This film is part of Free

Darlington Railway

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.

Documentary 1960 13 mins

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Logo for North East Film Archive


The poetry of steam and diesel is set into song by radical folk musicians Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in a film that celebrates the Darlington North Road locomen who work around the clock to keep the engines rolling on the railways. This imaginative television documentary, tinged with nostalgia, creates a rich tapestry of actuality and sung narration, heavily influenced by the revolutionary BBC Radio Ballads.

As Head of Features in the early years of Tyne Tees TV, Herbert K. Lewenhak produced two ballad documentaries on working mens lives in the North East under the title The Way We Live (this one broadcast on 9 March 1960), for which 20th century folk chroniclers Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger wrote, scored and performed the narration. Along with Charles Parker, both musicians were creators of the critically acclaimed BBC Radio Ballads (1958-1964), which broke the mould of radio programmes. The North Road Works, Darlington, opened in 1863 to repair and build engines for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, but officially closed in April 1966 with the loss of 2,150 jobs, a victim of the notorious Beeching Axe.