THE GHOST TRAIN (1931)

GB
1931
1hr 11mins
Dir: Walter Forde
Starring: Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge

A detective poses as a simpleton to uncover gun-runners using an abandoned railway line

This was the famous ‘lost’ version, although about 40 minutes’ worth of the film was subsequently found as a result of a 1992 British Film Institute campaign to locate missing movies. The Great Western Railway provided much use of facilities and took some pride in doing so. There are some shots of London Paddington station, and some shots of ‘King’ and ‘Castle’ Class 4-6-0s on expresses, as well as a freight hauled by ‘4300’ Class 2-6-0 No.6319. Some of the location work was filmed near Box Tunnel, and on the Bristol-Radstock-Frome line. Whereas Wherwell masqueraded as ‘Fal Vale’ in the 1927 movie, in this version Camerton station substituted, for it was located on the lightly used branch to Limpley Stoke and was thus ideal for filming. ‘Dean Goods’ 0-6-0s Nos.2381 and 2441 were both used on the branch line, with one of them being white for the night scenes under the limited lighting conditions. The end of the film involves the train that is of course being used by the gun-runners, crashing into the river as the swing-bridge has been left open. Understandably this uses models, though with shots of the Barmouth Bridge and No.2441 cut in where appropriate. Incidentally, the late British comedian Bob Monkhouse owned a complete set of reels of this film, but they were sadly seized and destroyed after a raid on his home by Her Majesties Customs and Excise on copyright grounds. This film also helped launch Jack and Cicely’s career as a successful husband and wife duo, though it should be remembered that both appeared solo from time to time, and were just as competent individually as they were a pair.

About 50 minutes of the film has been found, but all but the final two reels are mute. The opening reels, and several in the middle of the film are still missing. Those that have been found are of quite poor quality but some of the station scenes ares till quite crisp. This is Camerton station in Somerset.
As the station master crosses the track and makes his way to the platform, we at least get a good glimpse of the rather fine signal box.
The gun runners are loading the train in this night scene
Not the best of shots but this view of the criminals onboard the footplate does at least prove the identity of one of the locos. The cab numberplate will read 2381, one of the two ‘Dean Goods’ 0-6-0’s used in the film.