss held by the BFI National Archive is this stolen smooch aboard a steam train, an important example of Victorian film.

3 mins United Kingdom Director. G.A. Smith

View A Mug's Game, Or, How to Squash a Lemon Head
A Mug's Game, Or, How to Squash a Lemon Head
Watch for free 4 mins

A Mug's Game, Or, How to Squash a Lemon Head 1967

Yo-yo, Pogo and Splat (guess which one's the lemon head?) feature in this innovative stop-motion railway safety film

4 mins United Kingdom Director. Desmond Macnamara, Robin Carruthers

View The Long Drag
The Long Drag
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The Long Drag 1963

Not just a chance to see locomotives steaming over viaducts, with the axe hanging over both, here we have the full glory of the Settle to Carlisle line, and its place in rural life.

51 mins United Kingdom

View Great North of Scotland Railway Films
Great North of Scotland Railway Films
Watch for free 20 mins

Great North of Scotland Railway Films 1963

Train enthusiast David Gordon, Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair, films a stunning array of steam engines as they whistle through the colourful Scottish countryside in the 1960s.

20 mins Scotland

View Terminus
Terminus
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Terminus 1961 U

The daily rhythms and dramas of Waterloo station are captured in John Schlesinger’s influential early film.

33 mins United Kingdom

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View Rails To Talsarn
Rails To Talsarn
Watch for free 4 mins

Rails To Talsarn 1962

Horse-drawn railway: ‘Prince’ and ‘Corwen’ pull slate wagons from Pen-yr-Orsedd quarry to Tal-y-sarn station, guided by Mr Oswald Jones, guard/driver.

4 mins Wales

View The Country Railway
The Country Railway
Watch for free 4 mins

The Country Railway 1976

David St John Thomas talks about his book The Country Railway

4 mins United Kingdom

View Ovaltine - Train
Ovaltine - Train
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Ovaltine - Train 1985

Ovaltina will pick you up! With an electronic 80s synth and a catchy theme tune, Ovaltina parachutes in to save the day

1 mins United Kingdom Director. Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton

View Midnight Mail
Midnight Mail
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Midnight Mail 1915

Knowledge of Morse code and having a train driver as a sweetheart come in handy in this ‘race to the rescue’ crime thriller.

United Kingdom Director. Warwick Buckland

View Railway Cottages at Blackwell
Railway Cottages at Blackwell
Watch for free 4 mins

Railway Cottages at Blackwell 1972

Would you be able to cope if 500 tonnes of diesel hauled express train hammered past your front window every few minutes? Seems as if you get used to it!

4 mins United Kingdom

View Darlington Railway
Darlington Railway
Watch for free 12 mins

Darlington Railway 1960

A documentary ballad of the Darlington North Road locomen who keep the engines rolling as the age of steam gives way to diesel on the railways.

12 mins England

View Fatal Train Smash
Fatal Train Smash
Watch for free 1 mins

Fatal Train Smash 1931

The clean-up begins after a Royal Scot Class express passenger train derails near Leighton Buzzard

1 mins United Kingdom

View Birmingham Terrible Railway Smash
Birmingham Terrible Railway Smash
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Birmingham Terrible Railway Smash 1915

Scenes of carnage across the west coast main line as carriage compartments are turned inside out - a mysterious rail accident with a tragic outcome

United Kingdom

View A Smash on the L.N.E.R.
A Smash on the L.N.E.R.
Watch for free 1 mins

A Smash on the L.N.E.R. 1929

Dramatic newsreel showing the mangled wreckage of an express train being hoisted from the track

1 mins United Kingdom

View Operation Bluebell
Operation Bluebell
Watch for free 6 mins

Operation Bluebell 1960

Enjoy this charming film from Trevor White which charts the birth of the Bluebell Railway - from the germ of an idea into a fully functioning steam railway

6 mins United Kingdom

View I Am a Litter Basket
I Am a Litter Basket
Watch for free 9 mins

I Am a Litter Basket 1959

A heartfelt cry on behalf of the world's litter-baskets.

9 mins United Kingdom Director. James Ritchie

View Sale of Railway Fittings
Sale of Railway Fittings
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Sale of Railway Fittings 1964

A sentimental sale or simply for profit? British Railways sells off the history that doesn't fit with the swinging sixties.

5 mins United Kingdom

View The Official Film of the Railway Centenary
The Official Film of the Railway Centenary
Watch for free 17 mins

The Official Film of the Railway Centenary 1925

A grand parade of locomotives to celebrate 100 years of railways and the world’s first passenger trains

17 mins United Kingdom

View Neville Chamberlain Opens New Railway Station
Neville Chamberlain Opens New Railway Station
Watch for free 3 mins

Neville Chamberlain Opens New Railway Station 1926

Empire News Bulletin record the Conservative Minister Neville Chamberlain at Welwyn Station's official opening ceremony.

