Film: 561

Railways | 1960 | Sound | Colour

Synopsis:

An affectionate and cheerful film about the small, narrow gauge train that runs from Belgrave to Emerald in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne, Australia. Puffing Billy has become a much-loved tourist attraction following its restoration and maintenance by volunteers and the Victorian Railways. It shows the pretty little engine and its open carriages as it runs through an area of very picturesque undulating temperate rain forest and small farms and towns; the volunteers who work on the train, and the funny St Trinian-style antics the children travellers get up to. Wonderful music by jazzman Don Burrows.

A picturesque view of the hilly Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne, with tall trees, green paddocks and pretty wildflowers in the foreground. An early model Holden station wagon car drives down a bitumen road. A small country town with a wide main street has the sign pointing to "Puffing Billy". A tiny country train station has a small train at the platform; it has painted red timber carriages and the open upper half of the carriages are covered by lowered canvas blinds. A sign on a wire fence says the railway is run on weekends and on school holidays, mostly by volunteers and with the co-operation of the Victorian Railways, to the right of the sign is a padlocked and chained gate. "The narrow gauge railway runs from Belgrave to Emerald near Melbourne in southern Australia." This sentence is also shown in German, French, Italian and Spanish.

An rather grand, older high school is seen in a pleasant area of Melbourne. Inside, a conservatively dressed teacher wearing black rimmed glasses turns from the backboard and speaks to his students. Two men in business suits walk up the path of the modern Country Roads Board Head Office. A young engineer or surveyor sits at a desk inside working at maps. The small suburban Glamour Girl Hairstylist salon has a smart young woman leaving the shop. Inside the hairdressers, the young female hairdresser is cutting a woman's hair. The large Footscray and District Hospital on the other side of Melbourne has nursing staff walking by. Inside, a male doctor holds up an Xray of a skull.

The doctor now holds a garden water hose and is washing out the spent coal from the coal van of the small Puffing Billy train in the hills. The little old steam train is housed in an open-ended train house made of corrugated iron, the doctor hoses down the little black engine, two small boys stand and watch and a young man in a train engineers cap is walking beside the engine, the trains funnel is puffing black smoke. The young surveyor from the Country Roads Board Head Office is now the station master on the small station and he looks at his watch; he reaches up to the sign next to the large station clock and pulls out a painted timber sign that details the trains next trip and its duration. The teacher collects the fares through the tiny ticket masters office window in the station from the passengers. The hairdresser sell sweets, ice-creams and postcards through the small shop window to the passengers on the platform. A chubby boy who buys an ice-cream turns and we see the many passengers already on the train in the small carriages, other people come up to buy sweets and the little plump boy gets into the carriage through the small open door.

A sign on the platform welcome people to Puffing Billy which has been restored and is run by the Puffing Billy Preservation Society and child stream past it onto the little station. A group of shrieking cub scouts run to a little empty carriage, which has its side canvas blinds rolled up to reveal the top half of the carriage as open with three parallel iron bars running the length of the carriage, the cub scouts pour in excitedly and loudly. The shiny black and red Puffing Billy engine is seen puffing down a parallel track behind the carriages to be connected to the front carriage. People walk past a sign asking for more volunteers. Two young boys watch the engine coupling up with the front carriage. There is a close-up of the 6A on the engine. The stamp on the engine "Manufactured at V R Newport Workshops 1906. [V R - Victorian Railways] The train drivers legs are walking along the engines running board.

The little carriages doors are open, many people are in the carriages, people walk along the platform in the sun, others wait under the shade of the station veranda, a group of men plus one of the volunteers leans over the picket fence of the station and gaze somewhat longingly down onto a nearby parkland. On the lawns of the parkland a young woman in a bikini is sunbathing, she turns over on her towel. A tiny timber building that looks like an outdoor lavatory; it has a sign that says "Yardmaster" on it, stands alone in the shrubbery, a frantically-running little boy runs up and disappears around its side, a few seconds later a man leads him around the building and points off into the distance, the little boy runs off in that direction, obviously with urgent matters in mind. Steam puffs out from around the trains wheels. The chubby little boy is sitting alone in a carriage and is eating his ice-cream.

An old-fashioned alarm bell under the roof of the platform veranda rings, the train carriages already lined with children hanging out of the train windows, people run to carriages so not to be left behind. The shining brass steam whistle on top of puffing Billy hoots. A small blond boy stands on the top of the half timber side of the carriage, his body is out of the parallel bars and his head is as high as the roof, he cranes his neck to look along the train to the engine. Steam spurts out from under the engine. A late family is seen running down the path to the station as the whistle blows. The young surveyor/station master stands on the edge of the platform, looks up and down the platform and raises his hand ceremoniously to indicate all clear. The guard, wearing a Victorian Railways cap, and with a whistle in his mouth pops his head out of the guards van at the end of the train, and raises his doweling rod with a green flag on it. The train driver wearing blue train drivers overall and blue cap, is leaning out of the engine window and he raises his hand and waves to the station master and the guard, he withdraws into the engine and pulls a big iron lever. The wheels turn. The guard still holds out the green flag, as the train passes by a curved concrete bridge is seen and people are standing on it watching the train. The wheels pick up speed and the whistle blows.

