Dir: Castleton Knight
Starring: Alec Hurley and Pauline Johnson

A disgruntled former employee tries to wreck the ‘Flying Scotsman’

This film is a very early ‘part-talkie’ as half way through this silent everyone starts to talk, though this was in fact quite common for motion pictures produced during the transition period. As the name of the film suggests, Gresley LNER A1 Class 4-6-2 No.4472 Flying Scotsman was the star of the film, showing that its recent fame is not a new phenomenon. The locomotive was used by the film company for six weeks of filming, with crews using numerous camera positions on the loco, tender, and stock. The early railway scenes in this film are as follows; A1 Class 4-6-2 No.2565 Merry Hampton passes on an express; Flying Scotsman enters London King’s Cross followed by general station scenes; Flying Scotsman leaving King’s Cross ‘Top Shed’ MPD with ex-GNR ‘large-boilered’ Class C1 4-4-2 No.4411 in the background along with Gresley K3 2-6-0 No.163 (incidentally loco 4411 was involved in the 1935 Welwyn crash but was not damaged); Flying Scotsman backing onto a train at King’s Cross with an LNER N2/4 Class 0-6-2T alongside; Flying Scotsman then leaves with an express, with an N2 on either side, and this is followed by a number of good drivers-eye views of locations in the immediate area such as Gasworks Tunnels and Holloway Bank. During these clips, we get a rare glimpse of a D49 ‘Hunt/Shire’ Class 4-4-0 passing on an express ‘out in the country’. The rest of the film is taken up by the attempt to wreck the train which was filmed on the Hertford Loop. The scenes where actors Pauline Johnson and Alec Hurley climb on to the roof and cling to the running-boards of the train at 45 mph were filmed between Crews Hill, Cuffley, and Bayford, and the actors actually carried out these brave stunts themselves during this stunning sequence, not stunt-doubles. Pauline Johnson wore high-heels! (Pauline Johnson was a leading British silent actress of her age, although she did appear in few films after 1930). The uncoupling sequence began north of Watton-at-Stone and ended north of Stapleford, where Pauline Johnson diverts the approaching carriages from the stationary locomotive by changing a set of points. Having acquired the use of Flying Scotsman, Castleton Knight took a number of liberties, and it is a fantastic record of what could be done through co-operation of the railway companies combining their efforts with a determined film crew. Moore Marriott really drove the locomotive, and Ray Milland actually tended the fire. Eventually the loco is uncoupled from its train, again at speed, and as the loco continues, the teak coaches are brought to a stand. This entire sequence is a masterpiece of editing and in many ways set a precedent for future films. What followed in the 1930s is seen by many to be the great era of British movie making, with Hitchcock’s Number Seventeen (1932) and The 39 Steps of 1935, along with The Last Journey (1936) and the sadly lost Cock O’ The North (1935) (all qv) being other railway movies that vie for attention. After the train has restarted, we get to see a few more locomotives as drivers-eye views take us on the journey towards Edinburgh. These are as follows; an express passes in the hands of another A1, in the form of No.4476 Royal Lancer; a low-level run-by of A1 No.2569 Gladiateur; an arrival scene at Edinburgh Waverley followed by general shots of Flying Scotsman; then a final departure of No.4472 with Reid D29 ‘Scott’ Class 4-4-0 No.9244 Madge Wildfire alongside. Not to be outdone, in an establishing shot of Edinburgh, a City Corporation tram can be seen passing the Scott Monument in Princes Street! However, back to the The Flying Scotsman. The scene of the villain uncoupling the loco from the stock with the carriages racing on in pursuit of the loco were a source of great anger to Sir Nigel Gresley. He said, ‘it made it look as though the LNER had not yet discovered the vacuum brake’ and a special title had to be added to the film explaining that ‘certain liberties had been taken for dramatic license with the normal safety equipment of LNER trains’, which put it mildly to say the least! In fact, this movie put Sir Nigel completely off ‘film people’ as he called them, and he stayed away from the camera thereafter. Footage of him on screen is thus limited to just a few promotional reels from a visit to Doncaster Works in 1927. But these are not the only liberties taken. Note how the driver works the entire journey from London to Scotland without a relief crew, and that after the train restarts, the railway inspector has to take to the footplate because there was no relief fireman! And after all this they arrive in Edinburgh bang on time…… The movie itself is pretty standard fare for the day, except of course for the railway scenes which raise it to an entirely different level altogether. It seems a shame that this movie is relatively little known, despite being readily available on DVD (I of course have a copy). The film has a lasting legacy in that some shots from this production crop up in other films. The shot of No.2569 Gladiateur for instance appears in both Bulldog Drummond At Bay (1937) and Thursday’s Child (1943), whilst the shot of Flying Scotsman moving off shed also appears in the latter.