3 mins United Kingdom

View To Build an Island's Future
To Build an Island's Future
Watch for free 6 mins

To Build an Island's Future 1954

Through blazing sun and monsoon rain new British built diesel locomotives keep communications open on the far off island of Ceylon.

6 mins United Kingdom

View The Kiss in the Tunnel
The Kiss in the Tunnel
Watch for free 3 mins

The Kiss in the Tunnel 1899

The earliest film kiss held by the BFI National Archive is this stolen smooch aboard a steam train, an important example of Victorian film.

3 mins United Kingdom Director. G.A. Smith

View Journey on the Coronation Scot
Journey on the Coronation Scot
Watch for free 3 mins

Journey on the Coronation Scot 1937

Princess Alice' hauls her passengers to Scotland aboard the streamlined Coronation Scot in this dazzling film from the late 1930s

3 mins United Kingdom

View The Liverpool Railway Centenary
The Liverpool Railway Centenary
Watch for free 1 mins

The Liverpool Railway Centenary 1930

Transports of delight as the Liverpool and Manchester Railway celebrates its centenary

1 mins United Kingdom

View The Ghost Train
The Ghost Train
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The Ghost Train 1931

Surviving footage of the first sound version of Arnold Ridley's famous railway station comedy thriller

72 mins United Kingdom Director. Walter Forde

View The Great Barrier
The Great Barrier
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The Great Barrier 1937

Ambitious, stirring British Western that pits man against the elements in the battle to drive a railway through the Canadian Rockies

84 mins United Kingdom Director. Milton Rosmer

View Pathways of Perfection
Pathways of Perfection
Watch for free 10 mins

Pathways of Perfection 1937

The Royal Scot, the Flying Scotsman, the Cornish Riviera and the Golden Arrow: famous trains considered to be upholders of a great British tradition

10 mins United Kingdom

View Railways for Ever!
Railways for Ever!
Watch for free 7 mins

Railways for Ever! 1970

Sir John Betjeman reminisces about the phasing out of the mainline steam operation.

7 mins United Kingdom Director. Norman Prouting

View Wexford Railway Station
Wexford Railway Station
Watch for free 1 mins

Wexford Railway Station 1902

A flurry of activity at Wexford Railway Station as passengers alight an Edwardian steam train.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Swansea, Victoria - Pontardulais Railway, 1964 (June)
Swansea, Victoria - Pontardulais Railway, 1964 (June)
Watch for free 12 mins

Swansea, Victoria - Pontardulais Railway, 1964 (June) 1964

“It would be difficult to find a more lovely train journey”, declares Swansea’s Librarian, the film-maker and narrator. Prepare to be beguiled, station by station.

12 mins Wales

View Bicton Woodland Railway
Bicton Woodland Railway
Watch for free 1 mins

Bicton Woodland Railway 1976

Bicton Woodland Railway reopens to passengers for the summer season

1 mins United Kingdom

View Folkestone's Leas Lift Cliff Railway and the Crab & Winkle Line
Folkestone's Leas Lift Cliff Railway and the Crab & Winkle Line
Watch for free 15 mins

Folkestone's Leas Lift Cliff Railway and the Crab & Winkle Line 1955

A triple treat for rail fans is featured here with signalbox action, a seaside cliff-railway and an eerie walk along the ghost of a line - plus a bonus for aviation enthusiasts

15 mins United Kingdom

View Train Ride to Devil's Bridge
Train Ride to Devil's Bridge
Watch for free 10 mins

Train Ride to Devil's Bridge 1964

12 miles of magic as we journey on the Vale of Rheidol Railway, one of the Great Little Trains of Wales

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Alan J. Willmott

View Training Diesel Drivers
Training Diesel Drivers
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Training Diesel Drivers 1962

Farewell to the faithful steam war-horse as modernisation brings diesel power to the railways of Britain.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Farewell to Steam
Farewell to Steam
Watch for free 2 mins

Farewell to Steam 1966

A film maker's attempt to record the last steam-hauled passenger and freight trains running along the West of England mainline from Waterloo

2 mins United Kingdom

View Track Testing
Track Testing
Watch for free 7 mins

Track Testing 1976

Testing times as we make a journey on board British Rail's High Speed Track Recording Coach.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Solutions?
Solutions?
Watch for free 7 mins

Solutions? 1972

A musical illustration of life where road traffic chaos breeds anger and frustration, but the rail network is fast, smooth and relaxing

7 mins United Kingdom Director. Norman Prouting

View The George Bennie Railplane System of Transport
The George Bennie Railplane System of Transport
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The George Bennie Railplane System of Transport 1930

High-speed luxury travel up to 150mph: the future of rail travel is in the air and it's going to be great for British steel

23 mins United Kingdom

View Inter-city 1250
Inter-city 1250
Watch for free 4 mins

Inter-city 1250 1982

King's Cross to Peterborough at 1250 miles per hour on board the Intercity 125

4 mins United Kingdom Director. C. David Lochner

View Inter-city Magic
Inter-city Magic
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Inter-city Magic 1977

Not-so-special special effects add the magic touch to this kitsch British Rail commercial.

