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Romance of Rail

The passionate affair between film and the train has given us some of the most moving moving images ever shot.

There's something inherently romantic about rail travel. Lovers parting and reuniting; long journeys to exotic places; the rush past beautiful scenery; chance encounters (brief or otherwise) in station cafes, dining cars or private compartments - and that's before we get to the Freudian symbolism of trains and tunnels... No wonder filmmakers of all kinds have embraced trains so passionately. And of course the trains themselves, especially in steam's golden age, have a romance all their own, now preserved in celluloid forever.

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Romance of Rail


View The Kiss in the Tunnel
The Kiss in the Tunnel
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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 Railways for Ever!
Railways for Ever!
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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 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 The Liverpool Railway Centenary
The Liverpool Railway Centenary
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The Liverpool Railway Centenary 1930

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

1 mins United Kingdom

View Journey on the Coronation Scot
Journey on the Coronation Scot
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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 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 Pathways of Perfection
Pathways of Perfection
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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

16 mins United Kingdom

View Brief Encounter
Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter 1945 PG

Noël Coward’s tale of a love affair, thrillingly played out with tight British reserve.

86 mins United Kingdom Director. David Lean

View Old Steam Railways
Old Steam Railways
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Old Steam Railways 1938

Enjoy this nostalgic steam-hauled jaunt through the West Sussex countryside as we travel on rural lines soon to suffer the Beeching axe.

16 mins United Kingdom

View Petworth, Midhurst & Petersfield Line
Petworth, Midhurst & Petersfield Line
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Petworth, Midhurst & Petersfield Line 1955

The twenty miles of rural railway that once lay between Pulborough and Petersfield is wonderfully immortalised in this film from the mid-fifties

20 mins United Kingdom

View Worth Valley Railway
Worth Valley Railway
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Worth Valley Railway 1982

Be transported back in time through Brontë country, looking out from the footplate as passengers hang their heads out of the windows with the steam blowing through their hair.

2 mins United Kingdom

View A4s at Haymarket
A4s at Haymarket
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A4s at Haymarket 1963

Watch these once mighty streamliners still hard at work in steam's twilight years

16 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 The 39 Steps
The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps 1935 U

Sublime and suspenseful version of the popular John Buchan spy thriller from the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock.

86 mins United Kingdom Director. Alfred Hitchcock

View NYMR News No. 1
NYMR News No. 1
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NYMR News No. 1 1973

No money incentives required for the dedicated volunteers bringing the defunct Whitby to Pickering up to speed for re-opening, and for the arrival of the iconic Flying Scotsman.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Resurrection
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Resurrection 1966

Impressionistic homage to the sound and fury of the steam engine, creating an illusion – a dream – of a locomotive rising again from the Barry scrapyard.

8 mins Wales

View Mystery Junction
Mystery Junction
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Mystery Junction 1951 PG

A crime writer is called into action when his train journey is punctuated by a piercing scream and a missing murder suspect.

63 mins United Kingdom Director. Michael McCarthy

View Elizabethan Express
Elizabethan Express
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Elizabethan Express 1954

Relive the summertime express between Kings Cross and Waverley, which covered 393 in just 6 hours non-stop.

20 mins United Kingdom Director. Tony Thompson

View Sleeping Car to Trieste
Sleeping Car to Trieste
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Sleeping Car to Trieste 1948 PG

The Orient Express plays host to a plot involving adultery, espionage, robbery and murder in this fine British thriller.

95 mins United Kingdom Director. John Paddy Carstairs

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 Song of Toledo
Song of Toledo
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Song of Toledo 1953

This merrily musical short film takes a jovial trip across picturesque 1950s Spain aboard the Talgo Express

32 mins United Kingdom Director. Ted Leversuch

View Runaway Railway
Runaway Railway
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Runaway Railway 1965

A pre-Porridge Ronnie Barker plays a dim-witted train robber up to no good in this steam-era comedy adventure for kids

55 mins United Kingdom Director. Jan Darnley-Smith

View Kate Plus Ten
Kate Plus Ten
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Kate Plus Ten 1938

Laughs and thrills come thick and fast in this Edgar Wallace comedy-thriller with a hair-raising car versus train chase.

80 mins United Kingdom Director. Reginald Denham

View The Gold Express
The Gold Express
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The Gold Express 1955 U

Claustrophobic train-set comedy-thriller with a gang of crooks intent on stealing a gold shipment on a Scotland to London express.

58 mins United Kingdom Director. Guy Fergusson

View Playground Express
Playground Express
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Playground Express 1955

Kids face the closure of their Brighton playground but fight back to reclaim it, with a little help from the iconic Volks Railway

17 mins United Kingdom Director. John Irwin

View Death Was a Passenger
Death Was a Passenger
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Death Was a Passenger 1958

A chance meeting on a train brings back memories of a wartime escape.

18 mins United Kingdom Director. Theodore Zichy

View The Mail Goes Through
The Mail Goes Through
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The Mail Goes Through 1947

Witness the no-so-great train robbery in this post-war cartoon, produced "in glorious monochrome"

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Lawrence Wright

View Men against the Sun
Men against the Sun
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Men against the Sun 1953 PG

Marauding lions, wild rhinos and deadly slave traders wait on the dangerous trail from Mombasa to Uganda

65 mins United Kingdom Director. Brendan J. Stafford

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