Film: 8697

Railways | 1960 | Sound | B/W


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A film aimed at British Railways staff to demonstrate how small examples of incompetence or negligence at all levels can, cumulatively, cause a major delay to a train service. There are good images of the newly completed Euston Station, of train passengers, and of various railway staff at work.

We look down upon the ticket hall at Euston Station, before the camera swings back to allow a view of the full station concourse, 'the great hall with its shops, restaurants, and super loos'. We look along the ticket hall, a few people at the windows, and a man in a hat and raincoat, standing and reading. A bespectacled female member of the rail staff, a bag over her left shoulder, directs a man carrying a case. Back in the ticket hall, a bespectacled, middle-aged woman, carrying a white handbag, walks across, while a younger woman with a carrier bag walks away from us and is followed to the end of a queue at a window. A train driver in uniform and cap walks towards us beside an Inter-City train. A portable lamp is slotted into place at one end of the train. Another member of staff walks towards us along the platform and opens the door to a first class carriage. The driver, carrying his coat and bag, steps into the engine. The train number at the front of the engine changes. The station clock flicks from 9.34 to 9.35.

A young woman with a very 1960s look, a paisley coat and a kind of headscarf, gets up from one of the side seats next to the conductor on a London Routemaster bus, and we follow her to the exit, where her friend in a shiny hat is ready to get off. We see from inside a black taxi cab a black BR porter opening the door for the man in a suit inside, who gets out and pays the driver. A view towards the escalators connecting the station concourse and the Underground. The businessman leaves a window in the ticket hall and is watched going through the door into the main station area. The train driver, standing in the doorway of the train, chats to the guard on the platform. The businessman speaks to the member of staff at the gate to the platform, as a boy in shirt and tie, a man in army uniform, and the two young women from the bus pass through.

We look down the train carriage, where a boy reads on the left, and a man in a suit reads a newspaper on the right, while two children stand in the aisle behind; a member of staff walks towards us. The light beside the track changes. The station clock changes to 9.55. Above an OFF light, the letter R appears. The guard waves down the platform. Another member of staff blows his whistle and waves. The guard climbs aboard, shuts the door, puts his head out of the window and then closes it.

We look across the station concourse, then follow a man in a white cardigan and tie running across. He rushes towards, then away from, us, past a newspaper and magazine stand and through a crowd. The two staff at the platform gate allow him through, but suddenly his image freezes on the screen. We look along a poster saying 'Get your tickets here at station prices', and above a picture of an Inter-City train, 'The Pain Train'. The train remains alongside the platform, a member of staff walking idly along.

The train driver sits in his cabin, moving a handle. A lever on the wall behind is switched from Off to On to allow him to check his automatic warning system. Standing up, he presses a button on his control panel. The train driver gets out of his engine and walks down the platform a short way. With his back to us, he climbs through a door and pulls another lever, before stepping down again and closing the door. He starts to walk back towards us. Another member of the rail staff looks at his pocket watch, blowing out his cheeks impatiently. The driver walks back towards us, then steps into his cabin. With his back to us, he pushes the lever back up. The station clock changes from 9.56 to 9.57.

We look through the driver's window, as the train slowly moves ahead. It moves beside the platform. The driver's view again, as the train passes some waving track workers. The guard sits on the train reading a newspaper. A stack of parcels wobble to the train's movement. The driver's view, as the train reaches maximum speed. The two young women are seated next to each other, bags and belongings on the table in front of them, the one on the left taking off her shiny hat. The man who hurried to catch the train sits smoking. A tube slips down from the pile of parcels. The guard continues to read his newspaper. Another parcel slips down; the guard's face appears in a window overlooking the pile. The train passes across the picture through countryside scenery.

