The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

Choose another collection

Watching the Trains Go By

A trackside view: see the railway as witnessed by the passenger, the enthusiast and the amateur cine-camera.

Sir John Betjeman, for one, wrote movingly about the glorious indulgence of watching trains go by. For others, the joy of this hobby was enhanced by a particular piece of equipment - hail the railway enthusiast with a cine camera! The decline of steam traction and the mass line closures of the 1950s and 60s coincided with the introduction of affordable film cameras, and many enthusiasts took to the rails to record scenes that would soon change beyond recognition. Their films, however crude or shaky, are now priceless history.

triangle triangle
Watching the Trains Go By

RECOMMENDED

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 Trail of The Iron Horse
Trail of The Iron Horse
Watch for free

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 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 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 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 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

BROWSE THE COLLECTION

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 Open Day at Brighton Station
Open Day at Brighton Station
Watch for free 2 mins

Open Day at Brighton Station 1974

There's an impressive line-up of preserved steam at Brighton Station in this film from the early seventies

2 mins United Kingdom

View From Colleges to Courses
From Colleges to Courses
Watch for free 12 mins

From Colleges to Courses 1967

A train journey beginning at the Cambridgeshire capital and terminating at the tiny station of Kennett, where the train staff enjoy a cup of tea.

12 mins United Kingdom

View The Selsey Tramway
The Selsey Tramway
Watch for free 1 mins

The Selsey Tramway 1928

This amazing footage captures a unique little railway at work during its declining years in the late 1920s

1 mins United Kingdom

View Carmarthen Railway Activities
Carmarthen Railway Activities
Watch for free 1 mins

Carmarthen Railway Activities 1950

A young boy, fascinated by town life after being brought up in a mining village, captures on film the comings-and-goings at Carmarthen Railway Station.

1 mins Wales

View Ffestiniog Railway - Rough Cut
Ffestiniog Railway - Rough Cut
Watch for free 10 mins

Ffestiniog Railway - Rough Cut 1956

Coach restoration, weed killing and Bessie Jones, wearer of Welsh costume, gathering visitors for tea at her station cottage at Tan-y-Bwlch on the Ffestiniog Railway.

10 mins England

View The Ffestiniog Railway
The Ffestiniog Railway
Watch for free 15 mins

The Ffestiniog Railway 1957

It’s all go to get the Ffestiniog Railway back on track after its 8 year closure (1946-1954). The Ffestiniog Railway Company, the new owner, is undertaking its restoration.

15 mins England

View Holidays with Train Driving Lessons
Holidays with Train Driving Lessons
Watch for free 3 mins

Holidays with Train Driving Lessons 1979

“It’s a living creature, not just a load of metal. It’s alive and warm - you’ve got to nurse it.” Tom fulfils his ambition to drive a steam locomotive.

3 mins United Kingdom

View Future Uncertain
Future Uncertain
Watch for free 8 mins

Future Uncertain 1968

A whistle-stop venture from Kings Lynn to Hunstanton via rail, in the company of Chib Thorp, amateur filmmaker and rail enthusiast from Leigh on Sea.

8 mins United Kingdom

View Rails Into Ghost Town
Rails Into Ghost Town
Watch for free 20 mins

Rails Into Ghost Town 1966

Amateur filmmaker Chib Thorpe clutches his train bible – a British Railways timetable, accompanied by willing travellers, wife Edna and Micky the Border Collie.

20 mins United Kingdom

View Llanfair Railway
Llanfair Railway
Watch for free 11 mins

Llanfair Railway 1960

Beware the iron horse – locomotive 822 [The Earl] – lumbering through the streets of Welshpool, no barriers to keep it at bay, and emerging, ghost-like, from its shed at night!

11 mins Wales

View Bousfield Personal Film 2: Colour Scrapbook
Bousfield Personal Film 2: Colour Scrapbook
Watch for free 10 mins

Bousfield Personal Film 2: Colour Scrapbook 1937

An aptly named scrapbook film featuring a train spotter's view of King's Cross around 1937, river journeys and Home Guard training

10 mins Great Britain

View Steam Museum at Cadeby Vicarage
Steam Museum at Cadeby Vicarage
Watch for free 5 mins

Steam Museum at Cadeby Vicarage 1973

At a vicarage in Leicestershire a little bit of the old Great Western Railway lives on.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Last Years of Victoria to Portsmouth Expresses
Last Years of Victoria to Portsmouth Expresses
Watch for free 2 mins

Last Years of Victoria to Portsmouth Expresses 1977

There's slam-door action aplenty in this film which chronicles the end of mid-Sussex expresses being routed through Dorking Station

2 mins United Kingdom

View Miniature Railway - Stapleford
Miniature Railway - Stapleford
Watch for free 6 mins

Miniature Railway - Stapleford 1975

At Stapleford Park near Melton Mowbray Lord Gretton has fulfilled a dream in running his own railway.

6 mins United Kingdom

View Wrexham Central to Ellesmere Line 1962
Wrexham Central to Ellesmere Line 1962
Watch for free 12 mins

Wrexham Central to Ellesmere Line 1962 1962

The last passengers to travel the Wrexham Central to Ellesmere Line on 8/9/1962 are recorded by a railway and film enthusiast.

