The Friends of the
National Railway Museum

South of England Group
Vice Presidents: Richard Hardy; Sir William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCIT, FRSA

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Talk Synopsis

25 May 2009

A Film Evening
Frank Banfield
12 March 2007

For this meeting, we reverted to the technology of yesterday and had a programme of ciné films presented by Frank Banfield. Beginning with the earliest railway ciné known — scenes on a French station in 1895 - Frank took us on a tour in black and white silent film across the Tay Bridge (1897), the ”Great Train Robbery• USA-style of 1903, and up the Catskill Mountains in 1906. This film was remarkable because every frame had had to be photographed and restored from a paper negative held in the US Library of Congress. Given that it‘s about 15 minutes long that‘s around 15,000 frames!
We saw one of the slightly dangerous practices of 100 years ago, upon which our dear Network Rail might frown: platelayers using home-made ”sleds• to ride down the rack of the Washington cog railway - 4 miles in 4 minutes, and not much by way of brakes!!
Frank took us to Ireland to see the Listowel and Ballybunion MonoRail in 1920, a project whose inherent complexities - including locos with a boiler each side of the monorail and carriages where a ladder was necessary to get from one side to the other, not to mention ”bascule• road crossing bridges like those on Dutch canals — were all so great and unique as to have guaranteed its economic failure. But then it was Ireland after all.
And also in Ireland, a 1950 colour film, shot by Pat Whitehouse, of the Tralee and Dingle Railway. Delightful narrow gauge with all the infrastructure intact.
And so nearer home with a short film about ”London‘s River• made before the war and a 1937 SR film of the transport of fruit from Southampton Docks to London. We were flabbergasted to see the huge numbers of men off-loading, humping, carting, re-loading and stacking penny numbers of crates of orange boxes at each stage of a short journey. No wonder containers are popular!
”Firsts• and ”lasts• were also featured. The first electric trains on the Liverpool Street — Southend Victoria line and the last trams and trolley buses in London.
It all seems so long ago now, but we felt privileged to have been able to remind ourselves of the strides that have been made. I wonder what 2007 will seem like in 50 years‘ time?

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