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The end of Sleeper trains. The end of movie magic?

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Movie clapper boardIt’s a shame that the Sleeper train is being phased out Europe.  It’s long been a favourite setting for movies since the dawn of cinema, but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to ruin the romance of train travel.

I think locomotives, especially sleeper carriages, appear in cinema so much because they instantly evoke a period feel that is always good for a murder or mystery - even Doctor Who got in on the act recently with an episode set on the Orient Express (albeit in space!)

It is also a very good place to tell a story as you’ve got all your cast contained in something that they can get off!

In actual fact, Sleeper carriages will still be running in the UK - you can go from Euston to either Inverness or Glasgow daily, or from Paddington to Penzance as you have been able to since 1877.

Why were Steam engines in particular so prevalent in the movies?

I think in the early days of cinema audiences wanted to see the romance and modernity of rail travel. it was the equivalent of 1st class air travel today.

At a time when most people might never leave the town that they were born in, the luxury of the carriages and the notion of travelling far away, must have been intoxicating.

Add to that the romance and drama that can be invoked by station platforms wreathed in smoke and steam, and you can see why steam engines (rather than Diesel) in particular works so well on screen.

Have any of Bressingham’s Steam locomotives appeared in films?

A couple of Bressingham’s locos have appeared in films - most notably a big European built war machine from WWII called a Kriegslok (German for “war machine”, fittingly!) appeared in Martin Scorsese’s 2011 Hugo.

It was transported to Shepperton Studios and used as one in the trains in their re-creation of a Paris train station in the early 20th-century.

We also currently have another of our locomotives, King Haakon, dressed up in disguise at Warner Bros Studios (although we are sworn to secrecy as to what movie it will be appearing in!)

King Haakon is a Norwegian loco which famously will transported the King of Norway to safety, escaping the Nazi invasion in WWII!

In addition to this, another great locomotive, a GWR 4900 Class loco called Olton Hall, is also at Warner Bros Studios presently pulling the Hogwarts Express at the Harry Potter Studio Experience - although for that role it has been rechristened the “Hogwarts Castle”.

Some favourite movie moments involving steam engines

It’s hard for me to pick a favourite movie moment involving Steam engines - anything of that nature gets me interested and feeling nostalgic!

Polar Express is one of my favourite christmas train movies, and it’s a great one for kids.

Murder on the Orient Express in all it’s various guises and Brief Encounter do it for me, in all their quaintness and British-ness.

But, probably my favourite - mainly because I read the book constantly as a child - is The Railway Children.

Frankly, speaking as a child of the ‘70’s, you can’t beat a 1970’s film for nostalgic appeal - especially if it’s got Bernard Cribbens in it!

Do you have any favourite locomotive related movie moments?

Do you have any thoughts, comments or views on Steam engines in cinema?

Is there anything you think we should have mentioned?

If there is get in touch and let us know – you can also do it on Facebook or Twitter.

Copyright: ekinyalgin / 123RF Stock Photo


By Alastair Baker at 23 Oct 2014, 18:30 PM