Train of Events

Train of Events

Original British quad format poster
Directed by Sidney Cole
Charles Crichton
Basil Dearden
Produced by Michael Balcon
Michael Relph
Written by T.E.B. Clarke
Basil Dearden
Angus MacPhail
Ronald Millar
Starring Jack Warner
Peter Finch
Valerie Hobson
Music by Leslie Bridgewater
Cinematography Lionel Banes
Paul Beeson
Gordon Dines
Edited by Bernard Gribble
Distributed by GFD (UK)
Release dates
  • 18 August 1949 (1949-08-18) (UK)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Train of Events is a 1949 British portmanteau film made by Ealing Studios and directed by Sidney Cole, Charles Crichton and Basil Dearden. It tells the story about a train that crashes into a stalled petrol tanker at a level (grade) crossing, and then flashes back and tells four different stories about some of the passengers before the crash.


The film opens with a long shot of a Liverpool-bound train waiting to depart from Euston station in London. The train leaves with various characters on board.

After dark, the train is still travelling north at speed when a light being waved by the trackside is seen by the driver. He applies the brakes, but a road tanker stalled across a level crossing is looming up just ahead. Plainly, there is not enough room to stop. Just as the collision is about to occur there is a fade out, which is succeeded by a general view of the railway locomotive sheds at Euston, three days earlier.

Several personal stories are then told in a series of flashbacks which make up the train of events referred to in the title.

The first story, "The actor", is about Philip (Peter Finch), an actor on board the train who has a dark secret. He has been visited by his estranged wife, and in a tense scene set in his lodgings we learn that she has been unfaithful while he was serving in the Army. She jeers at him, and he is roused to one supreme effort of revenge, strangling her while a gramophone plays These Foolish Things. The theatre party to which he belongs is travelling on the train, en route to a tour of Canada. Also on board is a costume hamper, which contains the body of his wife. He is hoping to "lose" it somehow on the transatlantic crossing, but two suspicious detectives have been tracking him, and are on board the train too.

The second story, ""The Prisoner-of-War", is about Richard (Laurence Payne) and Ella (Joan Dowling). He is a former prisoner of war on the run, who hates the idea of returning to Germany. They have endured a miserable life of subterfuge in a succession of seedy lodgings, and Ella is hoping that they can start again on the other side of the Atlantic. However, Ella has stolen money from her landlady's cashbox to pay for the journey, and there was only enough for one of them to emigrate. Selflessly, she intends that it will be him.

The third story, "The Composer", is the tale of composer Raymond Hillary (John Clements), who is travelling to a performance away from London with his star pianist, the temperamental Irina (Irina Baronova). Although married, he has a string of dalliances behind him, and Irina is the latest of these.

The fourth story, "The Engine Driver", takes place at the front of the train, centred on engine driver Jim Hardcastle (Jack Warner). He is facing his own crisis, because he is a candidate for a job in management at the locomotive sheds. This would take him off the footplate and allow him to work office hours for the first time in his career, which is the heartfelt wish of his wife Emily (Gladys Henson). However, to protect his daughter's future husband when he was accidentally absent, Jim illicitly worked the younger man's shift, and this innocent deception could cost him the promotion.

The film then returns to the train, which is roaring through the dark of the evening. Again, there is the light by the track, and the tanker just ahead – but this time, we see the whole collision.

The derailed and damaged train is lying in ruins. Jim Hardcastle groggily recovers consciousness in a pile of coal from the overturned tender, and shocked passengers wander about. One of them is Richard, the prisoner of war on the run, but his Ella isn't walking. She is on a stretcher and evidently badly hurt, and dies before she can be taken away for treatment. Richard runs from the scene (and the attending police), unaware of the steamship ticket in Ella's handbag, which blows away across the tracks.

Philip, the actor who has murdered his wife, seems unhurt and tries to make a dash for freedom. But as he tries to evade the detectives who were on board, he runs dangerously close to the wreckage, and an unstable coach collapses on top of him.

Irina and Raymond, the pianist and the composer, are only bruised, and their company is able to continue with their performance, albeit in bandages.

There is a happy ending for driver Jim. The final scene shows him waving goodbye to his wife, as he prepares to cycle across to the locomotive sheds on his first day in that nine-to-six job.

Main cast

"The Engine Driver" (directed by Sidney Cole)

"The Prisoner-of-War" (directed by Basil Dearden)

"The Composer" (directed by Charles Crichton)

"The Actor" (directed by Basil Dearden)


Jack Warner was permanently injured while making this film. He had insisted on learning how a steam engine is driven to get his posture right, but fell into a locomotive turntable pit and injured his back. He had a slight limp ever afterwards as a result, which became noticeably worse as he aged.

One quirk of the film is that the number of a locomotive featured in one of the early scenes is painted out (presumably to avoid worrying passengers who might fear that it really would be involved in an accident) but is still clearly readable because the numbers themselves were made from raised metal.

The locomotives used in the film included two LMS Class 3F "Jinty" 0-6-0Ts Nos. 47327 and 47675, and LMS Royal Scot Class No. 46126 Royal Army Service Corps. Two Royal Scots, No. 46100 Royal Scot and No. 46115 Scots Guardsman, and several Jinties are preserved today, including No. 47327 at the Midland Railway - Butterley.


The film premiered on 18 August 1949 at the Gaumont Haymarket in London,[1] and the reviewer for The Times didn't appreciate the four-in-one storyline : "The contrivance at best is clumsy, and there are not any inherent virtues in "Train of Events" to compensate for the inevitable distraction and division of attention."[2]


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