Elizabethan Express (1954)

One of the most popular films from the legendary British Transport Films takes viewers on the record–beating express service from London to Edinburgh.

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Film details


The star of the much–loved documentary Elizabethan Express is the steam–powered locomotive Silver Fox. She was part of the Elizabethan service, whose daily non–stop journey took passengers the 393 miles from London to Edinburgh in six–and–a–half hours. At the time the film made this was the world’s longest daily non–stop run above 60mph.

Elizabethan Express was produced by the British Transport Commission’s in–house film unit, the celebrated British Transport Films. Like many BTF titles it is both a promotional film and a documentary, combining realism, romanticism and whimsy. For many years it was among the most popular films in the catalogue. Justly so: superbly crisp black–and–white cinematography of footplates and carriages, countryside and stations, railwaymen and customers, burning coal and rising steam positively glistens onscreen and in viewers’ memories.

The commentary is made up of fanciful and humorous rhyming couplets. Though in the tradition of the feted Night Mail (1936), no one would seriously rate this verse alongside W.H. Auden’s. By turns eccentrically inspired and enjoyably awful, its contrived but tongue–in–cheek rhymes are more reminiscent of the popular children’s comic Whizzer and Chips.

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