Rare Railway films released on BFI Player

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The BFI today unveils a major new collection of rare railway films for everyone across the UK to enjoy, free of charge. The BFI National Archive and regional and national archives have joined together to release Railways on Film on BFI Player, the BFI’s VOD site featuring the glories of Britain’s railways through the 20th century with a fascinating range of rare and unseen footage. The films in Railways on Film are all newly digitised, and show legendary – and lost –locomotives and records of journeys it would now be impossible to undertake. For anyone who remembers any of the golden ages of train travel, whether steam, diesel or electric – or wishes that they did – there is much to enjoy.

With over 200 films this is a major new addition to BFI Player and includes rare footage of some of the greatest steam engines ever built: Pathways of Perfection (1937) is a celebration of four British express trains: The Royal Scot, The Flying Scotsman, The Cornish Riviera, and The Golden Arrow. http://player.bfi.org.uk/collections/railways-on-film/

Robin Baker, Head Curator, BFI National Archive said: “Many of the classics of British cinema – from Night Mail (1936) to Brief Encounter (1945) – have demonstrated Britain’s love affair with the railways. There can certainly be no more evocative, cinematic subject than the steam train hurtling across the British landscape. Railways on Film brings together over 200 films – many seen in public for the first time – that explore and celebrate not just the romance of the railways, but their importance to the social, political and economic life of Britain.”

Some other curators’ favourites you won’t have seen before give an indication of the sheer variety of the films on offer:

Conway Castle – panoramic view of Conway on the L.& N.W. Railway (1898)  (National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales) An early example of the phantom train ride, this beautiful film, shot in February 1898, has a dream-like quality with its hand-tinted colours.

Building a British Locomotive (1905) – shows the construction of a new express steam loco for the London and North Western Railway (which we know today as the West Coast Main Line)

The Official Film of the Railway Centenary (1925)

Newly restored with tinting.  The Railway Centenary is the celebration of 100 years since the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway – a grand parade of locomotives on the route of the original track bed with the presence of HRH Duke and Duchess of York.

The Ghost Train (1931)

The Ghost Train (1931)

The Ghost Train (1931) – An undiscovered archive treasure – only 40 minutes survive of this Arnold Ridley feature film of phantom trains and gun runners. Of the 40 minutes only 10 minutes are in sound.

Along the Line (1947) – A documentary showing the growth of, and present-day jobs on the British Railways. Illustrates some of the jobs available including engine cleaner, fireman, and engine driver. Basic locomotive maintenance is shown. The job of a signalman, shunters and the guard is also explained. How the postal service uses the trains to transport mail is also highlighted. The work of the maintenance gangs that look after the tracks is shown. It argues that the jobs are not easy but worthwhile.

Once Upon a Line (1947) – From a series called Model Husbands – offering an insight into the activities of model railway clubs around London.

An advertisement for Rowntree’s Kit Kat – Model Train (1957) – Two grown men play with a Tri-ang model train-set whilst their boys have to resign themselves to watch, the boys open a Kit-Kat and offer half to the adults – the only way to get them to relinquish control of the train-set.

A Mug’s Game or How to Squash a Lemon Head (1967)

A Mug’s Game or How to Squash a Lemon Head (1967)

A Mug’s Game or How to Squash a Lemon Head (1967) – Puppet cartoon made to deter young people from vandalism which endangers passengers, rail workers and the children themselves.

Holidays with Train Driving Lessons (1979)  (East Anglian Film Archive) An unusual choice of holiday, but for a rail enthusiast it fulfils a lifetime ambition, as North Norfolk Railway offer those with a fascination for steam locomotives a week-long experience to work on one of their trains.

Through Britain on Film on BFI Player wherever you are in the UK there are films which will reveal the past of your own area or take you on a journey to places you never knew.

Steve Foxon, curator, Railways on Film, BFI National Archive is available for interview by arrangement with the BFI Press Office.

Join the conversation on Twitter at #RailwayOnFilm

See the whole collection at BFI Player at: http://player.bfi.org.uk/collections/railways-on-film/

News Editor

Author: News Editor

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