superior children's drama, true to E Nesbit's story
'The Railway Children' is probably much better known now from the film version made in 1970, which also featured Jenny Agutter as Bobbie Faraday, the eldest of the children transported by circumstances to the Three Chimneys cottage near the old steam railway.
This version has some differences in the storyline and, with seven episodes of 25 minutes each, can spend a reasonable amount of time exploring the story lines of E. Nesbit's novel. Most of the other parts were recast for the later film (although I think the actor playing Jim, who gets injured on the paper chase, is the same) so it is interesting to compare the two.
Ann Castle is a more realistic and grittier mother than Dinah Sheridan was later, while Neil MacDermott and Gillian Bailey are closer to the real ages of their characters than Sally Thomsett in particular was in the film. All four principals bring strong characterisation to their parts - you care about what happens to them and hope their story has a happy ending.
Despite Joseph O'Conor being a rather sentimental old gentleman (as William Mervyn and later, Richard Attenborough would be in the same role), this version of 'The Railway Children' doesn't have the same saccharine feel that the film had (although the scene where Bobbie sees her father on the station platform feels a bit flat here without all the smoke effects!).
This series is well worth seeing, not only because it is a fine adaptation, but also because it is a good showcase for live television and a strong role for a young Agutter. It has had a DVD release and although the picture quality isn't fantastic, it is perfectly watchable.
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