The location shots where made over a six-week period in the summer of 1952, on the by then closed GWR branch line from Limpley Stoke (on the line between Salisbury and Bath) to Camerton. Titfield itself was Monkton Combe. ( ) At , the line crossed under the Somerset and Dorset line that ran up from Bournemouth via Templecome to Bath (Green Park). Whenever one of the BR trains passed over the 'Titfield' line and filming was in process they would whistle furiously (especially if Lion was in action) so that the whole scene had to be re-shot!
During filming, two 14xxs were used and these were stabled at Monkton Combe. The steam roller/loco battle was filmed at the site of . The "arrivals" and final scenes at "Mallingford" were recorded at Bristol Temple Meads. The engine shed from where Dan and Valantine stole the engine from was Oxford. The actual crash when 1401 becomes derailed and crashes down an embankment was filmed in the studio using scale models. There is some footage of this scene being filmed in the studios and has been broadcast at least twice by the BBC.
The church, which features in the early stages of the film, is the parish church in the village of Freshford.
The town museum from where the "Titfield Thunderbolt" was liberated from was filmed in the old Imperial College building (now demolished) opposite the Royal Albert Hall in South West London. All these shots were made using a studio built model. There is some apocryphal evidence that this model was held back after the conclusion of filming and passed into BBC ownership when they brought the studios two years later in 1955. It has been suggested that it was used as an occasional 'prop' for drama productions (any suggestions as to actual productions?) and was subsequently destroyed in one of the BEEBs famous 'good housekeeping campaigns' the early 1970's.
The scene of a 14xx being driven through the village was filmed in the Oxfordshire village of Woodstock. Converting a Morris Commercial chassis and building a mock-up of a 14xx on top achieved the effect. (It bore the number 1466). The drivers’ seat was located at the front of the left-hand side tank. If you have a video and use the "freeze-frame" facility you can just spot the four vehicle wheels. Besides it bounces like a lorry rather than a heavy steam loco!
The series of scenes of 1466 running through open woodland and finally crashing into a tree were filmed in Richmond Park (SW London). Wally Hill, the props charge-hand recalls the difficulty they had in getting the right effect of all the birds flying out of the tree when 1466 comes to a crashing halt. “Along with three other prop men, we were up in the branches with our legs tied to some branches so the camera could not see us. We had made up special boxes with roll top lids containing pigeons, so that when we rolled the lids back they would fly out. After the first couple of attempts, the pigeons clearly got bored and refused to fly away! In the end we finished up having to throw them out by hand, later we found out that these were homing pigeons used for racing and that they will only fly from ground level”
This was not the Camerton Branch’s first claim to film fame! It had previously been used for some scenes in ‘The Ghost Train’. Originally written in 1925 as a stage play by Arnold Ridley (more popularly known as Private Godfrey from Dads Army), Gainsborough Pictures made a film version in 1929 using the LSWR line between Hurstbourne and Fullerton with Wherwell becoming Fal Vale. However the film, produced by Michael Balcon, was a ‘silent’ (It was made only 2 years after Buster Keaton’s masterpiece “The General”). To cater for more demanding audiences a sound track was subsequently added. However it was not very popular and the decision was made to re-make the film. The film was made during 1931 largely in studios at Islington, but the GWR facilitated in the use of the exterior shots by allowing filming at Paddington and Barmouth. However for the exterior shots of the fictious Fal Vale station, it was constructed on the branch West of Limpley Stoke. The film proved just as popular as the stage play had been and was re-made in 1941 - this time starring the popular comedian Arthur Askey. Follow this link for more information.