Dir: John Schlesinger
Starring: Margaret Ashcroft and Gertrude Dickin
A day in the life of Waterloo station
This British Transport Film documentary shot in August 1960, was the first cinema film directed by John Schlesinger and presents a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ look at an ordinary day at Waterloo station in London. This now revered piece of cinematography was rightly awarded no less than 14 international film honours, including best short film at the British Film Academy Awards and the Golden Lion for Best Documentary at the Venice Film Festival. The film was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary – Short Subject in 1963, but after the nominations were announced, it was discovered that the film had already been released and the nomination had to be withdrawn. It’s inclusion in this A-Z stems from the fact that many of the supposedly ‘reportage’ shots were in fact staged. Schlesinger makes a cameo appearance as a passing, umbrella-carrying business man, and a tearful and apparently lost child, Matthew Perry, was temporarily abandoned deliberately by his mother Margaret, an actress relative of Schlesinger. Some other people appearing were also actors, including the handcuffed convicts and a confused elderly woman, though no one in the film was credited. Set to the accompaniment of Ron Grainer’s music and Julian Cooper’s songs, the film captures to perfection the atmosphere of the station, its travelers, and its trains. Unsurprisingly, almost every possible part of the station is covered, from the rooftop beehives to the basement lost property office, and the station announcers glazed enclosure to the signal box outside. Amongst all the Southern Region coaching stock and electric units, plenty of locomotives have been captured, and they appear in the following order (all are of SR origin unless otherwise stated): a boat train leaves the platform with an ex-GWR ‘Siphon G’ ventilated van on the back and it is being pushed from the rear by a Class S15 4-6-0; a close-up view of the cab of BR Class 5MT 4-6-0 No.7304?; the ‘Pretoria Castle’ boat train arrives at Platform 11 behind a ‘Lord Nelson’ Class 4-6-0 complete with ‘UNION CASTLE EXPRESS’ headboard; a ‘West Country’ Class 4-6-2 passes behind passengers on the platform; an M7 Class 0-4-4T is pushing a train out; an excellent shot of ‘Lord Nelson’ Class 4-6-0 No.30864 Sir Martin Frobisher leaving the station; another BR Standard Class 5MT 4-6-0 at the head of an excursion, the route headboards of which are placed over the smokebox numberplate which ends in a ‘6’; a shot of ‘Merchant Navy’ Class 4-6-2 No.35003 Royal Mail standing at the bufferstops; a Bulleid pacific running down into Waterloo light engine, as viewed from the signal box; ‘Lord Nelson’ Class 4-6-0 No.30852 Sir Walter Raleigh arriving with another boat train; a night shot of a smoky Bulleid Pacific; and a similar view of BR Class 5MT 4-6-0 No.73116 Iseult. This last was one of the 20 Southern Region based members of the class that were given names from withdrawn ‘King Arthur’ Class locos thus earning them the sobriquet ‘Standard Arthurs’. One of the Pullman Cars seen in the film is Niobe, a 1928-built brake, whilst another is CAR No.8. There is also a brief sequence filmed ‘down below’ on the Waterloo & City Line with Class 487 EMU’s present. (Due to the sheer volume of possible photographic shots available, only those depicting trains will be shown below).