30 mins United Kingdom Director. Paul Dickson

View Railway Vicar
Railway Vicar
Watch for free 6 mins

Railway Vicar 1978

Church bells, organs and choirs are all sounds you'd expect to hear at a church - but what about the sound of a steam locomotive at full tilt?

6 mins United Kingdom

View The Rocket
The Rocket
Watch for free 4 mins

The Rocket 1929

A full size replica of Robert Stephenson’s world famous locomotive, The Rocket, steams up a 1920s crowd at the North Road Works in Darlington.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Trail of The Iron Horse
Trail of The Iron Horse
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Trail of The Iron Horse 1966

Shy and testy retired signalman Wally Trigg chats to amateur filmmaker and railway enthusiast Chib Thorp, as Micky the Collie happily ambles along the overgrown railway line.

36 mins United Kingdom

View Railway with a Heart of Gold
Railway with a Heart of Gold
Watch for free 14 mins

Railway with a Heart of Gold 1965

At the heart of the Talyllyn Railway are the volunteers – e.g. schoolboys, bus drivers, actors – whose commitment ensures the line’s continuance, despite the odd derailment.

14 mins USA

View Among the Rails of Wales
Among the Rails of Wales
Watch for free 11 mins

Among the Rails of Wales 1952

Jim Fraser of Bristol, with great affection for his subject, introduces the viewer to the “quaint little railways and tramways” of Wales.

11 mins England

View A Special Event
A Special Event
Watch for free 1 mins

A Special Event 1958

The West Sussex Downsman railtour visits Midhurst, eminent Victorians appear in Petersfield and part of the town's railway fabric is demolished just before its centenary

1 mins United Kingdom

View John Betjeman Goes by Train: King's Lynn to Hunstanton
John Betjeman Goes by Train: King's Lynn to Hunstanton
Watch for free 10 mins

John Betjeman Goes by Train: King's Lynn to Hunstanton 1962

John Betjeman revels in the pleasures of travelling along the small branch line from King's Lynn to Hunstanton.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Malcolm Freegard

View Great Northern Railway Works at Doncaster
Great Northern Railway Works at Doncaster
Watch for free 5 mins

Great Northern Railway Works at Doncaster 1900

Countless men, women and children spill out on to the screen from "The Plant" at the heart of the Yorkshire railway town.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Mining Review 19th Year No. 11
Mining Review 19th Year No. 11
Watch for free 10 mins

Mining Review 19th Year No. 11 1966

Coal touched all our lives, as this issue of the cinemagazine demonstrates with items on a miner's wife turned mayor, a Coal Board chess team and more.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Severn Valley Railway
Severn Valley Railway
Watch for free 6 mins

Severn Valley Railway 1976

Is Chris Tarrant up to shovelling a ton and a half of coal to keep the fire burning and the steam up between Bridgnorth and Bewdley?

6 mins United Kingdom

View Railways - Derelict and Preserved
Railways - Derelict and Preserved
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Railways - Derelict and Preserved 1975

Come and see Rocket 150, and visit a selection of railway locations, past and preserved.

32 mins United Kingdom

View Repairing Track After Mustard Gas Attack
Repairing Track After Mustard Gas Attack
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Repairing Track After Mustard Gas Attack 1941

With the horrific effects of gas warfare still fresh in the memory, rubberised men – like extras from a 1950s British sci fi movie – prepare for more, with 1940s attention to detail.

44 mins United Kingdom

View Enginemen
Enginemen
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Enginemen 1959

This poetic Free Cinema documentary, filmed near Manchester, reflects on the changing world of the engineman.

21 mins United Kingdom Director. Michael Grigsby

View Night Mail
Night Mail
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Night Mail 1936 U

The flagship of the GPO Film Unit's output and a cornerstone of British documentary, featuring music by Benjamin Britten and the verse of W.H. Auden.

23 mins United Kingdom Director. Harry Watt, Basil Charles Wright

View Terminus
Terminus
Watch for free

Terminus 1961 U

The daily rhythms and dramas of Waterloo station are captured in John Schlesinger’s influential early film.

33 mins United Kingdom

View The Lady Vanishes
The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes 1938 U

An old woman disappears mysteriously on a busy train in Hitchcock’s delightful classic.

97 mins United Kingdom Director. Alfred Hitchcock

View Inter-city Magic
Inter-city Magic
Watch for free

Inter-city Magic 1977

Not-so-special special effects add the magic touch to this kitsch British Rail commercial.

30 mins United Kingdom Director. Paul Dickson

View Pathways of Perfection
Pathways of Perfection
Watch for free 10 mins

Pathways of Perfection 1937

The Royal Scot, the Flying Scotsman, the Cornish Riviera and the Golden Arrow: famous trains considered to be upholders of a great British tradition

10 mins United Kingdom

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