Although better known for an extensive career as one of Britain’s most recognisable character actors, Lionel Jeffries also had a second career as a director. Intriguingly, Jeffries’ five films behind the camera showed his skill in creating mature, beautiful films aimed at a younger audience, whether The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972), Baxter! (1973) or The Water Babies (1978). Most famous of his films, however, was undoubtedly his 1970 adaptation of Edith Nesbitt’s novel The Railway Children, a film whose mere mention can still bring a tear to the eye for some.

The Railway Children follows the Waterbury family. Mr Waterbury (Iain Cuthbertson) has been wrongly imprisoned for espionage, and, without his income, Mrs Waterbury (Dinah Sheridan) is forced to relocate herself and her three children – Roberta (Jenny Agutter), Phyllis (Sally Thomsett) and Peter (Gary Warren) – to Yorkshire, living in a house called the Three Chimneys.

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The trio of children become intrigued by a railway line at the bottom of their hill and develop a ritual of waving as it passes, befriending many people associated with the train along the way. But will their father ever be one of the passengers returning home along the line?

Jeffries’ heartwarming film makes the most of a distinctive collection of locations, mostly around the Yorkshire town of Haworth, as well as several neighbouring areas. As many of the locations are in a preservation area, they still retain the chocolate-box atmosphere of the film to this day. Here are five locations as they stand.

The station

One of the most important locations in the film is, of course, the railway station, which is the real Oakworth Station in Yorkshire. No doubt aided by the success of Jeffries’ film, it has been preserved in all of its period detail and is a popular tourist attraction for fans of the film. We first see the station when the family arrive from London, greeted by a strange man in a cart.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

We see the station again a little later in the film, looking more picturesque in the clearer weather, when we’re introduced to Perks (Bernard Cribbins), the station porter.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

We view the station from various angles, often running parallel to the train tracks. The shot below, when the children first enter the station from walking along the railway lines, is a good example of a typical composition.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

We also see the station’s interior at various points, including Perks’ room. The room is preserved today as it was, albeit without a crackling fire in the grate.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

The film’s most famous, not to say emotional, sequence also takes place on the station platform, when Roberta spots a familiar figure appearing through a cloud of smoke from a departing train.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

The doctor’s house

Later in the film, Peter is sent to Doctor Forrest (Peter Bromilow) for help. We see him first running across a graveyard. This is the graveyard of St Michael and All Angels Church in Haworth.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

We then see the doctor’s house from the perspective of the edge of the graveyard. The house is one of the most famous houses in the whole of Yorkshire: the Brontë Parsonage. The building was home to the famous literary sisters and is today a museum dedicated to their lives and work.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

We get a closer view of the parsonage once Peter has got the doctor’s attention. We see a shot of its main entrance when he goes in to collect his medical kit. The building is preserved today thanks to the Brontë Society. Doctor Forrest and Peter leave the parsonage through its distinctive stone-pillared gates. Again, it’s exactly as it is in the film.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

Finally, the doctor drives Peter in his cart down Church Street in Haworth, alongside St Michael and All Angels. The road is as it was.

Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

The river

Seeing the doctor on his way to a patient, Roberta spots him and joins him on his round. We first see the doctor next to the spooky remains of Wycoller Hall and the stony bridge over Wycoller Beck, in Lancashire.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

At an equally picturesque bridge, Roberta joins him. The bridge is just a little further on. Contrary to its picturesque image, this location is one of the most haunted in the area, famed for the ghost of a headless horseman.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

Albert’s house

Appropriately, Perks lives in a house that is genuinely close to the station where he works. After the children have collected a range of birthday presents for him from the kind people of the town, they carry them there in a pram. The house is still standing today in Oakworth at 61 Station Road, though an adjoining house has been built in the years since filming.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

The Waterburys’ house

The main house where the Waterbury family live once out of London is one of the most picturesque seen in British cinema. The house is Bents Farm in Oxenhope, south of Haworth. The house still stands today and can just about be seen from the public footpath that runs alongside it, though it’s mostly blocked by trees and bales of hay. The closest angle it’s possible to recreate without trespassing comes when the ill man at the station is taken to the house.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

We see the children running across the field at various points throughout the film. The main field in question is also private, though the adjacent public field is seen once or twice throughout the film as well.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

Another shot sees Albert trundling towards the house on his tricycle. The distinctive wall seen in the shot still stands today alongside the house.

The Railway Children (1970)
Location from The Railway Children (1970) in the present day

References