12 mins Wales

View A Steam Train Returns to the Rails
A Steam Train Returns to the Rails
Watch for free 3 mins

A Steam Train Returns to the Rails 1988

Plumes of smoke join the clouds again as a steam train races across Northern Ireland. If steam trains retired in 1970 is this one is eighteen years late?

3 mins Northern Ireland Director. A.H Martin

View SS Mona's Isle V
SS Mona's Isle V
Watch for free 3 mins

SS Mona's Isle V 1978

Amateur film maker A.H. Martin captures the SS Mona’s Isle V at work two years before the ship stars for Hugh Hudson in ‘Chariots of Fire’.

3 mins Northern Ireland Director. A.H Martin

View Hardboard Hotel
Hardboard Hotel
Watch for free 3 mins

Hardboard Hotel 1970

Feast your eyes on this buffet for transport lovers. Squeeze in a visit to the ‘hardboard hotel’ between your train and plane spotting.

3 mins Northern Ireland Director. A.H Martin

View Moving Motorways: The Spoil Train to Belfast
Moving Motorways: The Spoil Train to Belfast
Watch for free 10 mins

Moving Motorways: The Spoil Train to Belfast 1967

Celebrate the final years of steam by chasing the Spoil Train across Antrim, as yesterday’s quarry waste becomes today’s busiest motorway.

10 mins Northern Ireland Director. A.H Martin

View King’s Wimbledon Presentation, Wimbledon
King’s Wimbledon Presentation, Wimbledon
Watch for free

King’s Wimbledon Presentation, Wimbledon 1935

Short extract from a home movie featuring children from King’s College School, Wimbledon, visiting the station and seeing the King’s Wimbledon locomotive.

United Kingdom

View A Railway Miscellany
A Railway Miscellany
Watch for free 11 mins

A Railway Miscellany 1970

Railways great and small, past, present and preserved - a snapshot of rail in Britain in the 1970s.

11 mins United Kingdom

View West London Line
West London Line
Watch for free 16 mins

West London Line 1961

A variety of hard working Great Western motive power is on display in this impressive and atmospheric film shot during the twilight years of steam in West London

16 mins United Kingdom

View Steam Smoke & Sentiment
Steam Smoke & Sentiment
Watch for free 16 mins

Steam Smoke & Sentiment 1982

Steam, smoke, grime and oil add to the atmosphere of this award winning film about a day in the life of the Bluebell Railway

16 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 Bluebell Railway Through the Years
Bluebell Railway Through the Years
Watch for free

Bluebell Railway Through the Years 1970

Twenty years of the Bluebell Railway are chronicled in this film - featuring open days, journeys on low-loaders, the Golden Arrow Pullman service and even Stephenson's Rocket

31 mins United Kingdom

View NYMR News No. 1
NYMR News No. 1
Watch for free 4 mins

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 NYMR News No. 2
NYMR News No. 2
Watch for free 6 mins

NYMR News No. 2 1974

Rails are lifted, fishplates fitted and keys hammered into place, as another Sir Nigel Gresley, saved from the scrapyard, gets a second life on the North Yorkshire Moors.

6 mins United Kingdom

View NYMR News No. 3
NYMR News No. 3
Watch for free 20 mins

NYMR News No. 3 1975

A railway year to remember, with celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Stockton to Darlington line, the opening of the National Railway Museum and steam engines aplenty.

20 mins United Kingdom

View NYMR News No. 4
NYMR News No. 4
Watch for free 14 mins

NYMR News No. 4 1976

Beeching may have had his way in devastating the railway network, but thankfully many railway enthusiasts were on hand to save at least some lines, as here on the North York Moors.

14 mins United Kingdom

View NYMR News No. 5
NYMR News No. 5
Watch for free 11 mins

NYMR News No. 5 1978

All aboard the Silver Jubilee special in the company of Leon Brittan as it wends its way across the North York Moors pulled by a steam loco with the famous name of George Stephenson.

11 mins United Kingdom

View Steam Again in Devon
Steam Again in Devon
Watch for free 1 mins

Steam Again in Devon 1973

Steam Again in Devon - the Iconic Flying Scotsman

1 mins United Kingdom

View David and Goliath
David and Goliath
Watch for free 1 mins

David and Goliath 1926

A gleaming giant of steam and its cute Lilliputian cousin are an even match in this newsreel battle of the trains

1 mins United Kingdom

View Once upon a Line
Once upon a Line
Watch for free

Once upon a Line 1947

Model husbands prove that size isn't everything as they get steamed up over Lilliput locomotives

21 mins United Kingdom

View Bousfield Personal Film 2: Colour Scrapbook
Bousfield Personal Film 2: Colour Scrapbook
Watch for free 10 mins

Bousfield Personal Film 2: Colour Scrapbook 1937

An aptly named scrapbook film featuring a train spotter's view of King's Cross around 1937, river journeys and Home Guard training

10 mins Great Britain

View Rowntrees Kit Kat: Model Train: 82997
Rowntrees Kit Kat: Model Train: 82997
Watch for free 1 mins

Rowntrees Kit Kat: Model Train: 82997 1957

Tri-ang model railways are a lure for children and big kids, but Kit Kat gets the grown-ups' attention

1 mins United Kingdom

View Railway Scenes - Wilmslow
Railway Scenes - Wilmslow
Watch for free 15 mins

Railway Scenes - Wilmslow 1959

From diesel to electrification - a miscellany of railway footage in Cheshire.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Push and Pull
Push and Pull
Watch for free 6 mins

Push and Pull 1968

The age of steam lingers on as the `Worth Valley Railway Re-Opening Special' pulls into Keighley station, and hardly an anorak in sight.

