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Monday June 18th 2018

The Railway Children | 1970

The Railway Children location: Oakworth Station, West Yorkshire
The Railway Children location: Oakworth Station, West Yorkshire | Photograph: flickr / Colin Smith

Lionel Jeffries’ 1970 film remains probably the best loved version of E Nesbit’s famous book about the Waterbury family, three Edwardian children and their mother, who have to move to Yorkshire when daddy is wrongly imprisoned.

Most of the film was made in West Yorkshire, and you can find tours of the area at Visit Bradford.

The Railway Children location: Gainsborough Gardens, Hampstead, NW3
The Railway Children location: the London home: Gainsborough Gardens, Hampstead, NW3

The film begins, though, at the Waterbury family home in London. It’s a rather nice house at 3 Gainsborough Gardens, off Well Walk, in Hampstead, NW3. Until recently, the wrought iron arch still framed the entrance, but that's gone and the house has lost much of its charm. Please note that Gainsborough Gardens is a gated enclave of private houses.

The family soon relocates to the north, where the railway line used for filming is the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway – mainly the stretch between Keighley and Oxenhope, about five miles to the south.

The railway opened in 1867 to service the local textile industry, though many of the woollen mills that once stood close to the line have been demolished.

Following closure by British Rail in 1962, local people and railway enthusiasts formed a Preservation Society and, after many years of volunteer struggle, re-opened the to passenger traffic in 1968.

The Railway Children location: Oakworth Station, West Yorkshire
The Railway Children location: Stationmaster Perks’ house: Oakworth, West Yorkshire | Photograph: Nigel Hatton

‘Oakworth Station’ is, indeed, Oakworth, a couple of miles southwest of Keighley, and about halfway to Oxenhope. Immediately south of the station, 61 Station Road is the house of station-master Perks (Bernard Cribbins).

The Railway Children location: Oakworth Station, West Yorkshire
The Railway Children location: ‘Three Chimneys’, the family house: Bents’ Farm, Oxenhope, West Yorkshire | Photograph: Nigel Hatton

The children’s home,‘Three Chimneys’, can be found a couple of miles to the south of Oakworth in the village of Oxenhope. It's Bents Farm, a little to the north of Oxenhope Station at the end of the road running south from Marsh Lane.

The Railway Children location: Oakworth Station, West Yorkshire
The Railway Children location: the village store: Church Lane, Haworth, West Yorkshire | Photograph: istock / Stevegeer

The village seen in the film is Haworth, halfway between Oakworth and Oxenhope, famous as home to the Brontë sisters. You can see the shops, where the children collect presents for Perks’ birthday, on Main Street, Lodge Street (the ironmonger’s where the children get a shovel) and Church Lane (the house with the flight of stone steps which stood in for the Post Office and General Store).

The Railway Children location: Oakworth Station, West Yorkshire
The Railway Children location: the doctor’s house: Brontë Parsonage, Haworth, West Yorkshire | Photograph: flickr / Raymond Godfrey

The Doctor’s house is in fact the Brontë Parsonage Museum itself, Church Street, south of the village. Built in 1779, it’s the house where Emily, Charlotte and Anne wrote Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and is open to the public.

The Railway Children location: Oakworth Station, West Yorkshire
The Railway Children location: the railway tunnel: Mytholmes Tunnel, Haworth, West Yorkshire | Photograph: Nigel Hatton

You’ll find the tunnel, where schoolboy Jim injures his leg during the paperchase, north of Haworth toward Oakworth. It's the Mytholmes Tunnel, Mytholmes Lane, while a few yards south on the line is the Metal Bridge seen in the famous ‘goodbye’ shot.

There's a bleaker and rather different view of Haworth and the Keighley area in Francis Lee's 2017 God's Own Country.