So, Michael Palin was right. In his 1979 "Great Railway Journeys' of the World" trip for the BBC from London to Scotland, he said that the start of a long railway journey was one of the great moments in life.
In this film "The Elizabethan" we share that feeling as the prestigious express train makes ready to leave from the famed platform 10 at London's Kings Cross station, as it did every morning at 9.30 for its headlong journey to Edinburgh. The sense of anticipation and excitement of the train departing is still palpable, more than 50 years later (and in black and white!) as the huge wheels of the A4 Pacific start to roll, then we get the low level track side shot of the train heading out of Kings Cross. Classic stuff! The film is an excellent look at how these great British express trains were run, and the kind of people and places they served. Of course, it's still happening: The GNER (Great North Eastern Railway) trains of today still do this trip many times each day, and dare I say that they do it even faster than the steamers used to do it, but rather more effortlessly and not so photogenically.
The A4 engines in this film are visibly trying very hard, with steam and smoke gushing from every vent and we even see the fireman shovelling coal heroically to keep the beast moving. We see the engine picking up water at speed from the between-the-rails troughs, and spray goes everywhere: You can't get all that visual eye candy from someone opening up the throttle of an electric - even though the result is a faster journey.
The narrator is Alan Wheatley who played the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1950s TV Robin Hood Series (in which Richard Greene played the title role). I knew I had heard that voice somewhere before and I finally figured it out.
I was one year old when this film was made - but I think it's great. From the opening 1954 overview of Kings Cross station concourse (shortly to be viewed in colour in the 1955 Ealing comedy film "The Lady Killers") through the shots of stations along the way, and to the majesty that is Edinburgh, it's a pleasure that even the occasionally "ouch" rhyming of the narration cannot wholly diminish.
Track it down and see it. One of the great moment of life for all railway holics.
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