Titfield Thunderbolt, The (1953 Ealing with Stanley Holloway and John Gregson)


UK / 1953 / Ealing

Writer: T E B Clarke / Director: Charles Crichton

Cast: Stanley Holloway, George Relph, Naunton Wayne, John Gregson, Edie Martin

The village of Titfield is linked to Mallingford town by a single track railway which is closed down because it is losing money. The villagers, roused by train enthusiast Weech (George Relph), lay plans to run the line independently and rich, drunken eccentric Valentine (Stanley Holloway) provides the money.

Their action arouses the opposition of the local bus company, run by Pearce (Ewan Roberts) and Vernon Crump (Jack McGowran), who attempt various acts of sabotage when the new line is opened. Unsuccessful, they resort to wrecking the train itself at night. However, the bulldog spirit triumphs. The original Titfield Thunderbolt is brought out of the museum and, with Weech as driver and the visiting bishop (Godfrey Tearle) as fireman, makes a successful run to Mallingford, passing the approval of the British Railways inspector, who gives the line permission to continue.

Like screenwriter T E B Clarke’s Passport to Pimlico, the thrust of this film was the conflict between a self-contained community, bureaucrats and the spirit of free enterprise incarnated in the bus company. Ironically, while the film was a homage to Britain’s celebrated love of trains, Picturegoer was moved to write: “Not a single railway enthusiast to be found in the whole crew. T E B ‘Tibby’ Clarke, writer of the script, loathes trains. Producer Michael Truman can’t get out of them quick enough. And director Charles Crichton, well you won’t find him taking engine numbers at Paddington.”