The train passes over the camera as it ascends a slight incline. Steam is forced out from under the engine. Inside the carriages children lean out of the carriages between the bars. The whistle blows. The outside walls of the train is lined with swinging lower legs as children sit on the side of the carriages and dangle their feet down. Inside a carriage, a little girl moves her teddy up and on the carriage ledge in response to the rhythm of the clacking of the wheels on the tracks. The rolled up canvas blind swings back and forth in time with the rocking of the train. It appears as though everyone starts responding to the rhythm of rocking and sound, a pair of little girls feet stuck up out of the window (presumably as she lies on the seat) are flicked back and forth in time. A small girls fingers tap on the iron bars of the side of the carriage. The shiny light fitting on the inside roof of the carriage reflects the movement in its glass. A little boys mouths the rhythm of the sound of the of the train

Puffing Billy is climbing and the track both curves and passes over a deep little gully and a high criss-cross railway sleeper bridge; a very pretty picture of the train and the bridge and the rainforest surrounding it on all sides, black smoke puffs from the train as it sweeps around the curve, and the arms and legs that line the carriage sides wave gleefully. People stand at a little railway crossing as Puffing Billy passes. Inside the carriage children hang out of the sides, the engine is visible as the train goes around a curve in the shady forest. A sited man sits amongst the bedlam and sedately reads. He is looking at a brochure of Puffing Billy.

More people at the sides of the tracks wave, a man takes a photo. The little plump boy is eating a meat pie. A pretty little blond girl is happily hanging her head out of the open carriage and looks backwards and forwards. A jersey cow in a small lush paddock gazes at the passing cacophony. A little girl wearing bizarre fish shaped eye goggles leans out of the train upside down, brings her head up and then lowers it again. The side of the train and the engine and the pretty sides of the track are viewed upside down, then the camera slowly rightens itself. Another little girl waves in delight. On the path beside the track a mother carries a toddler and she waves back as the train chuffs by. A microphone is lowered out of the carriage side to pick up the sound of the wheels and is then retrieved. A man recording the trains sound blows into the microphone, then sits down on his bench seat, he opens the old-fashioned recorder to discover a horrible mess of tangled tape.

Puffing Billy climbs an incline, the legs and arms line the trains sides. Inside a carriage a baby is held up by her mother. The Billy Bunter Boy now eats a banana. The train winds around a curve the pretty shady forest is a tranquil contrast to the hilarity that is passing by. The mid afternoon sun through the eucalyptus trees creates flickering shadows. Inside a carriage the school teacher volunteer makes his way through the active passengers and checks fares. The baby messily eats an ice-cream from a paper cup with a spoon. A little boy looks through his binoculars. Cars are banked up a little country road at a railway crossing as Puffing Billy passes, people wave and a driver sounds his horn in acknowledgement. The train passes by a small dirt road crossing which has flows growing beside it.

Inside the carriages a young mother is chatting to her little boy as they look upward and out of the open carriage. The sun flickers through the trees overhead. The countryside is very pretty and green, with eucalyptus trees and lush undergrowth. Puffing Billy moves through more open country. The train approaches a small township, a little girl runs down a long paddock which is lined with wild-growing red rhododendrons as the train approaches. Puffy Billy enters the little village of Emerald. As the carriages pull in to the platform, they are lined with even more bodies and waving arms and legs as the children excitedly reach the end of the line.

The engine pulls in slowly and comes to a stop under the water hose, the driver climbs on to the top of the engine and pulls the old canvas water hose from its iron stand beside the tracks onto the engine. Little boys are swarming onto the engine. Others flock around the man who is shovelling out the spent coal from Puffing Billy's front. Three little boys have to jump back as water overflows from the top of the engine. One sits on his bottom as he trips backwards on the tracks. Young female tourists stand back from the train and take photos. The engine is moved back to the end of the train for the return journey to Belgrave, it is seen on parallel tracks through the open carriages as it passes. An ice-cream seller walks along the side of cub scout carriage and they lean out to buy sweets. The engine stands alone on other tracks as a group of young teenage volunteers shovel sand onto the tracks in the foreground. The station master calls all aboard through a megaphone, a line of little boys instantly appears running from the men's toilets on the platform, a few second later and still hitching his pants up is the little boy who mistakenly went to the yard masters lavatory at Belgrave station. A smart young couple standing near the tacks jump back in alarm as the steam spurts out from the wheels. The driver looks at his watch in alarm as he puts his head out of the engine window and he waves quickly and quite unceremoniously to the guard.

Next follows a crazy sequence of fast forward shots to simulate old silent movies; people rush to the carriages, as the train takes off there are a few very late passengers who have to leap onto the moving train. Silent movie action piano music accompanies the train, seen from the roof of one of the rear carriages, "hurtling" down around the curves and bends, there is the sound of the horn that accompanies an cavalry charge and of gunshots heard in old Western movies as the train passes farms and stops at a small station, past a village and several railway crossings with waiting cars, and rain forest and people waving. There are two interruptions to this fast forward frenzy, Billy Bunter is eating a chocolate bar, and then he eats a healthy apple.

The train has pulled into Belgrave, the driver wipes sweat from his face at the exertion and alights from the engine and pulls down a canvas blind that announces "The End".

A funny railway film


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