Published 13th July 2012
The iconic railway comedy film, ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’, was recreated on the North Norfolk Railway celebrating the 60th anniversary of its release. In 1952, the closure of Britain’s rural railway lines had begun and many people were left without public transport provoking very public fights against the closures.
A comedy classic film was made of one such fight in 1952 by the famous Ealing Studios starring Sid James called ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt. ’It told the story of locals who rallied against their line’s closure and ran their own train in competition against a bus service.
Many of todays preserved railways illustrate this story and after closure, they were resurrected by volunteers and are now open again joined up to the national network after decades of isolation. Typical of this story is ‘The Poppy Line’ running along the north sea between Sheringham and Holt in north Norfolk.
Its stations were renamed for the weekend to reflect the film and many attractions were at the railway drawing huge crowds. For example the Holt terminus of the line was renamed Titfield and the car and steam roller featured in the film were on display there.
From the train, the Bedford bus could be seen ‘pacing’ the train in a recreation of the film’s race between the two methods of transport. Character actors recreated the key people in the film and combined with good weather, thousands of visitors rode on the trains and watched as the train from London crossed the new connection to the national network at Sheringham.
The event featured an impressive locomotive line up complete with an auto train headed by No. 1450, a Great Western Tank engine. The main line train was brought from London by a Southern Railway Battle of Britain’ Class locomotive (as featured in the film 60 years ago!) No. 34067 Tangmere.
Great Western Pannier Tank No. 9466 made its 2012 debut on the main line and ran the train between Norwich and Cromer and again from Sheringham to Cromer. The engine carried a smokebox shed plate 32G, Melton Constable, in deference to the Line’s history and a famous but now long gone engine shed.
The black liveried Pannier Tank was also used as the shunting engine at Norwich where the train from London had to be split into two sets of five carriages. It is thought that this was the first time in nearly 50 years that the station had used a steam locomotive for such duties.
9466 had earlier left Dereham on the Mid Norfolk Railway and taken itself to Norwich to work the train. This trip was reversed in the evening.
One of Britain’s biggest locomotives, No. 92203 Black Prince owned by the well-known artist, David Sheppard and LMS ‘Black 5’ No. 45337 ran trains on the preserved section of line.
By national rail via Norwich and Cromer and occasional direct charter trains from around the UK. Stations are also served by bus and main roads.
The railway has its annual beer festival on July 13/14/15 with over 100 real ales and ciders on offer with hot food and live entertainment over the three days.
The ever popular 40’s weekend is held on September 14 and 15 and the line reflects wartime conditions along with Dad’s Army, Spivs, a flea market of the time and suitable music.
The North Norfolk Railway runs wine and dine trains throughout the year and the sea views from the train are simply stunning, if the weather co-operates!