This is the opening shot of the film, and it doesn’t show Flying Scotsman. It does, however, show one of its sisters in the form of No.2565 Merry Hampton rounding a curve on an express.
A particularly fine low-level shot of No.4472 arriving at ‘The Cross’. The white Flying Scotsman headboard was the classic 1930s design for the named train, not to be confused of course with the locomotive.
A more elevated, but equally good shot of No.4472 at ‘The Cross’
Ray Milland and Moore Marriot about to board the footplate of Flying Scotsman
A brilliant broadside view of No.4472 Flying Scotsman in near original condition
No.4472 passes right over the camera as it departs King’s Cross Top Shed for its booked turn. Visible on the left is K3 2-6-0 No.163, whilst on the right is former GNR C1 Class ‘Atlantic’ 4-4-2 No.4411. A heavily truncated version of this shot appears in Thursday’s Child (1943).
Flying Scotsman awaits departure from King’s Cross. Standing to its left is a Gresley N2 0-6-2T. Although not identified entirely, the fact it has condensing apparatus and has the number 267? tells us it is one of the final 23 classed as N2/4’s, virtually brand new at the time of filming.
Flying Scotsman begins it journey. A pair of N2 0-6-2 tanks stand left and right. Both have condensing apparatus and that on the left is almost certainly the one seen in the above shot. What a pity its number can’t be read.
A number of rarities crop up in this film and this is one of them, a D49 Class 4-4-0 passing on an express. This is a little odd as the D49’s, known variously as the ‘Hunt’ or ‘Shire’ Class, were largely associated with the Scottish and North Eastern regions so would not be seen on a journey out of King’s Cross.
It is equally rare to see a real shot of a genuine carriage interior from the period. Here we see Pauline Johnson looking for a seat.
Alec Hurley leaves the train in the first of the spectacular stunts. Opening the door just before a bridge is not the cleverest of ideas but it was safely negotiated!
Mr Hurley passes right through a tunnel whilst on the outside of the train, the portal for which can be seen behind just as the parapet for an overbridge flashes by
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Not to be outdone, Pauline Johnson clings to the side of the train. At 45 mph with high heels this was some stunt.
With a cursory glance down to her feet, Ms Johnson has now reached the locomotive
Having bridged the gap, Pauline Johnson clings to the back of the Flying Scotsman‘s tender. The still shows two things. The first is that Pauline still has her hat, but secondly it shows no amount of fear, almost a smile in fact, on the face of what is clearly a very brave lady indeed.
This is an extremely rare view through the corridor tender of 4472. Alec Hurley is visible at the far end, on the locomotive footplate.
No.4472 has been uncoupled from its train. It was this incident that so incensed Sir Nigel Gresley.
No.4472 is beginning to increase the gap on its coaches
After Flying Scotsman has been recoupled to its train we continue on to Scotland, passing first another A1 in the form of No.4476 Royal Lancer
Followed by another A1, this time No.2569 Gladiateur. This shot later reappeared in Bulldog Drummond At Bay (1937) and Thursday’s Child (1943).
A drivers’ eye view of Edinburgh Waverley. The unidentified tender loco on the left is probably ex-Caledonian in origin.
The final railway shot shows Flying Scotsman pulling out of Waverley station, and there are no fewer than three other locomotives present. To its left is a rare view of a Reid D29 ‘Scott’ Class 4-4-0, in this case No.9244, the fantastically named Madge Wildfire. There may be another A1 behind the D29, but the locomotive top left is unidentified.
This is the shot of Princes Street in Edinburgh. The tram on the extreme far right is dwarfed somewhat by the Scott Monument.