Buy a ticket on the London to Edinburgh summertime express
This film is one of the gems among the many short documentary films made by the British Transport Commission in the post-war years until about 1980.
Just 20 minutes long, this classic short is available on the BFI's "On and Off the Rails" (The British Transport Films Collection - Volume One), a two-DVD set that contains fourteen short films.
We join the "Silver Fox", one of Sir Nigel Gresley's great A4 streamlined locomotives, running the 0930 summertime service called the "Elizabethan Express", from London's King's Cross station to Edinburgh's Waverley station, where it arrives on time at 1600. At the time, this was the longest non-stop railway journey in the world to be timed at over 60 mph.
This black and white film is beautifully shot and captures the glamour, speed and excitement of railway travel in the early 1950s. The men who make this happen - the drivers, the guard, the cooks and stewards - are the focus of this film, along with staff along the line, staff who are 'off the rails'.
The film's unusual rhyming commentary was controversial at the time but works well enough, and even raises a smile here and there. Popular in cinemas when released in 1954, this film is one of the best-known railway films.
There is some footage of Durham Cathedral and of crossing the River Tyne at Newcastle, but most of the film stays 'on the rails' from start to journey's end.
This is time travel for real and it's not just for railway enthusiasts. It's now history and will be of interest also to those who want to understand how their ancestors lived. See the film and travel to the recent past!
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