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MODEL Railways in Film and Television


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I know we have a very entertaining thread or two on spotting prototype railways in film and tv programmes, but what about model railways in film and TV?  I had a bit of time on my hands today whilst waiting for the Sunday Lunch to cook, so thought I'd start a topic and add a few clips/links.

 

I don't mean the likes of the Model Railway Challenge, but when model railways crop up in other progs and films as special effects.  In the pre-CGI days the occasional inclusion of recognisable model railway equipment (particularly in lower-budget fare) seems to be quite common, and of course Gerry Anderson must have helped keep Airfix/Kitmaster in business in the 60's.  Of course older films tend to use higher-end (presumably Basset-Lowke?) models, like Hitchcocks "The Lady Vanishes", but then there are some later films which use more commercial products...

 

I got thinking about this earlier in the year when watching an entertaining if slightly hokey disaster film from the 1960's, "The Day The Earth Caught Fire".  At one point the lead is on a bus travelling through the fog over Battersea Bridge, with trains passing by out of the window, and I could have sworn I saw some Dapol water towers.  Sure enough, as this link to some Behind The Scenes pics (just about) show, the set was done with commercial 00 gauge bits!

 

http://www.thepropgallery.com/day-the-earth-caught-fire-behind-the-scenes-photographs

 

(Sorry, having trouble inserting the relevant pic directly).  The curved set is an interesting technique for showing the view out of a bus window.

 

The excellent 80's BBC tv series "Edge of Darkness" about nuclear skulduggery features of course the home-made class 31; a bit of full-size kitbashing with a wooden body built over three diesel shunters at the Middleton Railway because apparently BR wouldn't co-operate.  But the scenes in the secret underground nuclear reactor in the mountains were done using miniatures, and rear-projection for a view through the window of an underground office.  It's not really visible on-screen, but the excellent book on the history of the BBC Model Unit shows some behind the scenes pictures; the cavern and reactor pool were built from a pond liner, and a Triang Dock Shunter (in Transcontinental yellow livery) is posed in the background on the set.  I cannot find any pics online right now, but there may be some out there.

 

80's Cold War Spy parody/spoof  "Top Secret" has an infiltration-planning scene, which starts with rocks and sticks standing in for buildings, and progresses to an elaborate 00 scale castle complete with what appears to be a Hornby 9f and continental stock whizzing past:

 

 

The rather arty 2012 version of "Anna Karenina" features a scene with a child playing with a model railway, which transitions to a real view of a real train.  The model railway is a disguised Castle-class (I think) which would fit in with the 'real' shots being modified GWR locomotives in the re-dressed shed at Swindon, standing in for Moscow.  A search on YouTube hasn't turned up any shots of the model, but there are a few clips of the real trains.

 

And a relatively more modern one, but an affectionate nod to the old films which the music video is referencing, "Walk Away" by Franz Ferdinand, which briefly has some nice model work in it

 

 

Anyone else got anything to add, to get it going? :)

 

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16 hours ago, Steamport Southport said:

The best model railway in TV was the one in The Addams Family.

Jason

I've seen some models at exhibitions which weren't operated as well as the Addams' railway!

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Not quite "special effects" but I remember the Blue Peter model railway and of course the BBC "Wheels" interlude with Bob Symes-Schutzmann's models, some filmed through a carriage window stencil.

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I built one for a production I worked on a couple of years ago. Released as 'Dark Encounter', set in 1980s USA, very influenced by Spielberg’s 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' which also has a model railway (railroad I guess for linguistic accuracy) as Birdseyecircus mentioned. It is on Amazon Prime I think, as well as DVD etc.

I also worked on the ITC Children’s series 'My Parents are Aliens' which hired a layout from Hornby I think for one of the episodes.

 

One of the reasons I got back into railway modelling was through building some Superquick models to use as a burning factory (very 1970s Goodies style effects) in BBC3's 'We Are Klang' which featured Greg Davies.

Jamie

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1 minute ago, 90164 said:

One of the characters in The Sopranos was into his model railways and was actually whacked in a model shop when looking to buy some stock. There's a lesson there somewhere.

Was it his Mrs? That's the real lesson.... ;)

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Reverend Lovejoy in the Simpsons has one

My missus was watching morse the other day and some murderer on there had one, didn't look too great and I think predictably he was running a Hornby flying scotsman 

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In this evening's episode of Last of the Summer Wine (the seymour utterthwaite series), the vicar was playing with his train set. At least two blue Coronations in view.

 

and in 'Superman returns', kevin Spacey (as lex luthor) has a model railway in his basement. 

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Hampton Court MRS were asked to double as 'Sunhill MRC' for an episode of the Bill, Reg Hollis was a member and was often seen reading Railway Modeller when manning the front desk at Sunhill. 

 

Abbey Road appeared in a recent Sherlock Holmes episode.

 

Jon

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I remember an article in a 1968 Railway Modeller about the filming of a scene on the Gainsborough Model Railway Club's O Gauge layout, which involved a crash. The film was Only When I Larf based on len Deighton's novel. I've never seen the film but I'm always looking out for it to appear on Talking Pictures TV.

 

One film that does come up regularly is the Arthur Askey version of The Ghost Train. If you can endure his relentless Cheeky Chappie persona for long enough you will eventually see a model representation of a Dean Goods plunging into the water through the open span of a swing bridge; I find it remarkably convincing. There are also real life shots of Barmouth bridge showing the span actually swinging. The train footage is re-used from an earlier version of the Ghost Train that only partially survives.

Edited by Andy Kirkham
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The BTF film 'Modelling For the Future' deserves a mention here, a film devoted to the large model layout of a possible channel tunnel railway terminal, as it was envisaged in 1961. Perhaps not quite what the original post was after, as the layout had a serious 'modelling' purpose rather than just entertainment. But fantastic viewing nonetheless.

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For those in search of nightmare fodder, I recommend Laura Dean’s baseball bat attack on her husband’s Lionel collection and layout in the final episode of Big Little Lies‘ second season.

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There's a New Zealand TV cop series called The Brokenwood Mysteries that has aired on U.K. telly. It reminded me of Midsomer Murders in its 'feel' and is very watchable.

 

In episode 1 of series 6, The Power Of Steam,  most of the action is set in a model railway shop that has a large and impressive layout in it. It is based around a steampunk murder...

 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11261194/?ref_=ttep_ep1

 

steve

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Although noted for his more darker plays, I wonder if the late playwright Dennis Potter was a model railway enthusiast as a layout and a man's passion for railways was a central theme in his play 'Schmoedipus'?

 

The BBC produced it as part of their 'Play for today' series which was broadcast in the mid-1970s.  Spookily enough I do remember seeing it as there's a scene where two of the characters share a taxi journey and are talking about his model railway and using cab control.

 

Synopsis here for anyone interested;  Schmoedipus

 

 

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