The British Transport Films Collection
Experiment Under London
On 19 August 2013 a new volume will be added to the BFI’s best-selling series of transport and travel films, The British Transport Films Collection.
Marking London Underground’s 150th anniversary, Experiment Under London Volume Eleven in this series of double-DVD sets, presents six films documenting the construction of the Underground’s Victoria Line, which were produced by the BTF Unit for London Transport.
During the Autumn of 1962, engineering work began on the first new underground railway to be built under Central London in over sixty years. Made between 1961 and 1969, the films show, in meticulous detail, the mammoth undertaking of building the Victoria Line, one of
the most complex civil engineering projects that London had ever seen. It was officially opened by the Queen in March 1969.
After the initial film showing the proposals and the tunnelling technology that will be used, the other five films are Cine-gazette style reports that not only show the technical engineering achievements but also the human endeavour required from the workforce
and the cooperation of the public.
This digitally mastered double-disc collection, which is accompanied by a booklet of film notes, is a must, not only for the transport enthusiast, transport workers and engineers, but also for documentary aficionados and anyone interested in Britain’s industrial history.
• Experiment Under London (1961): experimental excavations in preparations for the new Victoria Line underground;
• The Victoria Line Report No.1: Over and Under (1965): the chief civil engineer for LT's new underground line from Victoria to Walthamstow describes the work in progress from early 1963 to mid 1964 at Oxford Circus;
• Report No. 2: Down and Along (1965): modern techniques of tunnelling, the use of a mechanical digging shield in a running tunnel, and the digging by hand of vast underground caverns for junctions and cross-overs;
• Report No. 3: Problems and Progress (1967): the difficulties met by the designers and contractors, particularly at Kings Cross and Oxford Circus; the diversion work at Finsbury Park and the problem of accurate track laying;
• Report No. 4: Equip and Complete (1968): installing model escalators, testing new rolling stock and automatic train control, installing power supply and the operation of the Walthamstow-Highbury section;
• Report No. 5: London's Victoria Line (1966): the design, construction and completion of the new line showing the various phases and engineering techniques involved.
• A Hundred Years Underground (UK, 1963): the story of London Underground from its inception to modern times with contributions from distinguished Londoners including a young John Betjeman, singer Jessie Matthews, Lord Morrison of Lambeth and sculptor Henry Moore;
• The Queen Opening the Victoria Line (1969): mute rushes of the official opening ceremony.
RRP: £19.99 / cat. no. BFIVD975 / E
UK / 1961-1969 / b&w and colour / 167 mins / DVD9 x 2 / Original
aspect ratio 1.33:1
...and a clip has been published on YouTube, showing how a steel umbrella was erected over Oxford Circus road junction on August bank holiday weekend 1963 (amazing how quiet the streets are!).
It's probably also worth mentioning that the 167 mins running time only refers to the main sextet of films - A Hundred Years Underground runs 39 minutes (minus PAL speedup), so it's a pretty substantial extra.