1hr 27mins
Dir: George Pollock
Starring: Margaret Rutherford and Arthur Kennedy

Whilst traveling by rail, Miss Marple witnesses the strangling of a young woman in the carriage of an overtaking train

This murder mystery film was based on the novel 4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie. MGM made three sequels, Murder at the Gallop, Murder Most Foul and Murder Ahoy!, all with Rutherford starring as Christie’s famed amateur sleuth, though this first film was the only one to feature any railway material. This is quite understandable given the story, and although most footage is made up of standard stock shots there is one, real rarity. The opening scenes were filmed at London Paddington with general shots of the platforms and a 9400-series 0-6-0PT, a large 2-6-2T, and a Class 117 DMU are visible. Most of the coaching stock appears to be ‘blood & custard’ and maroon liveried BR Mk1’s. There then follows a close up of 9400 Class 0-6-0PT No.9410 at the buffer stops before Margaret Rutherford gets on the train. After this there is a change of station as there follows a number of stock shots that were originally filmed for the 1948 movie Train of Events (qv) of trains leaving London Euston. One is just a ground level shot of the wheels and motion of what appears to be an ex-LMS ‘Duchess’ Class 8P 4-6-2 along with coach bogies, but the other shots show an ex-LMS Class 5MT ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 and a ‘Jubilee’ Class 6P 4-6-0. There is then a shot of another ‘Jubilee’ with an express, this time on Bushey troughs, before the important scene where Miss Marple witnesses the murder. This starts off with a good shot on the West Coast Main Line of a clean BR Standard Class 4MT 2-6-4T on a local passenger being overtaken by an express that may be hauled by another ‘Jubilee’, though as it passes behind it is largely obscured. Curiously, this overtaking train is then depicted by a mixture of studio filming of a carriage interior set with back projection footage shown through Miss Marple’s carriage ‘window’. The loco of the overtaking train has become ex-GWR 2251 Class 0-6-0 No. 2221 but note that the loco passes in reverse as identified through the backwards reading cabside numberplate! There is then another shot of an LMS Class 5MT ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 on an express, possibly on the Midland Main Line. Other railway shots appear throughout the film which were largely shot back on the Western Region near Taplow on the GWML. What looks to be a ‘King’ Class 4-6-0 passes in close up on an embankment as Miss Marple searches the line for clues, and then a pair of three-car Class 117 DMUs and a ‘Castle’ Class 4-6-0 pass over a bridge as she arrives at Ackenthorpe Hall, which adjoins the railway line, though in this instance the shots are largely obscured. Although Ackenthorpe Hall was really Radnor Hall near Elstree, the entrance gates and road bridge under the railway used Amerden Lane, Taplow. There is then a long shot of a ‘King’ Class 4-6-0 passing as Miss Marple pretends to play golf near a railway embankment followed by a real rarity in the form of North British-built D600-series ‘Warship’ No. D603 Conquest passing on another express. This is in fact the best shot in the whole film and it is a true gem as it is so far the only known appearance of one of these short-lived diesel-hydraulic locomotives in a feature film. Only five were ever built and all were withdrawn in 1967. In an age where steam was fast declining it seems odd that the camera crew should film a diesel-hauled express. It would be nice to think that they realised its significance and though this is unlikely it still seems odd that it was retained when a shot of yet another ‘King’ would have sufficed. We can be thankful that it was. There is then one final shot at the very end of a ‘Castle’ Class 4-6-0.

London Paddington, little changed today really except for overhead electrification
A Large Prairie tank simmers on the left with a Class 117 DMU with its white cab roof visible on the right
Pannier Tank No.9410 forms the backdrop as Margaret Rutherford makes her way to the train
From Paddington we switch to Euston, and this is clearly a Duchess pulling away at the start of its journey north
Although obscured by the titles announcing George H Brown as the producer, this shot shows a ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0
And this darkened shot shows a ‘Jubilee’ 4-6-0
A ‘Jubilee’ takes water on Bushey troughs
A fabulous shot of what is the author’s favourite steam locomotive, a BR Standard Class 4MT 2-6-4 tank.
Moments later and the local stopper is overtaken by an express, possibly hauled by another ‘Jubilee’
This overtaking scene is then played out in most unusual circumstances. As Margaret Rutherford looks out of her studio bound carriage a vintage GWR 2251 Class 0-6-0 No.2221 passes by outside. The footplate crew are hard at work but the numberplate, although partly obscured, clearly reads backwards. Whether accidental or not, this shows that the film has been reversed.
Back to the lineside now and another ‘Black Five’ passes at speed
Margaret Rutherford and Stringer Davis pretending to be platelayers. This is the GWR main line between Taplow and the Thames Bridge at Maidenhead.
An express storms past, probably in the hands of a ‘King’ (it looks just that little bit bigger than a ‘Castle’)
A good semi-distant view of an express. The loco glinting at the head is a ‘King’.
WHAT A SHOT. This is a truly magnificent glimpse of a very rare locomotive indeed, a D600-series ‘Warship’. Technically, these were the original Warships but they were short-lived and video footage of them in service is rather limited. This loco entered service on 21st November 1958 and was withdrawn along with its four siblings on 30th December 1967, before the end of BR steam.
Significantly, the camera pans long enough for the loco’s identity to be revealed. It is D603 Conquest. Note the open bodyside windows to the right of the nameplate. These would have been opened to allow air to circulate the engine room as an aid to prevent the unreliable MAN engines from overheating. We should be forever thankful to the production crew for filming such a beast.
As the film ends a ‘Castle’ Class 4-6-0 crosses Amerden Lane, Taplow.