Dir: David Eady
Starring: Bernard Cribbins and Carole Rousseau
Children club together to foil a master criminal’s intention to smuggle a priceless Egyptian sarcophagus out of the country
This Children’s Film Foundation family crime drama is a REAL railway film with a truly staggering amount of railway footage. It has a railway background throughout that can roughly be split into four sections. The opening scenes take place in Temple Mills Marshalling Yard in East London, and a huge amount of wagon types can be seen in what was still a working hump yard at the time (as noted in the title card at the top). A child has illegally entered the yard to find his model airplane and is then chased by a couple of shunting staff. The chase is surprisingly well worked, with both the child and railway staff dodging in and out of moving wagons and stabled rakes of stock, the chase culminating in an injury to a shunter as he suffers an accident. Visible in this sequence are a whole myriad of mineral wagons, other open types, plenty of box vans and a couple of four-wheel oil tanks. In two shots, a pair of Class 08s are shunting the hump and in one of these, a train behind departs with a Class 47 on the front. The second section, which covers the majority of the film, was shot in the streets around South West London. A slight continuity slip sees the boy leave the Temple Mills Yard only to then walk down an embankment adjacent to the South West mainline out of Waterloo. This was filmed in Shellwood Road, Battersea, and Class 421 4 CIG EMUs are passing by at the top of the embankment. Other shots in this sequence were filmed from Culvert Road, Culvert Place, Knowsley Road, Sabine Road, Eversleigh Road and Dorothy Road, again all in Battersea, with Class 411 4 CEP, Class 421 4 CIG, Class 423 4 VEP, a Class 420 4 BIG and older Class 405 4 SUB EMUs passing. One SUB is set No.4719 working Headcode 06, Victoria-West Croydon via Streatham Hill and Crystal Palace. It isn’t all EMU’s though as in one shot a rarity in the form of a Class 73 electro-diesel with a breakdown train crawls by in the background. The third part of the film centres around Bernard Cribbins using Clapham station (renamed Clapham High Street in 1989) and there are some very good shots of the station and a passing train formed of a Class 416 2-car EPB working a ten-car formation with a 4 CEP and a 4 VEP. There are also excellent shots of 2-EPBs calling at the station on Headcode 22, one of which is unit No.5667. There are also brief scenes filmed onboard an EPB. The fourth and final section of the film centres around the train of its title, the Night Ferry, from London Victoria to the Continent, and the gay abandon at which the children stow away onboard is alarming in the extreme! The scenes at London Victoria give an excellent glimpse of the famous Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits sleeping coaches, as well as a 4 CIG unit. The initial scene however produces something very rare. The coaches are being drawn into the platform by a Class 74 electro-diesel with Headcode 75, Victoria-Dover Marine via the Catford Loop and Chatham. In fact, the shots at Victoria give glimpses of some rather overlooked areas of the station such as the eastern side entrance on Terminus Place and the former Sealink booking office close to Platform 2, the Night Ferry’s usual departure platform. The journey to Dover is depicted by a couple of passing night shots of ‘the Ferry’ hauled by a Class 73, but badly dubbed to sound like a Class 47-hauled express (!) There is another passing night shot of a Class 74 and one of Class 411 CEPs. Throughout this sequence there are scenes filmed onboard the Night Ferry and onboard Class 411 EMU’s. The final scenes take place at Dover Marine (renamed Dover Western Docks in 1979) and there are some excellent shots of the station, plus a very good shot of the train arriving behind another Class 73. Several Class 411 4 CEP EMU’s also feature in these scenes, including Unit No.7171, and the rear coach of a train of Mk.1 stock. All the trains in these night shots feature Headcode 46, London Victoria-Dover Marine via Herne Hill and Orpington. The Night Ferry ceased operation in 1980 and Dover Western Docks station closed in 1994. Until the introduction of Eurostar services in 1994, the Night Ferry had been the only through passenger train between Great Britain and Continental Europe. The Night Ferry was remarkably romantic. The whole train was conveyed across the Channel between Dover and Dunkirk lashed inside the hold of a BR-owned ferry, and the reason behind a lifebuoy being provided in each carriage compartment. The Continental-style coaches complete with slumbering passengers made for a remarkable sight each day they ran but romance alone could not keep the train going. Once the airlines had taken much of the train’s clientele away, it was put out of its misery, running for the last time on 1st November 1980. Therefore, by a strange quirk of fate this film stands proud as a final tribute to this once grand train, and a very fitting tribute it is too.