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Selected Videographic Essays and Criticism by Catherine Grant

Uncanny Arrival at a Railway Station

THE RAILWAY CHILDREN (Lionel Jeffries, 1970) was a film I ardently watched countless times on television as a child, and, I have to confess, I have seen and loved it countless times since.

I had certainly seen it long before I saw L'ARRIVEE D'UN TRAIN EN GARE DE LA CIOTAT (Lumière Bros., 1895). I noticed the resemblance between the two films only when watching Jeffries' film again recently. But when I explored this, I was struck by the extent of their resonance, and by the uncanniness of the later film's pastiche of the earlier one: Bernard Cribbins' Perks revivifies, down to his moustache, the La Ciotat station porter; an identical luggage trolley lurks in the background; the beshawled woman looks like she stepped off the earlier train, except that she's in Technicolor.

I began to figure, to fantasize, that the uncanniness of THE RAILWAY CHILDREN's penultimate sequence was not only set off by its graphic and musical evocation of the uncertainty of young Bobbie (Jenny Agutter) about quite why she was standing by the rail track, but also by its palpable haunting by the Lumière's originary scene, with its powerful, ghostly, urtext of a, much more bustling, railway platform just after the arrival of cinema.

For me, of course, it will also always be the other way round: that THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, and its own afterwardsness, haunt L'ARRIVEE D'UN TRAIN EN GARE...

[For links to further studies of the railways and cinema please visit]