The Railway Children (1970)   4/54/54/54/54/5


Sally Thomsett, Jenny Agutter and Gary Warren in The Railway Children (1970)

Petticoat Station

Edgecomb Villa was a happy house for the Waterbury family but that all changed the night two men arrived and Mr. Waterbury (Iain Cuthbertson) left with them. Mrs. Waterbury (Dinah Sheridan) was forced to lay off staff and then with money dwindling the family; Roberta (Jenny Agutter), Phyllis (Sally Thomsett) and Peter (Gary Warren) move to a humble cottage in Yorkshire. But despite being poor the family stick together and the children make friends wherever they go be it whilst waving at the passengers on the train or Mr. Perks (Bernard Cribbins) the Porter down at the station. And their kindness and bravery make them friends to everyone.

As a child my movie experience pretty much consisted of 3 things "Star Wars", "Superman" and "The Great Escape" well they were the 3 movies which were always being shown on British TV that I watched them more times than I care to remember. Now one movie I never watched as a child was "The Railway Children" it never appealed to me, this tale of 3 children and their adventures up in Yorkshire. And in a way I am glad I didn't watch it as a child as I am sure I wouldn't have enjoyed it but having watched it now as an adult I can appreciate what a wonderful movie it is. Nostalgic, feel good fun this is without wanting to sound cheesy a delightful movie full of innocence which makes you wish that life was as simple as shown in "The Railway Children".

Dinah Sheridan and Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children (1970)

So before watching "The Railway Children" my knowledge of the movie was really who starred in it and the famous scene where the children save the day by waving red petticoats to stop the train, I think anyone who has heard of "The Railway Children" has heard of that scene. So I was pleasantly surprised by the fun and mysterious start as we have the humour of a toy train blowing up to the mystery as Mr. Waterbury is lead away by two gentlemen. And it is a good mystery because you have the innocence of youth preserved as the children are only told he has gone away for a few years and so whilst we may suspect something we do not know and more importantly we want to know.

Anyway this fun and mysterious opening paves the way for the family's relocation to Yorkshire and then what "The Railway Children" becomes is basically a series of adventures. Now there is the iconic saving the train from a crash scene but we also get the children helping a sick Russian, saving an injured runner, celebrating birthdays and so much more. Each of these little adventures are simply charming often mixing a bit of drama with humour, so when the Russian collapses at the station you have the quirkiness of Mr. Perks not knowing he is Russian but then making out he knew. It is innocent and amusing that it is hard not to smile especially when it makes you wish that life was as simple as this now.

And in many ways it is the simple unaffected performances which make "The Railway Children" so charming be it the almost silent comedy of Bernard Cribbins as Mr. Perks to the serene delightfulness of Dinah Sheridan as Mrs. Waterbury. But of course the children are the stars and there is such great chemistry between Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett and Gary Warren that every scene they are in is full of perfect timing, be it the comedy of Phyllis repeating what Roberta says or Peter explaining that he wasn't stealing coal, just mining. It's even more amusing and also amazing when you realise that whilst at 17/18 Jenny Agutter appeared the right age to play the eldest daughter Sally Thomsett who plays younger sister Phyllis was in fact 2 years older than Agutter and yet you would never realise looking at them.

What is a shame is that I am sure if you gave a young child to watch "The Railway Children" now most of them would be bored, it is twee and innocent and not exciting enough. So in reality what was once was a children's movie is now a movie for older audiences who can appreciate the innocent charm and simplicity of the story and the era it shows.

What this all boils down to is that "The Railway Children" is a much loved movie and it deserves to be because it is simply charming and fun. But where as once this was a movie for children it is now something for adults who will be able to feel a sense of nostalgia and enjoy the simple innocence which comes across in every scene.


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