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.
The Kiss in the Tunnel
The earliest film kiss held by the BFI National Archive is this stolen smooch aboard a steam train, an important example of Victorian film.
A Mug's Game, Or, How to Squash a Lemon Head
Animation & Artists Moving Image19674 mins
Yo-yo, Pogo and Splat (guess which one's the lemon head?) feature in this innovative stop-motion railway safety film
The Long Drag
Documentary196351 mins Location: Settle
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.
Great North of Scotland Railway Films
Amateur film196326 mins Location: Aberdeen
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.
Rails To Talsarn
Non-Fiction19624 mins Location: Talysarn
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.
King George V and Queen Mary at a Railway Station
Leaving the station becomes a right royal affair when the King and Queen travel by train
Conway Castle - panoramic view of Conway on the L.& N.W. Railway
Non-Fiction18982 mins Location: Conwy Castle
Conwy's bridge, castle and station glide past, as if in a dream, in this beautiful phantom train ride film (no ghosts but apparently no train either) from 1898.
Railway Cottages at Blackwell
Non-Fiction19724 mins Location: Blackwell
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!
Documentary196013 mins Location: Darlington
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.
Birmingham Terrible Railway Smash
Non-Fiction19152 mins Location: Birmingham
Scenes of carnage across the west coast main line as carriage compartments are turned inside out - a mysterious rail accident with a tragic outcome
Amateur film19607 mins Location: Bluebell Railway
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
Sale of Railway Fittings
Non-Fiction19645 mins Location: Derby
A sentimental sale or simply for profit? British Railways sells off the history that doesn't fit with the swinging sixties.
The Official Film of the Railway Centenary
Non-Fiction192519 mins Location: Darlington
A grand parade of locomotives to celebrate 100 years of railways and the world’s first passenger trains
Neville Chamberlain Opens New Railway Station
Non-Fiction19264 mins Location: Welwyn Garden City
Empire News Bulletin record the Conservative Minister Neville Chamberlain at Welwyn Station's official opening ceremony.
To Build an Island's Future
Promotional19547 mins Location: Loughborough
Through blazing sun and monsoon rain new British built diesel locomotives keep communications open on the far off island of Ceylon.
Romance of Rail
The passionate affair between film and the train has given us some of the most moving moving images ever shot.
See Britain by train! There's no better way to explore your own country - as train companies have never been slow to remind us.
Train to the Future
All change! The railways embodied the spirit of modernity in the 19th century, and technology has wrought huge changes ever since.
Watching the Trains Go By
A trackside view: see the railway as witnessed by the passenger, the enthusiast and the amateur cine-camera.
Building a British Railway
The railways are one of the glories of British engineering, and their maintenance remains a Herculean task.