This film is part of Free

Building a British Railway - Constructing the Locomotive

Magnificent glimpses inside Crewe’s famous works - where a steam loco takes shape before our eyes

Non-Fiction 1911 12 mins Silent


Roll up, roll up! Step inside Crewe's famous railway works to witness a steam locomotive taking shape before your eyes. In 1905, actuality images of production processes, normally hidden from view, were still a novelty for cinema audiences. Revisited today they are invaluable artefacts of early filmmaking, building blocks for what later became documentary film. They're also precious industrial records – in this case, of the vanished world of early twentieth century railways.

In 1905 the pioneering Charles Urban Trading Company, with the cooperation of the London and North Western Railway, produced two series of 'interest films', released episodically under the umbrella title Building a British Railway. Sadly, this large fragment is all that is known to have survived of either series: a tantalising glimpse at what has been lost, what remains is magnificent all the same. As well as the precious visual documentation of several later stages in the construction of a railway engine (followed by it being run out of the shed), there is the striking spectacle of an engine being coaled by conveyor belt.