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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 for Ever!
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Railways for Ever!

Documentary19707 mins

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

The Kiss in the Tunnel
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The Kiss in the Tunnel

Comedy18992 mins

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
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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
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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
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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.

Terminus
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Terminus

Documentary196133 mins Location: Waterloo Sta

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

The Stronach-Dutton Road-Rail Tractor
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The Stronach-Dutton Road-Rail Tractor

Sponsored film192521 mins

Is it a car? Is it a train? No, it's a super Stronach-Dutton road-rail tractor!

Rails To Talsarn
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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.

The Country Railway
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The Country Railway

News19765 mins Location: Buckfastleigh

David St John Thomas talks about his book The Country Railway

Ovaltine - Train
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Ovaltine - Train

Advert19851 mins

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

Midnight Mail
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Midnight Mail

Crime19159 mins

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

King George V and Queen Mary at a Railway Station
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King George V and Queen Mary at a Railway Station

Non-Fiction1914 mins

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
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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
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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!

Darlington Railway
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Darlington Railway

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.

Fatal Train Smash
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Fatal Train Smash

Non-Fiction19311 mins Location: Linslade

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

Birmingham Terrible Railway Smash
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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

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

Non-Fiction19291 mins

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

Operation Bluebell
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Operation Bluebell

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

I Am a Litter Basket
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I Am a Litter Basket

Public Information Filler19596 mins

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

Sale of Railway Fittings
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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
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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
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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
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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.

Explore further

Romance of Rail
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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.

Going Places
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Going Places

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
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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
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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
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Building a British Railway

The railways are one of the glories of British engineering, and their maintenance remains a Herculean task.

The Man in Seat Sixty-One: Railways on Film
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The Man in Seat Sixty-One: Railways on Film

Mark Smith, 'The Man in Seat Sixty-One' (www.seat61.com) with the invaluable website for travelling anywhere by train, selects his favourite films from the Railways on Film collection.