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!
1401 was designed by C B Collett (Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Western Railway from 1921 - 1941) and introduced in August 1932 and appears to be herself. Accordingly to apocryphal evidence a second engine (number?) was also re-numbered 1401 to ensure continuity during filming.
The "Titfield Thunderbolt" is actually "Lion" an engine with a chequered history. She was built in 1838 for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and sold to the Mersey Docks Company in 1859. Recovered from the docks in the late 1920's she was restored by the LMS at Crewe to participate in the Centenary celebrations of the Rainhill Trials held in 1930. Follow this link for a view of Lion at the time. There was no tender, as only a static pile of coals was required while the loco was chocked up and used as a stationery engine to supply high-pressure steam (for pumps, dockside cranes and winches etc). A redundant tender from the former Furness Railway was pressed into service. The riveting on Lion's tender looks like it's from a Sharp Stewart tender - the Furness Railway small 0-6-0s had these and were being withdrawn in the early 1920s. (Pity they had to cut it up a bit to make it look right). All this has been detailed at length in various issues of the "Railway. Magazine" and would no doubt be available in the library of the NRM and elsewhere. During filming, Lion's tender was damaged, following the Inspectors "emergency test". There was a heavy collision (clearly seen in the film), which bent the buffer beam. This can be seen if you look at Lion, which is on permanent display in the Manchester Museum of Science and Technology. ('Lion' should not to be confused with 'Coppernob,' which is in the NRM in York). Follow this link: http://www.asterhobbies.co.uk/pages/models/lion_history.htm for a more detailed history of Lion. You’ll find a card model available as a free down load at: http://www.cardmodelers.org/Loco's/card_models.htm
The coach which is used in the early part of the film, until it is “wrecked” in the crash, dated from 1884 when it was one of a pair acquired for use on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway (W&U) where they were numbered 7 and 8. After passenger services on the W&U ceased in 1928 they were transferred to the Kelvedon & Tollesbury Light Railway where they remained until that line closed on 5th May 1951. They were then stored at Stratford Depot in East London. No 8 was used for filming and was returned to Stratford when filming ended, with the intention of preservation - this did not happen and it was broken up sometime during 1954. Sister coach No 7 was much luckier also being scheduled for preservation, but was sold for scrap sometime during in 1957 and ended up being used as an onion store. In 1982 the coach (by now only the bodywork) was rescued by the Rutland Railway Museum who unable to contemplate the cost of restoration merely sort to prevent any further deterioration. In 2002 the coach was purchased by the Midland & Great Northern Railway Society with the intention of being used on the North Norfolk Railway. Restoration is currently being undertaken at Appleby, which should be completed by the 2004 season. It will be mounted on a new steel underframe along with new (replica) bogies. The coach that formed Dan's home and was pressed into service after the crash, is thought to be a studio made prop.
The history of the 7m and 78ch of the Camerton Branch (known locally as "The Clank") is a microcosm of British Industrial History. When The Duke of Bridgewater opened a canal between Worsley and Manchester he was able to deliver cheap coal to industrial users in vast amounts compared with what could be carried by mule trains. It was also delivered regularly; the canal would only freeze for 2 or 3 days a year, whereas roads, after heavy rain, could be closed for weeks on end. In 1792 Parliament passed the Monmouthshire Canal Act which threatened to deliver large amounts of cheap Welsh coal to Bristol; a significant threat to coal from mines in North Somerset from where 100,000 tones of coal were mined in 1690 alone. Coalmines were recorded in 1763 at Radstock, Camerton, Foxcote, Timsbury, Writhlington and High Littleton. On the 17th April 1794 Parliament passed The Somerset Coal Canal Act. As canals gave way to railways the Somerset Coal Barons needed a railway to continue to allow them to compete against coal from South Wales to the major industrial markets of Bristol and Southampton. Compared to the film with the efforts of villagers to retain a passenger service, the passenger service only ever operated for two short periods. From it’s opening on Valentines Day 1907 to 1915, and then after a temporary suspension because of the Great War, again from 1923 to 1925. Thereafter the service was "Goods only", mainly for coal from Camerton and Dunkerton Collieries along with wool going to the flock mill at Monkton Combe. After the last coal deposits had been worked out in 1950 there was little for the line to carry and closure in 1951 easily pre-dated the "Beeching Era" of axed branch lines. The last coal mine in the area, Braysdown Colliery at Radstock closed in 1973, by which time its main shaft was 1,700 feet deep.
Follow this link to find out more about the Somerset Coal Canal.