Film: 7388

Railways | 1950 | Sound | B/W


A film documenting the change from steam to electric traction on the London Liverpool Street to Southend (Victoria) railway line, at the end of 1956. The film documents the preparations for the electric service such as the fitting of electric cable etc., as well as the events of the day of handover in Southend.

Overhead shot of Liverpool Street railway station in December 1956; a train belches out smoke, trains and passengers stand waiting under a large overall roof; at the end of one platform is an illuminated 'Train Departures' sign. Close-up of a train; a fireman attends to the train whilst another official walks past; the camera pans to show a train indicator with a clock; the indicator shows that the service is for Southend Victoria, the last such steam service. A locomotive steams below electric wires. A poster states : "Extension of electric services from Monday 31st December. Through trains Liverpool Street to Southend (Victoria)". Engine 61553 steams below electric cables. The engine driver, who wears a cap, glances back before adjusting the controls. A poster says: "Electrification- Shenfield extensions-"; a hand points to the following line: "all work now completed". The train, with a 'British Railways' logo on its side, puffs away; its coaches follow. A view from the end of the platform follows the last coaches until they have cleared the edge.

A railway construction unit passes slowly along the track; a railwayman in a cap stands alongside the unit, guiding its movements with hand movements, until he places his hands in the air and the train stops. As a passenger train rushes by, a diesel-powered cutting blade is manouevred into position. A man stands on top, operating the blade. A man places an object beneath the blade, watching it intently as he speaks instructions. The operator manouevres two levers. Three workers watch the blade as it begins to bore; the camera pans down to follow it. The operator pulls his levers. The circular blade lifts out of the ground, bringing earth with it, before it plunges back in again. A self-propelled steam crane, with the help of some workers, lifts metal gantry masts into position; the camera follows the mast. The operator again pulls on his levers. A group of workers help plant the gantry. A worker pushes a wheelbarrow full of cement, and empties the contents into the gantry hole. A close-up shot of the cement filling the hole. Meanwhile, the train inches through the countrside, in front of a group of onlookers. The operator continues to work the blade. The blade burrows into the earth.

Shot from a train as it rushes through the countryside; the view is obscured by engine smoke, though it can be seen that the train pases under a bridge. A second, similar moving shot. Two workmen, one of whom is smoking a roll-up cigarette, connect two lengths of overhead cable. A close-up of their hands at work; a screw is tightened. A man attaches copper wire to a hanging clip. Amidst engine smoke, a locomotive driver looks out of his cab. A close-up of a locomotive's wheels as it moves at 3 miles per hour. It pulls a wagon, stretching out copper wire from a drum as it goes; a worker assists in this process. The cable crew nonchalantly walk on the wagon roof, placing the copper wire into the clips. Return to the shot of the wheels; the train stops. The driver of engine 64677 looks out from his engine, amd nods. From a ladder on top of the wagon roof, a worker adjusts the connections. A colleague on the ground, standing on the tracks, instructs him to move the connection left. He does so, and the worker and his colleague climb down. The driver looks out of his cab.

A shot of Southend signalbox as a train puffs by. The driver looks out of his cab, the view is obscures by smoke, and he turns back inside the cab. A shot of the engine's wheels. Workers continue to attach wire as a goods train with several coal wagons passes to the right. A close-up of a worker balanced precariously on a gantry; the shot pans down to show the workers with the wiring drum as the train comes to a halt at Southend Victoria station; a railwayman in a hat watches. An engine steams below wires. Steam pours out of a tube at the bottom of the engine; the steam fills the shot. Shot from the side of a steam train as it passes telegraph poles and rushes through the countryside. A shot looks back at the countryside passed; steam hangs over the ground. This will soon be a thing of the past; a shot of electric wires and a pantograph lifting up.

It is the last Friday of 1956; a group of men in bowler hats (with the occasional female companion) crowd round a steam engine at Southend Victoria; meanwhile bunting hangs from the canopy. A shot of a crowd outside the ticket office; to the right is a sign denoting waiting and ladies' rooms; the occasion is the inauguration of the first electric passenger train from Southend to London, and by consequence the last steam journey. Men with newsreel cameras stand waiting. The mayor of Southend, with his wife, welcome the officials. Newspaper reporters interview the stame train driver, on duty for the last time. A close-up of the sign below the cab, stating "Driver: F.Edwards". A melancholic-looking elderly man, and another with a Station Inspector's hat, are deep in conversation. A man with a Station Master's hat walks through the gate to the platform; he is followed by the mayor, who smiles at the camera.

A shot of an electric train with 'Liverpool Street' on its destination blind. A view of the base of the train, showing its electric generators, and the British Railways logo on it side; the train moves off. It passes Southend Victoria signalkbox, and watching individuals in front; what is perhaps a coal hop can be seen to the right. A close-up of the driver, John McKennan (?); behind him, the countryside flashes by. Two passengers smile and chat. Another duo are in discussion. The driver's hand can be seen operating the train controls. A full shot of the driver and the controls. As the train nears Shenfield (possibly at Wickford), the last steam train can be seen through the cab window, passing in the opposite direction. A repeat of the earlier poster shot. A close-up of a signal; voice-over: "The signal is all clear for Eastern Region's initial five year electrification plan". The camera pans to follow the pantograph as it glides along the wires. A shot from the cab of the train travelling beneath the wires.

To request more details on this film, please contact us quoting Film number 7388.