6 mins United Kingdom

View Mid Wales Express and Sir Haydn
Mid Wales Express and Sir Haydn
Watch for free 6 mins

Mid Wales Express and Sir Haydn 1984

The Mid Wales Express is on tour with star attraction ‘Sir Haydn’, a Talyllyn Railway locomotive, the aim being to promote Wales as an ideal location for industry and tourism.

6 mins Wales

View Cader Idris & Talyllyn
Cader Idris & Talyllyn
Watch for free 13 mins

Cader Idris & Talyllyn 1957

Down Talyllyn way, 22/5/1957, with the Rev W V Awdry of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ fame and other Talyllyn Railway notables. J Adams films the BBC filming ‘Now’ series footage.

13 mins England

View Summer Service Only
Summer Service Only
Watch for free 12 mins

Summer Service Only 1957

P B Whitehouse, an authority on railways, extols the virtues of “the little railway” – the Talyllyn - that runs from Rhydyronen to Abergynolwyn and beyond.

12 mins United Kingdom Director. P.B. Whitehouse

View Talyllyn Railway Royal Visit 1982
Talyllyn Railway Royal Visit 1982
Watch for free 5 mins

Talyllyn Railway Royal Visit 1982 1982

Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, take a one-station trip on one of the country’s little trains, Charles riding in the cab from Pendre to Rhydyronen.

5 mins Wales

View The Fathew Flyer
The Fathew Flyer
Watch for free 6 mins

The Fathew Flyer 1979

Alan Willmott cranks up the speed on this Talyllyn Railway Special so that those visitors who wish to “do” Wales in a day can pack more in!

6 mins England

View Miniature Railway
Miniature Railway
Watch for free 5 mins

Miniature Railway 1926

Giants attack steam train! Oh, hold on, it’s a miniature railway.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Camwell Personal Film No. 47: Wales and Scotland
Camwell Personal Film No. 47: Wales and Scotland
Watch for free 15 mins

Camwell Personal Film No. 47: Wales and Scotland 1960

A journey through the Valleys on the LNWR line from Nantybwch to Risca and the SLS/RCTS Scottish Rail Tour Week.

15 mins United Kingdom Director. William Arthur Camwell

View Camwell Personal Film No. 59: Diesel brake-van Tour
Camwell Personal Film No. 59: Diesel brake-van Tour
Watch for free 3 mins

Camwell Personal Film No. 59: Diesel brake-van Tour 1962

From Ipswich depot to Hadleigh station in a brake van: there's standing room only on this Ramblers special.

3 mins United Kingdom Director. William Arthur Camwell

View Camwell Personal Film No. 133: Paddington
Camwell Personal Film No. 133: Paddington
Watch for free 4 mins

Camwell Personal Film No. 133: Paddington 1964

Panniers and Prairies work valiantly to prepare coaching stock for the West of England expresses.

4 mins United Kingdom Director. William Arthur Camwell

View Camwell Personal Film No. 106: Crewe Sorting Sidings North
Camwell Personal Film No. 106: Crewe Sorting Sidings North
Watch for free 4 mins

Camwell Personal Film No. 106: Crewe Sorting Sidings North 1965

The wires may be up but there are plenty of steam locomotives in the Crewe area - Patriots, Black 5s and Britannias galore!

4 mins United Kingdom Director. William Arthur Camwell

View Camwell Personal Film No. 15: Blc Visit to Cadbury
Camwell Personal Film No. 15: Blc Visit to Cadbury
Watch for free

Camwell Personal Film No. 15: Blc Visit to Cadbury 1955

A reel of Midlands-based locomotive rail tours including a visit to the Cadbury’s shunter depot.

22 mins United Kingdom Director. William Arthur Camwell

View The One-forty-five
The One-forty-five
Watch for free 5 mins

The One-forty-five 1962

A man, troubled and trapped in a deserted station, misses the only train...

5 mins United Kingdom Director. Crea Tarrant

View British Rail - Awayday to the Seaside
British Rail - Awayday to the Seaside
Watch for free 1 mins

British Rail - Awayday to the Seaside 1976

See through the eyes of a seagull who bemoans how easy it is for humans to have a day out at 'his' seaside.

1 mins United Kingdom

Cookies Policy

This website uses cookies, as explained in our Cookies Policy.

To accept the terms and hide this message please click 'I accept'.

I accept

Passionate about film? So are we…

Don't miss the email made for the in-the-know film fan:

New releases — on the same day as in cinemas Special collections & unheralded classics Exclusive news on discounts


Never ask | Ask me later