A signal light. A bespectacled man in a sleeveless sweater works in a control room. The light again. The man moves towards the opposite side of the room. A close-up of his hand flicking a switch, then pressing a button. A loudspeaker, the camera moving out to show a line man working on the track beyond it. The line man is testing the track. As the train moves along, a yellow light is seen, causing the train to slow down. Shots of the driver and the track ahead. The line man finally approaching his telephone and the man in the control room speaking to him. The view along the track again. The driver brings the train to a halt, then walks to the back of his cabin and steps out. Two shots of him making a call at a nearby telephone and discovering that it is a line fault. He re-enters the train, facing us as he walks round to his seat, where he gets out his 'sheets'.

The businessman looks impatiently out of a first class carriage window. A view of cars along a motorway. The man peers out. The line man finishes work at a box beside the track. Fingers press several buttons in the control room. Shots alternating between the changed signal lightsand the train driver, who at first continues working on his sheets, then notices the change and starts driving, pen in mouth.

In the first class carriage, we look over a woman wearing a pearl brooch on her jacket, smoking, and reading a magazine; opposite, the businessman opens a folder. A young couple, the man in a buttoned-up sweatshirt, look out of the window. The two fashionable young women chat animatedly. A side-on shot of the driver. The view ahead through his window, as the train is obliged to enter by a different platform from the expected one. Close shots of a poster about punctual departures and arrivals, encouraging passengers to board and alight promptly; the camera moves out to show a man directing two women and their children to the changed platform; they run up some steps. They run towards us along the covered bridge over the track, one of the children dropping something. They go down the steps, where they speak to a member of the rail staff and board the train. A middle-aged woman in a white suit, hat and gloves, carrying a white handbag, daintily picks her way down the steps, while the frustrated member of staff looks up at her: alternating shots of the two of them. He opens a door for her, then helps her on, before waving his flag.

Seen from the side, the driver looks out of the window, then drives the train. The children sit around a table on the train. Two elderly women, one in a hat, are seated next to each other. A young woman, apparently sleeping, smiles. The driver's view, as he picks up speed. A striking shot of the train moving above a bank in the distance, glimpsed between two groups of trees and reflected in a pool of water below.

The guard straightens his coat and hat. He steps off the train onto a platform, and calls over a member of staff who pulls a trolley of parcels along. Inside the carriage, the guard stacks parcels, as the man with the trolley appears beside the train. The guard gesticulates: 'Wrong barrow first!' The other man puts back the parcel he had picked up, as another, Afro-Caribbean member of staff appears with an empty trolley. The guard sorts out muddled parcels. The flushing handle in the toilet, with a sign above it warning against using it when the train is stationary. A mother puts down the toilet seat, while a child wriggles impatiently beside her. The black member of staff walks away from us, past an open carriage door. The guard chases after him and calls him back to close it; the guard waves his flag down the platform and gets on the slowly moving train.

A woman's head lies on the table, while another woman beside her reads. The young woman with the shiny hat puts it on and discusses the delay with her friend. A man in a suit, wearing a buttonhole, waits at a station, looking at his watch. A woman waits at the station. Two other women chat to a member of the BR staff. The two young women on the train look at their watches anxiously. The train comes towards us along the platform. The man waiting for the two women shakes his head. The women step off the train. He greets them, taking one in each arm. He rushes with them to a rather ordinary car with a white ribbon across the front.

The woman who has been reading a magazine in the first class carriage looks out of the window and asks a member of staff if she has time to buy a magazine; he opens the door for her. She walks away from us towards a stall selling magazines and other items, where she browses. A woman in a white hat on the train talks to a BR man. The woman at the stall faces us, looking at Time magazine. Several shots of people standing around in groups. The guard, standing on the platform, takes out his pocket watch. He is followed striding across the picture to two staff talking, whom he reproves for causing further delay. The station man blows his whistle and is followed along the platform. Two men see a young woman onto the train. The woman at the magazine stall passes over some change. The guard gets back on. Two shots showing the magazine-reading woman walking away from the stall and entering the train, a BR man opening the door for her. The guard hangs out of his door, waving his flag. The train is seen moving away from the platform. The businessman speaks to the magazine reader, who has her back to us, and points angrily to his watch.

