GB 1953 1hr 13mins Dir: Ted Tetzlaff Starring: Glenn Ford and Anne Vernon
A saboteur places a bomb on an ammunition train
This crime thriller is not quite as tense or effective as it should have been but it is good all the same, even if it now lies sadly forgotten and largely overlooked despite being widely available. Understandably, it features some lengthy railway sequences. The terrorist smuggles a bomb aboard a night freight carrying naval mines from Birmingham to Portsmouth and hides under a tarpaulin in one of the wagons. There are good stunts that involve the saboteur moving around the wagons whilst the train is running, and there is a brief shot of an ex-LMS 8F 2-8-0 passing in the opposite direction. It is another 8F though in the form of No.48600 that provides the motive power for the ammunition train and it is very much the star of these scenes, with some very good atmospheric shots of the loco passing back and forth as it shunts the train into sidings. These sidings are those at the old Hammersmith & Chiswick Goods Depot, closed in 1965, though ‘Felsworth East’ was in fact Willesden Carriage Sidings South signal box, located in Willesden Brent Yard. The history behind Hammersmith & Chiswick Goods Depot is worth recalling. It opened as a passenger branch off the North & South Western Junction Railway between Acton Central and South Acton, but passenger services ceased as early as 1917. It remained open for freight until 1965 and was redeveloped in the 1980s. The sidings at the depot were crossed on a viaduct by the Piccadilly and District Railways just west of Stamford Brook station and this bridge forms the backdrop to a number of scenes. The sidings also crossed the Bath Road, and the level crossing and signal box at this location (called ‘Felsworth Siding’ in the film) are also seen towards the end. The terrorist, played by Victor Maddern, is later arrested by the railway police on Platform 5 of Portsmouth & Southsea (Low Level) station. There are some really good shots of the platforms and concourse, and of trains of Western Region suburban stock arriving behind ex-LSWR T9 Class 4-4-0 No.30732 and an ex-SR N Class 2-6-0. Earlier in the film there are some scenes on the concourse of the original Birmingham Snow Hill station and the use of locations in Birmingham and Portsmouth ties in nicely with the story, a rare attempt at effective continuity, though ‘Birmingham’ signal box seen at the beginning is believed to be one on the Chiswick branch. Finally, there is an additional scene filmed outside of an unknown station with a BR poster advertising Buxton unlikely to be a prop.