Black Five: The Last Days of Steam

Three films by Paul Barnes that celebrate and regret the final days of steam on the railways.

Three films by Paul Barnes that celebrate and regret the final days of steam on the railways – preserved by the BFI National Archive and remastered for DVD release in 2008 to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of steam in Britain.

In 1968, enginemen faced the last months of steam haulage on Britain’s mainline railways. For those who worked on the Black 5 locomotive the inevitable progress to diesels and electrics prompted mixed feelings.

Black Five (1968) directed by Paul Barnes, records their reminiscences as they faced this great change in their lives – of craftsmanship, camaraderie, and of the ‘personality’ of these great machines. The workers’ comments are an elegy to a time gone by, to skills no longer needed, and they make a poignant background to the beautifully filmed images of the heavy iron beasts trundling their way to the end of the line.

Black Five is filmed around Carnforth station in Lancashire, a location which had been the setting for the archetypal railway romance, David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945) over 20 years earlier.

The DVD also contains two other short films by Paul Barnes. The Painter and the Engines (1967) follows painter David Shepherd’s race against time to record on canvas the magic and romance of steam during the locomotives’ last weeks at South London’s Nine Elms sheds. King George V (1970) charts the history of the celebrated locomotive, which was taken out of service in 1965 but offered a length of siding at Bulmers of Hereford to continue running, in steam.

Special features

  • Illustrated booklet containing newly commissioned essays and notes.

Product information

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    • Original aspect ratio


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      • 2 Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland, French Overseas departments and territories

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