2hrs 37mins
Dir: Richard Attenborough
Starring: Simon Ward and Anne Bancroft

The early life of Winston Churchill including his time in the Boer War

This successful historical drama was based on the book My Early Life: A Roving Commission by Winston Churchill himself. Much of this lavish epic deals with Churchill’s time in the British Army in South Africa, which called for a number of elaborate railway sequences. First of these is a scene in which an armoured train comes under attack in the hills. This was shot in South Wales on the Neath-Brecon line near Craig-y-Nos. Although the through route had largely closed in the October of 1962, the line to Craig-y-Nos remained in place until 1977 for the limestone traffic from the quarries at Penwyllt. The locomotive used for the armoured train was a heavily disguised ex-GWR 1400 Class 0-4-2T No.1466 borrowed from the Great Western Society at Didcot. It was fitted with dummy armour plating, cow-catcher and large headlamp, and was barely recognisable. The armoured train meanwhile was formed of what appeared to be 16T mineral wagons, modified ‘Toad’ brake vans, and ‘Siphon G’ ventilated vans with cut down bodywork! All were equipped with armour plating and were used to carry army personnel. It is known that a Class 08 diesel shunter was borrowed from British Rail and used as motive power for a supply train for the production crew during filming, though of course this does not appear during the completed picture. This Welsh sequence is perhaps most notable for the rare colour glimpses of Craig-y-Nos (Penwyllt) station which is masquerading as Chieveley. Later in the film when Churchill is making his escape from imprisonment, there are some scenes filmed on the Longmoor Military Railway using ex-SR USA Class 0-6-0T No.30064, borrowed from the Bluebell Railway, and BR Class 9F 2-10-0 No.92203 Black Prince, owned by the artist David Shepherd and based at Longmoor at the time. Both locos were disguised as South African Railway (SAR) locomotives, and 30064 escaped fairly lightly with just a cow-catcher and ‘SAR’ on its side tanks. This was possibly because the USA-built loco already looked quite foreign but there was no such joy for the 9F which had its smoke deflectors (and nameplates) removed, and a large fibreglass chimney and dome, cow-catcher and headlight added, together with a large ‘SAR’ motif on its tender and the first and last digits of its number blacked out thus making it ‘220’. The once extensive Longmoor Military Railway had been used for many films over the years but had closed by the time this picture was made and dismantling had begun. Young Winston would become the line’s last ever appearance in a feature film. Almost overlooked is the sequence filmed at a colliery where Simon Ward begins his journey to freedom. This used Brynlliw Colliery, Grovesend, and a small green 0-6-0 saddle tank can be seen. This is Peckett B3 Class Works No.2114 of 1951. Finally, near the beginning of the film there is a brief ‘departure’ scene using London Marylebone station and some shots filmed inside a train using a studio-bound mock-up with outdoor back-projection.

A busy period scene at London Marylebone
Patricia Heywood waves goodbye on the platform at Marylebone
Patricia Heywood with Marylebone’s distinctive roof line above. Note the rather ‘odd’ train departing in the background.
This is the rugged countryside of the upper Swansea Valley in modern day Powys complete with train passing through the landscape
This is an excellent view of the closed station at Craig-y-Nos, otherwise called Penwyllt and masquerading here in the film as Chieveley. The station opened on 3rd June 1867, and in 1886, a station building opened that was part funded by the Italian opera singer Dame Adelina Patti who lived in the extended Craig-y-Nos Castle. Until 1919, it included a private waiting room for her. The station closed on 15th October 1962 and looks to be in remarkable condition considering this is now nine or ten years after closure. Note the armoured train approaching in the background.
This brilliant shot shows the armoured train negotiating an S-bend. The locomotive is in the middle of the formation with armoured wagons either side. Note the guns of the soldiers sticking out the sides.
Somewhere beneath all that plywood ‘armour’ plating is 1400-series 0-4-2T No.1466
The aftermath of the derailment that was caused by Boer saboteurs
No.1466 is seen again. This shot highlights the front end plating, cow-catcher, and headlamp that were also given to the loco as part of its disguise.
With just a 16 ton mineral wagon for company, the locomotive makes a break for it complete with small fire on its front end!!
The ensemble draws to a stand in a cutting. Note the 16T mineral is packed to the rafters with soldiers.
Ex-SR USA Class 0-6-0T No.30064 runs along part of the former Longmoor Military Railway. This is probably not dusk, but instead a daytime scene shot with a filtered lens.
This is the industrial saddle tank that is glimpsed in the background to some of the scenes filmed at Brynlliw Colliery, Grovesend. The colliery, near Pontarddulais, closed in 1983.
The Peckett is seen in closer detail. The B3 Class 0-6-0ST No.2114/1951 is now preserved as a static exhibit at the Kidwelly Industrial Museum.
In another ‘daytime’ scene, BR Class 9F 2-10-0 No.92203 steams through the countryside
The facelifted 9F steams through a rather derlict looking Liss Forest Road station, on the Longmoor system
The train has passed safely across the border, taking Winston Churchill with it to freedom. Note the frontier post appears to use a real crossing. Note also the platform of a small halt.