Our new favourite …


What’s it called?

The Best Of British Transport Films: 70th Anniversary Collection

What’s it about?

It’s a celebration of the work of British Transport Film, the organisation set up a year after the nationalisation of the railways in 1948 to document and promote it. Now there are two types of people in this world, those who are excited by the thought of 20 or so short films about trains, and those who aren’t. If you’re in the first group, you have a treat in store. If you’re not, stop reading now.

Who’s in it?

The great British public, mostly, seen hurtling along in plush Pullman carriages, milling around in stations, or doing any of the hundreds of jobs required to keep the British railway system moving. Edinburgh also features – it’s seen in all its sooty glory in 1954’s Elizabethan Express and at the start of 1960’s They Take The High Road – and there are some well-known names behind the camera too. Most notable are John Betjeman, who narrates 1970’s Railways For Ever!, and British director John Schlesinger, who won an Oscar for Midnight Cowboy but who cut his teeth on the wonderful Terminus, from 1961.

Best bits?

Verse features a lot, none of it very good. Elizabethan Express is the worst culprit. At one point we’re introduced to two Scottish crew members, one of whom sports “bristle as tough as a John Knox epistle. When he kissed a young lass in the dark for a lark, she asked: ‘Was that you or a thistle?’”. Come back McGonagall, all is forgiven.

Where can I find it?

It’s released by the BFI as a two-disc set on May 20.

Fun fact …

The soundtrack for Terminus was composed by Ron Grainer, who would go on to create the theme tune for … Doctor Who.

For fans of ...

Murder On The Orient Express, Thomas The Tank Engine, re-nationalising the railway.