EXCEPTION TO THE RULE

GB
1958
30mins
Dir: Bernard Knowles
Starring: Robert Beatty and Paul Whitsun-Jones

Police make an exception to the rule and take up arms against a violent gang of robbers

Dial 999 was a British television series that ran for a total of 38 episodes from 1958 to 1959. It starred Robert Beatty as a Canadian Mountie working alongside Scotland Yard. Beatty was essentially reprising his role in the 1946 film Appointment with Crime (qv), in which he played a Canadian police officer attached to Scotland Yard. Although popular in the UK, where this became one of many such series’, Beatty’s involvement failed to make Dial 999 the hoped for success in the North American market. As it is a TV-series Dial 999 does not merit a formal listing, but like the police in this episode I too have made an “Exception to the Rule” because this one episode features something very rare indeed. We are treated to some marvellous shots of a Sentinel vertical boliered geared steam locomotive working at the Standard Brick & Sand Company at Holmethorpe, near Redhill, in Surrey. The locomotive is works/no.6994 built by Sentinel of Shrewsbury in 1927 as a vertical-boilered loco. It was delivered initially to the Jersey Eastern Railway where it formed the ‘power unit’ of a Sentinel steam railcar, but the railway closed in June 1929, and after the railcar was dismantled to provide holiday accommodation as a bungalow (!?) the locomotive was repatriated to England. By February 1935, the locomotive had been sold to William Jones Ltd. of Greenwich, London, who rebuilt it with a steel body as an 0-4-0 geared shunting locomotive. It eventually moved to Redhill in 1946. In June 1962, it moved again, this time to the Kent & East Sussex Railway where it remained until March 1973 when it was sent to Aylesbury Scrap Metals for disposal. In addition to this lovely treat, there is a brief shot of a Southern Region electric service passing on the Redhill avoiding line.

Shots of bridges do not normally warrant a mention but in this instance it helps set the scene. This is the footbridge over the Redhill line leading from Frenches Road to Holmethorpe Avenue. This was the original LB&SCR main line of 1841 and the bridge is still there today. The phone box and adjacent bus stop are also both still here, though they have been upgraded to something a lot more modern.
Looking like a cross between a crane and Toby the Tram Engine this is in fact a steam locomotive. The unusual machine is a 4-wheeled geared vertical-boilered locomotive, built by Sentinel of Shrewsbury in 1927 to works/no.6994. Despite appearances it was coal-fired, and was a cross between a conventional steam locomotive and a mechanical diesel. The steel ‘cladding’ covering the locomotives boiler was not part of the original construction. It was added in 1934/35 when the loco was rebuilt to a geared shunting engine.
Robert Beatty climbs aboard the loco as it carries out the shunting of some open wagons. These sidings were at the Standard Brick & Sand Co. in Holmethorpe, near Redhill, Surrey. Note the sand on the front bufferbeam of the loco!
As the police talk to the driver of the locomotive some wagons are visible through the arch taking Trowers Lane beneath the ‘Quarry Line’. The driver was played by Patrick Boxill in an uncredited role. Presumably, he was the actual driver employed by the sand company. Note the pile of coal visible to the right inside the loco’s cab.
In this view from the entrance to the factory on Trowers Way, a formation of SR electric units runs along the embankment carrying the LB&SCR’s ‘Quarry Line’. This line was a double-track route, from Coulsdon to Earlswood, which ran mostly parallel with the original main line of 1841. The route was built to avoid the bottleneck of Redhill station and it opened to passenger traffic on 1st April 1899. The cottages in the distance formed part of Holmethorpe but the whole area now forms part of an industrial estate.
After the gang have been arrested, Robert Beatty and Gordon Bell watch on as the Sentinel loco trundles past forming a nice comparison with the car. Looking at the loco, Robert Beatty’s final words close out the film: ‘One day soon i’m going come back here and have an awful lot of fun with that’.