a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Documentary as a dramatisation of reality


Filming The Elizabethan Express for British Transport Films
Billy Williams Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

And we also did films on the railways and there was one particular film called The Elizabethan Express, which was a steam train which went from King's Cross to Edinburgh, non-stop. I think it was six and a half hours and this was in about the... mid-'50s, 1954 or something like that, and we had a lot of shots to do on this train but the... the scenes that I remember the most were actually being on the footplate of this locomotive travelling between 90 and 100 miles an hour, and I was the assistant cameraman and the cameraman was Jim Ritchie and he was hand-holding this Newman Sinclair, which was a clockwork camera, And square. Yes, a very square aluminium box, which you had to keep winding up every time it started to slow down a little bit; you'd wind it up a... by clockwork, and I remember the excitement of being on the footplate because we... this thing was thundering along and you'd got this cold air coming in on one side and the... the driver by the regulator controlling the speed and watching the road ahead, and the fireman opening the boiler and this great furnace with tremendous heat coming out and this... constantly shovelling coal, tons of coal, and so you got the cold air on one side and this hot air on the other side and this tremendous feeling of speed, and then, of course, when you had to pick up water, the water would fly everywhere and, as I say, it was non-stop so they had a relief crew and alongside the... the tender where the coal was, there was a very, very narrow passageway so that one crew could leave the engine and the other crew could come from the passenger compartment to take over the train; and it... it was just... just wonderfully exciting and... we also did films that were perhaps a bit more mundane, on the... on the track. You know, about how to maintain the railway track and... extraordinary, the... the commitment that these people had. They... they worked in gangs and each gang had a section of railway line that they looked after and that was their responsibility, and they took a real pride in looking after it and making sure that everything was level and the packing was there and, you know, this... we made this instructional film really about... about doing that so one got an insight into how the railways were maintained.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 2 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008