THE OPTIMISTS OF NINE ELMS

GB
1973
1hr 50mins
Dir: Anthony Simmons
Starring: Peter Sellers and Patricia Brake

A retired entertainer makes his living as a street musician in London, and befriends two young children

The title of this musical drama is usually abbreviated to The Optimists, and the film is based upon the 1964 novel of the same name written by Anthony Simmons, who also directed the film. Railways form the backdrop to many scenes and a good number of trains are visible. As the full title of the film suggests, most of these scenes were shot in the Nine Elms, Clapham and Battersea areas of South London. The opening scenes feature two rare shots of Class 25 diesels, along with a more common Class 73 electro-diesel, working West London Line cross-London transfer freights and there are also glimpses of the rear end of another freight train, and a van train, the locos of which are not seen. There are some scenes filmed close to Battersea Railway Bridge as well and three freight trains are seen crossing here. One is hauled by a Class 33 diesel and its train contains a number of 4-wheel ‘Presflo’ cement wagons in its consist, but the other two trains have been edited so that again, the locos are sadly out of shot. One is a mixed freight and the other is a Blue Circle block train of 102-ton Bogie Presflo cement tank wagons. It isn’t all freight trains and locos that appear in this film though as blue-liveried EPB, HAP and SUB electric multiple units are seen passing over viaducts in the Battersea and Wandsworth areas. When the two children, played by Donna Mullane and John Chaffey head down some steps, a number of railway tracks are visible on the other side of a fence. These are the steps opposite Battersea Dog’s Home, leading down to Stewarts Road, and the tracks are the Stewarts Lane Reversible’s. BR suburban and express slam-door EMU’s are visible in the distance, crossing the overbridges on the Waterloo lines. A Class 50 on full throttle is heard in this shot, but it is not seen! Finally, when the two children run alongside a fence, a Class 411 4 CEP EMU passes by behind displaying Headcode 03, London Victoria-Stewarts Lane ECS. As an additional point of interest, the children’s father works at a foundry and in one scene, a rake of BR Banana Vans is visible at the loading dock of an adjacent building.