Saturday, 4 August 2012

Re-Shaping British Railways

This article was taken from 'Industrial Screen' magazine - May 1963 - and offers an interesting insight into the distribution and screening of this important film for the rail industry staff.


A twenty-three minute visual version of the  British Railways Board ('Beeching') Report was recently made by British Transport Films. The film used contemporary and historical scenes, maps, animated diagrams and a series of explanatory statements recorded for the purpose by Dr. Beeching during the final weeks of his work on the report. 

The film was first used for briefing senior staff at B.R.B. Headquarters and in Regional Headquarters in a series of showings which took place two days before the publication of the report. On the day of publication it provided the core of the special B.B.C. Television programme, the greater part of the film being shown in sections, each followed by live discussion in the studio - with Dr. Beeching, union leaders and economists taking part. This combined film and television operation was described in The Observer as 'a masterpiece of public relations' and there can be no doubt that it contributed enormously to the number of reasonable and agreeable reactions which followed. 

A total of 85 16mm. copies and 12 35mm. copies of the film were also prepared for use in a country-wide series of staff screenings - timed to begin live days after publication of the report. 

Since, for maximum topicality, production work continued on the film up to the iast possible moment - and was immediately followed by a crash programme of copy printing in both gauges - a special burden was laid upon George Humphries Ltd. who met all their commitments with time to spare. The 35mm. prints were used in commercial cinemas hired for private staff screenings in the mornings. There was one audience of 1,600 in the cinema at Ashford and a total of 3,000 staff saw the film in the New Oxford A.B.C. in Manchester on 1st and 2nd April. The 16mm. copies were shown by British Transport Films on 123 machines located in various parts of the country together with their two rail borne cinema coaches and three daylight cinema vans which were hired for the job. B.T.F. also hired twelve additional mobile 16mm. units which worked around planned circuits and they used a pair of Moviematic projector cabinets in tours embracing such locations as works' canteens. It was reckoned that by the end of April the film was seen by 100,000 staff, and showings continued into May.