The Railway Children (1970) – Lionel Jeffries

A recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Home Alone for the Family Genre, The Railway Children was a film I had never heard of, but, if I had seen it as s child it certainly would have cemented my crush on Jenny Agutter a lot sooner.

In this film she plays one of the three ‘railway children’ who move to Yorkshire with their mother (Dinah Sheridan) after their father disappears one evening. In Yorkshire they spend their time joyously exploring the wonders of the countryside, and interact with the passengers on the passing trains.

Soon, they are able to discover some of the truth of their father’s disappearance.

Based on the novel by E. Nesbit, which Jeffries adapted himself, it’s a rather happy film, even with the mystery of the missing father, and there’s a delightful feeling to the whole procedure.

The children are a lot of fun to watch, alongside Bobbie (Agutter) is younger sister Phyllis (a 20 year old Sally Thomsett playing an 11 year old!!) and Peter (Gary Warren). They settle into their countryside home, and their restricted financial situation rather comfortably. Their mother makes sacrifices, but the children do what they can to help, and always find time to interact with the daily trains, even preventing an accident.


As they have an effect on the town and it’s people, and those on the trains as well. It’s a wonderful little story that embraces the happiness of childhood, even as things they don’t understand are happening around them.

This is a wonderful family film, yet another I had never heard of. It is shot beautifully against the English countryside, and the finale of the film plays out wonderfully, all resting on Agutter’s performance.

I also rather liked the railway porter, Perks (Bernard Cribbins – all the more so after I realised who he was – Donna’s father Wilf from Doctor Who).

Of course not only had I never heard of the film (apparently there’s a stage show as well), I’d never heard of the original novel either, and I think, consequently that I missed out on something extraordinary in my youth (but there were other amazing things, so I shouldn’t really complain).

There’s no rush to the film, it’s a gentle stroll through England with a fine cup of tea in hand. It’s a genuinely moving tale that I can’t believe slipped past my radar for all this time.

It just goes to show you that there are so many wonderful pieces of cinema out there if you go looking for it.

This one is highly enjoyable, highly recommended, and is truly good family fare.

Check it out.

Has anyone read the book? Let me know if I should pick it up!






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