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.