When the Lumière brothers screened their short film “L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat” in 1895, their audience infamously experienced a surge of panic when the film unfurled; never before had a film captured one continuous take of a real-life occurrence, let alone one that showed a train seemingly bearing down on them.
In the decades that followed, railways were featured in over 200 British films. The emphasis on locomotives showed off not only the evolution of technology, but also how the attitudes of train passengers changed throughout the years.
In honor of Britain’s industrial past in conjunction with film’s portrayal of a romanticized form of transportation, the BFI announced this morning that it will feature hundreds of “Railways on Film” features free of charge for all audiences via BFI’s Player and VOD channels.
Thanks to Steve Foxon, curator for the BFI National Archive, viewers will be able to watch fiction and non-fiction films ranging in length and even a few television commercials and cartoons about railways. The collection itself showcases different representations by society, spanning from 1898 to 1979.
Robin Baker, Head Curator, BFI National Archive said, “Many of the classics of British cinema – from ‘Night Mail’ to ‘Brief Encounter’ – have demonstrated Britain’s love affair with the railways. There can certainly be no more evocative, cinematic subject than the steam train hurtling across the British landscape. Railways on Film brings together over 200 films – many seen in public for the first time – that explore and celebrate not just the romance of the railways, but their importance to the social, political and economic life of Britain.”
Highlights from the Railways Films collection include:
“Conway Castle” (1898)
“Building a British Locomotive” (1905)
“The Official Film of the Railway Centenary” (1925)
“The Ghost Train” (1931)
“Pathways of Perfection” (1937)
“Along the Line” (1947)
“Once Upon a Line” (1947)
“Model Train” (1957)
“A Mug’s Game or How to Squash a Lemon Head” (1967)
“Holidays with Train Driving Lessons” (1979)
Click here to get going on the locomotive stories.