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The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953)

Not Rated | | Comedy | 20 October 1953 (USA)
Volunteers take over their local passenger train service (against bus company resistance) when the government announces its closure.


Charles Crichton


T.E.B. Clarke (original screenplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Stanley Holloway ... Valentine
George Relph George Relph ... Weech
Naunton Wayne ... Blakeworth
John Gregson ... Gordon
Godfrey Tearle Godfrey Tearle ... The Bishop
Hugh Griffith ... Dan
Gabrielle Brune Gabrielle Brune ... Joan
Sidney James ... Hawkins
Reginald Beckwith Reginald Beckwith ... Coggett
Edie Martin ... Emily
Michael Trubshawe ... Ruddock
Jack MacGowran ... Vernon Crump (as Jack McGowran)
Ewan Roberts ... Alec Pearce
Herbert C. Walton Herbert C. Walton ... Seth
John Rudling John Rudling ... Clegg


The residents of a small English village are about to lose their ancient railroad. They decide to rescue it by running it themselves, in competition with the local bus company. Written by Blair Stannard <stannard@sonetis.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Full steam ahead for this comedy classic! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

20 October 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Blixten från Titfield See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)| Mono (Gaumont Kalee Recording)


Color (Colour by) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The name Titfield, created by T.E.B. Clarke, came from the adjacent villages of Titsey and Limpsfield in Surrey. See more »


When the locomotive is stolen from the turntable in the railway yard, it is able to negotiate the streets in the town and bends in the road out of town. This would not be possible as engines have no steering: the rails guide them and when cornering, there is a small amount of slip on the inside wheels. Even steering like a military tank (powering one side only) would not be possible as all the linkages and axles on the locomotive are fixed to drive together. See more »


Emily: Excuse me Sir but we are running at a profit.
Sam Weech: This is DREADFUL. The next thing we know we SHOULD BE NATIONALIZED!
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Featured in The Unforgettable Sid James (2000) See more »


The Eton Boating Song
Music by Algernon Drummond
Lyrics by William Johnson
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"She's as good as she ever was. I'll stake my living on it!"
3 January 2008 | by ackstasisSee all my reviews

The Ealing comedies have never looked as wonderful as in 'The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953),' the first from the studio to be filmed in Technicolor. Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe captures the sheer magnificence of the British countryside, every frame alive with the vibrant colours of the hills, the trees and the skies. The film was directed by Charles Crichton, who had earlier achieved success with 'The Lavender Hill Mob (1951),' and was penned by T.E.B. Clarke, who also wrote the outrageously whimsical 'Passport to Pimlico (1949),' encapsulating the wit and optimism of the British sense of humour in a way that typifies why such classic comedy gems are still treasured more than fifty years later. The story was inspired by real events, when local volunteers restored and operated the narrow gauge Talyllyn Railway in Wales.

The residents of the small village of Titfield rely daily on trains to commute to work each day; so much so that the steam locomotive has become an icon of the town. However, when British Rail announces the intended closure of the service, the villagers are understandably devastated, and one resident, railway enthusiast Vicar Sam Weech (George Relph), decides to purchase the line and run it locally. Employing the funding of the wealthy and amiably-drunken Walter Valentine (Stanley Holloway), who is easily persuaded by the promise of an early-morning bar on the train, Sam and the other enthusiastic villagers convince the Ministry of Transport to offer them a one month trial, at the end of which their ability to run a train service will be determined. The only two men in town who don't approve of this daring venture are Pearce and Crump (Ewan Roberts and Jack MacGowran), the owners of a bus service, who plan to gain from the closure of the train service, and will try anything to prevent it from running again.

'The Titfield Thunderbolt' shares many of its themes with a lot of the other Ealing comedies, most namely the notion of a small community taking on the "Big Guys" {also found in 'Passport to Pimlico' and 'Whisky Galore!'} and the potentially destructive forces of industrial progress {see also 'The Man in the White Suit (1951)'}. The acting is fun and light-hearted, and each of the characters possesses their own eccentricities, which makes them all equally enjoyable to watch. Considering its nature as a comedy, I was surprised to find that the film has some genuine moments of suspense, scenes that would not have seemed out-of-place in a Hitchcock film. I found myself gripping the seat in the sequence where the train passengers must disembark to collect water for the heating engine (after the water-tank is cunningly sabotaged), and also where the weak coupling between the engine and the carriage threatens to snap. The frequent use of rear-projection, which is relatively effective throughout the film, also reminded me of the Master of Suspense. It's an interesting comparison, I think.

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