The driver looks at his watch. Two staff wait beside a connecting train at Crewe station, which is also now delayed. The driver's view of the track ahead. An elderly woman in a hat leans out of the window of the crowded connecting train, speaking to a similarly dressed woman. Another elderly woman in the window of the waiting train. Two staff on the platform discuss whether they should keep the train there for longer. The door of the Area Manager's office. The bespectacled, besuited Area Manager. He is in discussion with three other men about other business. Several shots of this meeting and of the paperwork on the table in front of them. The two staff on the platform reach a decision. One walks across to a switch at the side. The Area Manager, who has not been available to make the right decision. The train moves along behind the two staff. The Area Manager's office door. Fingers tap on the arm of a train seat.

The driver's view, as the delayed train approaches Crewe. It passes in front of a number of staff at work on the track. It stops beside the platform. We watch from behind the businessman get out of the train and run. We follow him across some platforms. He looks ahead in horror. An unoccupied track where he expected his connecting train. A member of staff appears from a door marked Private, and is berated by the infuriated businessman. People get onto the waiting train.

A close-up of the 'vacuum' dial, showing that the train has 'overcreated' a vacuum. A BR man beside a brake at the station, which the guard had phoned ahead and asked him to pull. The guard gets out and puts a parcel on a trolley; the BR man approaches him, denying that he received such a message. The vacuum dial. The BR man makes a phone call at a desk. His hand finds the guard's message, buried beneath various documents. The train driver looks back out of his window impatiently. The loco disengages from the rest of the train. A loud speaker, asking the Carriage and Wagon Examiner to go to the platform. Two shots of another loco being attached. Two C and W men put on hard hats and leave an office. They step off the train. The driver steps on and turns a horizontal wheel. Several shots of the C and W men checking the bottom of the carriages at track level. A close-up of the connection between the new loco and the carriages, before the camera moves up to show the train moving away from Crewe.

The train passes through countryside scenery. A man in a signal box pulls back levers to let a freight train through first. The signal moves up. The freight train passes along the track towards us, seen through the window of the signal box. The loco of the passenger train waits. The points on the track move. The signal moves up again. The loco moves on again. It passes across in a rural setting. A 20mph sign. A view along a deserted stretch of track in misty conditions. We look towards workmen much further down the track, the camera moving back to show just how far away from the speed restriction sign they are now. The train passes away from us slowly, towards where the work is taking place.Several shots of the track workmen finally moving the sign, two of them in donkey jackets and berets.

A chain of trolleys carrying parcels are being moved along at the next station. We look across a mound of parcels towards the train passing across. Two shots of a teleprinter producing a message for the Area Manager. More shots looking over parcels towards the train, and of the teleprinter. A member of staff tears off the message. He passes it to another man on the platform. We follow him to a desk, where he writes a note, then out of the office. Shots of staff conferring, and of the driver looking out of his window, before the whistle is finally heard. The train moves slowly away from us out of the station, altogether 18 and a half minutes late.

The Area Manager at Crewe finishes some paperwork at his desk, then collects his bowler hat and gloves, as we hear his commentary on the need to eliminate delays. He emerges from his office. He walks past a Cafeteria and Bar in the station, where he talks to a member of staff. He continues past some passengers on a platform, where he waits. The guard stacks up parcels in the moving carriage, as we hear his voice. A man on the platform takes parcels from him and loads them onto a barrow. Alternating shots of the driver and of the track ahead, as we hear that he is in reality an Inspector, only playing a driver in this film.

Seen from below a bank, the train comes towards us. It passes across. We look down over a busy station, as a train moves beside one platform, and other trains occupy other tracks. Trains pass across the picture in different directions. A view from the track of a train passing overhead; the commentray concludes: 'If you take care of the seconds, the minutes will take care of themselves'.

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