God's Wonderful Railway

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God's Wonderful Railway was a BBC children's drama series of 8 episodes, first broadcast in 1980. Written by Avril Rowlands, it was set specifically on the Severn Valley Railway and filmed almost entirely on location on the railway during 1979.[1] Rowlands met her husband Christopher during filmimg of Carrie's War on the SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society in November 1973.[2]

Description

The series was divided into three stories, set in different time periods in the history of the railway, through the eyes of a fictional railway family. In each story the main protagonist is a boy in his early to mid teens, who then reappears as an adult in the following story.

The first story (two episodes) is set during the construction of the line, and its main character is Robbie Grant, a boy who has been brought to the valley because his father is working on the railway as a navvy. Although the Grant family was fictional, the story included characters such as Sir John Fowler and Henry Orlando Bridgeman who were involved in the building of the real Severn Valley Railway, while the plot line in which Robbie is severely injured by a fall of rock is notably similar to an actual accident which took place during construction in 1859. The Didcot Great Western Society's veteran Wantage Tramway locomotive "Shannon" was used for filming, being either propelled or hauled into shot as it was not in steam at the time.

The second story (three episodes) is set in the Edwardian era, when the now-elderly Robbie is the signalman at Highley, and his grandson George is about to start work as a porter at the station. 4566, renumbered as 4506, served as a locomotive of that era. A brief clip from this story showing 4566 setting off from Arley was later reused by the BBC as a cutaway shot in the 1982 Doctor Who episode 'Black Orchid'.

In the final story (three episodes), set in 1939, George is Station Master at Arley; his son Andy has to deal with an evacuee from Birmingham billeted with the family, and becomes suspicious that a spy is trying to destroy Borle Viaduct. A number of locomotives were used including 5764 and 7819 Hinton Manor.

Novelisations of the three stories were published in separate volumes:

  • Permanent Way
  • Clear Ahead
  • Fire On The Line

A further two stories in five episodes were scheduled for production in the spring of 1981. The scripts were completed in the summer of 1980 and were to have featured Highley, Hampton Loade and Bridgnorth in particular, together with many of the SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society's engines. The fourth story was set during the closure of the line with Andy, now an engine driver, driving the last train. The final story was set at the start of the SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society's preservation era. The scripts were accepted by the executive producer, however financial difficulties at the BBC led to a late decision to the second series being 'axed'[3].

DVD release

The writer Avril Rowlands held a launch event at Kidderminster on 19 November 2017 to mark the release of the series on DVD.[4] Excerpts from the series were featured in a film show at Kidderminster Railway Museum on 27 January 2018 presented by Avril and Chris Rowlands, who also gave a talk on the work involved in making the series.

See also

List of film and TV productions filmed on the Severn Valley Railway

References

  1. SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society News 51, article by Avril Rowlands
  2. Jordan, P., 'My Moment of Glory', SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society News, No. 203
  3. SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society News 57, letter from Avril Rowlands
  4. SVRLive

Links

God's Wonderful Railway on IMDb