‘Snow’, Geoffrey Jones, British Transport Films

Do you remember the winter of 1962/63? The South of England was covered by a foot of snow. Overnight, working narrowboats had become frozen fast in the Grand Union Canal. ‘Western’ and ‘Warship’ diesels had invaded the Western Region of British Railways. The ‘Blue Pullman’ was the pride of the line, but steam still reigned supreme on many passenger services and on freight trains…

‘Snow’ is probably the best corporate film ever made. It was Geoffrey Jones’ first film for British Transport Films. In September 1962, Jones began his research for a film about design for the British Railways Board. Armed with a 16mm camera, he travelled throughout the country, shooting film of anything he found particularly interesting.

Viewing the footage, he hit upon the idea of making a second film contrasting the comfort of the passengers with the efforts of the railwaymen to keep the railway tracks open for traffic. On January 31st 1963, Jones met with BTF head Edgar Anstey. Realising that the film would have to be made quickly or delayed until the following winter, Anstey agreed straightaway and shooting commenced the very next day. Jones and his crew chased winter conditions across the country. Though the footage we see is mostly the Western Region. There is also a tantalising glimpse of a Somerset and Dorset freight train as well as some archive pre-WW II shots of Jubilee class locomotive ‘Barbados’.

The powerful musical accompaniment is ‘Teen Beat’ by American Jazz musician Sandy Nelson re-recorded British musician Johnny Hawksworth with special effects by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. ‘Snow’ received at least 14 major awards upon its release, as well an Oscar nomination in 1965. The film marks the first coming of age of Jones’ style, which was further developed in subsequent films such as ‘Rail’ (1966), ‘Trinidad and Tobago’ (1964) and ‘Locomotion’ (1975).

This is British Railways at its best: a 30,000 mile railway network, loads of goods trains and STEAM! Make yourself a mug of hot chocolate, turn the volume on full blast, click on the picture and retire a safe distance from the screen.

One Response to “Snow”

  1. chuffinghog Says:

    What a sensational film. Thanks for posting this and linking us to this piece of history.

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