Film: 5003

Railways | 1940 | Sound | B/W


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A wonderful tribute to all the different types of work women did during World War Two with particular reference to the different types of jobs on the railways - everything from porters to welders. Keeping the home front going 1940's

Opening shot - steam train moving through busy railway station. Carriages and lots of passengers as the engine passes through - Great Western Railway (GWR). The engine moves through an industrial setting - the docks. There are lots of cranes in the picture. Close ups of rail employees - all men - an engine driver in his cab, the guard blowing his whistle and signalling with his flag, the ticket collector clipping a woman's ticket, a porter moving a suitcase and luggage, a booking clerk, a signalman, a carter and groups of track workers mending and oiling the rails. Other workers are shown: engine builders, shed workers, cleaners, maintenance staff, the storesman (with upright baggage trolley). Shot of passenger train, then goods train.
Groups of railway workers (generally wearing railway caps and jackets) gather around a notice - a proclamation about the outbreak of the second world war. Shots of troops boarding carriages with open doors. Further shots of moving steam trains. Camera, on one train, is closely passed by an oncoming engine on the adjacent track. A soldier leans out of the carriage window and kisses his sweetheart. Close up of engine wheels and pistons. At the railway employment offices there are three older men (officials from the GWR) wearing smart hats and uniforms. There are many women applying for the vacant jobs left because of the men's departure. Shots of women doing manual work: welding, using a spanner, driving a vehicle - "from armchair to autotruck". A women pushes a baby in a pram, then a luggage barrow; a woman crochets, then operates a manual level crossing; a woman dusts, then drives a bus.
Brief line map of the GWR region. Two women open a metal concertina gate and pull out a trolley loaded with bags and luggage. They are wearing railway uniforms, and move along the platform, passing passengers and advertising posters. They give directions to a female passenger, and assist another getting out of the train with her bags. Another worker drives a truck loaded with mail bags, and they are loaded on board the train by two men and two women. Shot of carriage cleaners - sweeping with a hard brush, mopping the floor with a cloth, cleaning the outside of the coaches with long handled brooms. A ticket collector clips tickets at the top of a flight of stairs leading down to the platform. Shot of woman looking after large shire horse which is tacked to a cart. She gets on and they move off. Two women load an open backed truck and then deliver the goods and panels. A group of women mechanics work on a van - tightening wheel nuts, checking the engine. Shots of porter sorting parcels.
Further footage of employment offices. A group of women sit around a table and are taught how to use a block telegraph (which records the state of the line) at signal school. At the guard school the women are taught from a blackboard, and flags are demonstrated, along with a lantern or lamp. Further practical training is given to women by engine builders and track maintenance staff. Smartly dressed women are now passenger train guards. They walk along the platform and enter the carriages with an air of authority. One jumps down onto the track and adjusts a lantern on the rear of the train. She talks to the engine drivers (men) and shuts open carriage doors. She whistles and signals to the train to move off, and boards the moving carriage. The goods guard is also shunter and loader. She loads and couples the trucks. The woman in the signal box does not wear a uniform. She pulls the appropriate levers for the train. We see it through her window as it passes by. Shots of women clocking on, getting dressed for work, and then working: in the engine shed, the docks, the goods shed. Shots of lots of worker (mostly women) around engines and pushing barrows etc… Employees are shown: a number taker (recording the numbers of the goods trucks), an oiler, a greaser, engine shed labourers, engine cleaners and workers on the tracks (weeding, tightening nuts and bolts, re-aligning sleepers).
In a work shop women make re-inforced block sleepers, using metal frames and cement. Close ups of the process, including smoothing cement with a trowel. Also shots of women smoothing wet concrete with floats for six ton slabs. In another shed women fit the chairs (that carry the rails) onto wooden sleepers. Here women and men work alongside each other. Shots of automatic machinery tightening nuts and bolts. Shots of women crane drivers and more shots of passenger trains carrying troops - a busy platform. Close ups of more occupations: polishing carriages, packing timber, helping the boiler maker with rivets (heated in a flame), working a pneumatic drill, painting wheels and lettering on a goods truck, tending the furnaces.
A woman in a smart suit sits with legs crossed at a desk. She is a railway announcer. Close up of mega-phone speaker on platform. Shot of the booking clerk.
External, street scene - terraced houses on a residential road. A woman cycles along and stops at a house in order to "call up" a worker at short notice. Bridge painters paint the side of a metal bridge with brushes on long poles, above a road in a small town. A policewoman directs traffic. She holds her gloves in her hand and wears uniform. She gives directions to two female officers. A dock policewoman stops a vehicle and checks the paperwork before allowing it to proceed. Women assist men in unloading goods from barges (a heavy job!).
The edge of a platform is whitewashed with a broom. An engine is in the station. Various shots of goods stores - shifting boxes etc… using hoists and barrows. A coach is hoisted off its wheels and four women push the wheels out from under it. They attach heavy chains to the framework of the wheel base, and it is lifted clear of the wheels themselves. Shots of cloakroom attendants serving the public, as they hand over cases and bags.
Preparation of the dining cars: barrows are wheeled along the platform, and their content (food, drink, bottles) are loaded into the carriages. Busy scene in refreshment room, London Paddington. Customers are served over a bar-type counter. Close up of man eating. Cups of tea are passed over, and the customers are men and women (also troops). Shot of train steaming through countryside. Busy station at Exeter - people milling around on the platform. People (including sailors) crowd into the tea rooms and the staff are very busy serving them. People drink standing up from white cups and saucers. Women workers clock off - two are smoking. Shot of a large busy worker's canteen. The women eat and drink seated at large refectory tables. Close up of woman combing her hair in a rest room. Two others are seated nearby - one is knitting.
In a first aid post a nurse in a white apron and headdress assists a young woman who is lying on a couch. She covers her with a blanket. She then cleans a cut on the knee of a woman who is sitting down with her trouser leg rolled up. A woman who is crying and wiping tears from her eyes speaks to another sitting at a desk. She is comforted, and they walk out together.
Telephone enquiry girls sit in long lines of booths answering calls. An alarm sounds and they take out and put on tin helmets. They crawl under their desks, taking the telephones with them. Close up of young woman with her phone on her swivel chair, still trying to speak to the caller amid sounds of bombing and shelling. Shot of empty booths as the girls' arms reach out to gather the paperwork too.
Montage of shots: platforms, train on tracks, troops, docks, porters, a female guard whistling and signalling with her flag, cleaning an engine, changing the lamp at the top of a signal post, shifting boxes and parcels, driving a baggage carrier, operating heavy machinery, using the furnace, crouching under the telephone table.

To request more details on this film, please contact us quoting Film number 5003.