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Brunel's Railway Today : Intercity Paddington-bristol

150th anniversary of the Great Western Railway: the official film

1985 10 mins Silent


As the Great Western Railway’s 150th anniversary drew close, both our nationalised railways and their in-house filmmaking units were heading towards a junction of uncertainties. Difficult futures lay on the tracks ahead, and this official film commissioned to mark the anniversary seems to reflect that climate. It’s no grand celebration. Instead it has a muted, even melancholy feel - and is all the more fascinating for it. Worth noting too is that although produced using both 16mm film and video in 1985, the copy of the film shown here derives from the master used for a 1990 VHS re-release.

PR-wise, 1985 proved a timetabling debacle for British Rail: the GWR anniversary coincided with their announcement that they would soon be closing their legendary Swindon works, first built by the GWR in Brunel’s time. Meanwhile, filmmaking was experiencing its own awkward transition, from a post-war world of illustrious industrial cinema to the cheap-if-not-cheerful world of corporate video. This film sits squarely at the crossing between the two. A drivers-eye-view of the InterCity journey from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, it echoes both the phantom rides of the late 19th century and popular time-lapse train journeys of the post-war years. The low-key experimental electronic soundtrack is by Edward Williams, composer of many lavish scores that graced the big screen classics of British Transport Films' heyday.