By Rob Coles: It is now seventy years since the Iconic and much loved film, The Titfield Thunderbolt, was made by Ealing Studies. The filming location was centered on Monkton Combe station and the Cam Valley railway line, Freshford and Bristol Temple Meads also feature. To mark the date a new book by local author and publisher, Simon Castens tells the full story of the the film – The Titfield Thunderbolt The Story of a Much Loved Film – is available from the Oldfield Park Bookshop in Bath.
When I was a young schoolboy I cycled down Shaft Road from Combe Down with my friend Michael to Monkton Combe to see the filming of the Ealing Comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt. Past the arc lights and bustle of filming we found the real star sleeping on a siding line opposite the station, Thunderbolt. More accurately Lion. the 0-4-2 locomotive built for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1838, even in 1952 it was well over one hundred years old.
The film’s story was about villagers taking over their railway that British Railways were closing, Following an act of sabotage by a bus company an antique locomotive was brought from a museum to the the Titfield line to run the service.
For the final scene at Bristol Temple Meads, the Thunderbolt traveled on the main line from Limpley Stoke line to Bristol and must have surprised passengers on Bath Spa station as it passed at a stately ten miles an hour.
The definitive account of the making of the film has now been written by author, publisher and Titfield Thunderbolt expert, Simon Castens who has researched the film for very many years. In its nearly 200 pages the book includes 320 photos, many previously unpublished – The Titfield Thunderbolt The Story of a Much Loved Film – is available from the Oldfield Park Bookshop, Moorland Road, Bath, and from the author’s Titfield Thunderbolt bookshop, Studio 4, Tollbridge Studies, Tollbridge Road, Batheaston. Check opening times on web site or phone 01225 462332.
Released in 1953 The Titfield Thunderbolt is regularly screened on TV was directed by Charles Crichton and starred the late great Stanley Holloway along with Naunton Wayne, George Relph and John Gregson – not forgetting the beautiful Gabrielle Brune and a young Sid James.
The character actress Edie Martin who played Emilie in the film had a 32 year career in movies – many for the Boulton Brothers in the 1950s and first appeared on stage in 1886 in Victorian theatre. The film is packed with British character actors and also included the Australian actress Nancy O’Neil as Mrs Blakeworth.
The screen play came from the pen of T E B Clarke, and the superb cinematography was by Douglas Slocombe with music by Georges Auric.
Note: Rob Coles is a long standing resident of the city and we are grateful for his recollections of Bath gone by which we can share with the thousands of residents who read the Bath Voice, both online and in the paper publication out on the first of the month.
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